PostCapitalism: a Review

A review of Paul Mason’s ‘Post Capitalism: a Guide to Our Future’ by Irvine Welsh. The most interesting thing about historical change is that as soon as a social and political movement hits its zenith, it is by definition in decline, with the next order invariably found incubating inside it. The post-war settlement of democratic socialism begat the era of privatization, when the rich decided they no longer wanted to pay for the welfare state, and set about dismantling it. But all that avarice couldn’t have flourished without a genuine ideology underpinning it. This was the notion of a property-owning democracy in a free market, where state assets, from shares in the nationalized industries, to council homes, could be made available to individual consumers (not citizens).

If this development of capitalism, perhaps the most adaptive system known to humanity, could have just stopped there, it probably would have ensured the permanent right-wing hegemony now so assumptive by the establishment classes. However, human history doesn’t operate that way, and PostCapitalism, (as the title suggests, hunting far bigger game than just neoliberalism), informs us why. Paul Mason not only looks at the inevitable descent of our current dominant economic and ideological paradigm, but also boldly sifts around its growing pockets and peripheries in order to hypothesize just what might replace it.

THE END OF CAPITALISM (AND IT’S ALL NEOLIBERALISM’S FAULT)

The essential proposition of the book is that “capitalism is a complex, adaptive system which has reached the limits of its capacity to adapt.” Paul Mason convincingly argues that neoliberal capitalism is now lagging behind a force inherently more dynamic than itself: technological advance and the increasing public manifestation of sovereign intellectual thought.

He identifies fiat money, financialization, the global currency imbalances and vast debts and currency reserves of the major counties, but above all information technology as the key factors that first allowed neoliberalism to flourish, but which are now ripping it apart. Those factors initially created the persuasive fiction at the heart of neoliberalism; we can all enjoy the archetypal lifestyle of the western consumer, but without wages rising. People can borrow, but they can never go bust: if you take out a mortgage to buy a home, the value of that property will always rise. Inflation is ubiquitous, so securing a loan to buy a car means that by the time you need to replace the vehicle, the value of the remaining debt is abraded, leaving you plenty of room for maneuver to borrow more.

But everything changed with the 2008 crash, and –crucially- its aftermath: the insipid nature of the recovery and the gloomy long-term prospects of stagnation. The western powers saved the banks by burying their bad debts, at a cost of accruing government ones of close to 100% of GDP. Through austerity programmes, the hurt was transferred from the people who had stupidly invested this money, onto the citizens of those democracies, often the same ones whose cash they had squandered.

So we now have a global economic and political system where austerity is not a temporary policy tool aimed at redressing a one-off blip, but a long-term strategy for the rich to prolong privilege in face on the ongoing systemic failure of neoliberal capitalism. In the author’s words, the real austerity project is “to drive down wages and living standards in the West for decades, until they meet those of the middle class in China and India on the way up.”

So we now have a global economic and political system where austerity is not a temporary policy tool aimed at redressing a one-off blip, but a long-term strategy for the rich to prolong privilege in face on the ongoing systemic failure of neoliberal capitalism. In the author’s words, the real austerity project is “to drive down wages and living standards in the West for decades, until they meet those of the middle class in China and India on the way up.”

The Paris-based OECD think tank sees inequality rising by 40% with ‘weak’ growth of around 2.7% per annum up to 2050. Even this modest figure seems to sail beyond the realm of optimism into neoliberal propaganda. Most independent pundits scorn it and Paul Mason himself reckons that it will be closer to .75%. Yet for such paltry conditions to be met, Europe and the USA would need to absorb 50 million more immigrants between now and 2060. Without such incomers, the tax base of those Western states shrinks to unviability, due to our ageing population. With them, Los Angeles and London start to look Manila and Mumbai, with shantytowns spreading from the wall-and-gated centres snaking around declining sink valleys and satellite towns.

But in the absence of a model of a neoliberal economic crisis, the possibility that neoliberalism can collapse under its own contradictions remains unacceptable to most. Even those who reject all the intellectually spurious assumptions it comes bundled with – constant info-tech fuelled growth, friction-free capitalism, the end of ideology – roughly accept that the basic idea behind the system, namely that markets correct themselves, is vaguely tenable. Only in reality this wasn’t always the case, but it most emphatically isn’t with neoliberalism.

Under information capitalism, monopolies are more than a tactic to maximize profit; they are the only way an industry can run. Paul Mason observes: “The small number of companies that dominate each sector is striking. In traditional sectors you have usually four to six big players in every market: the big four accountancy firms; four or five big supermarket groups: four big turbofan makers. But the signature brands of info-tech need total dominance: Google needs to be the only search company; Facebook has to be the only place you construct your online identity; Twitter where you post your thoughts; iTunes the go-to online music store. In two key markets – online search and mobile operating systems – there is a two-firm death match, with Google currently winning both of them.”

In the globalized economic order, neoliberalism, with its great corporations of the information era, is the attempt to constrain and shape these forces. Like a lumbering, morbidly obese man breathlessly wobbling down an alley, using his girth to frantically keep back the speedier runners, it seeks to use the market and pricing mechanisms to control a force which is not only inherently more dynamic, but counter-intuitive to capitalism: the network.

Information technology’s ascendancy disrupted capitalism’s base components: price, ownership and wages. The post-2008 crisis is the product of flaws within the neoliberal economic model that prevents the exploitation of new technologies, and the takeoff of a fifth ‘long wave’. The third industrial revolution we should be going through right now has stalled. Blaming its failure on feeble policy, ropey investment strategy and arrogant, cavalier finance is only “mistaking the symptoms for the disease”. Trying to impose prohibitive oligarchic legal norms on top of market structures misses the point and, in the process, undermines freedom.

It’s important to remember that capitalism did not always exist – as either an economy or a value system. When we do this, we are moved to accept that it might not last forever. Paul Mason requests that we entertain the concept of transitions, asking: “what constitutes an economic system and how does one give way to another?” PostCapitalism’s exploration of the powerful diagnostic elements of Marxism, in terms of its critique of capitalism, and its limitations on the prediction of its crisis, should be read carefully by everybody on the left. What he eventually settles on is more than a renovation of Marxism, but a gut rehab based largely on the more obscure, but illuminating writings of Marx on machinery (essentially the technology of his era).

greekDEVELOPMENT OF POSTCAPITALISM

The technological path of the neoliberal revolution is in conflict with its social direction. Technologically, we are headed for zero-price goods, immeasurable work, an exponential takeoff in productivity and the extensive automation of physical processes. Socially, we are trapped in a world of monopolies, inefficiency, the ruins of the finance-dominated free market and a proliferation of what the anthropologist David Graeber calls ‘bullshit jobs’.

Or rather, we were. Paul Mason envisions the escape hatch: “An economy based on information, with its tendency to zero-cost products and weak property rights, cannot be a capitalist economy.” And this is developing now because the rise of neoliberalism disrupted the previous fifty-year patterns of capitalism, ensuring its 240-year lifecycle could be approaching the end. PostCapitalism argues that the movement from scarcity to abundance in knowledge, our greatest resource, makes us look to a theory of the disappearance of something hitherto considered ubiquitous and organic in public (capitalist-era) life: the price mechanism.

Mason postulates, in light of Wikipedia and Open Source software, that an economy based on information networks creates a new mode of production beyond capitalism. Wikipedia, if it were run as a commercial site, could generate $2.8 billion in annual revenue. As it stands, not only does it make no profit, its existence mitigates against the possibility of anybody else in the same sphere doing so. “Economists like to demonstrate the archaic nature of command planning with mind-games like ‘imagine the Soviet Union tried to create Starbucks’. Now, here’s a more intriguing game: imagine if Amazon, Toyota or Boeing tried to create Wikipedia.”

Paul Mason argues that change emphatically cannot happen through the old industrial proletariat, as society itself is now the factory. “The worker of the Keynesian era had a single character: at work, in the local bar, in the social club, on the football terraces, they were the same essential person. The networked individual creates a more complex reality: s/he lives parallel lives at work, in numerous fragmentary subcultures and online…it is this new kind of person, the networked individual, who is the bearer of the postcapitalist society that could now emerge.”

Those networked individuals have a lot of work to do, as postcapitalist society has to be designed rather than planned. Paul Mason sees the role of the state declining in postcapitalism, replaced in many of its functions by society itself, in the form of the network. Unlike Soviet-style planning, imagination and dissent is to be nurtured and indeed, is the cornerstone of the process. The network becomes the key forum; quicker and more immersive than a parliament, swifter and more democratic than the market. And it has to be, as immediate action needs to be taken to:

• Rapidly reduce carbon emissions so that the world has warmed by only two degrees Celsius by 2050, prevent an energy crisis and mitigate the chaos caused by climate events.

• Stabilize the finance system between now and 2050 by socializing it, so that ageing populations, climate change and the debt overhang do not combine to detonate a new boom-bust cycle and destroy the world economy.

• Deliver high levels of material prosperity and wellbeing to the majority of people, primarily by prioritizing information-rich technologies towards solving major social challenges, such as ill-health, welfare dependency, sexual exploitation and poor education.

• Gear technology towards the reduction of necessary work to promote the rapid transition towards an automated economy. Eventually, work becomes voluntary, basic commodities and public services are free, and economic management becomes primarily an issue of energy and resources, not capital and labour.

How are those ‘top level goals’ to be implemented? Principally, by making us more overtly aware of the processes that we are already indulging in, and working to maximize their potential. Mason observes: “Non-market forms of production and exchange exploit the basic human tendency to collaborate – to exchange gifts of intangible value – which has always existed but at the margins of economic life. This is more than simply a rebalancing between public goods and private goods: it is a whole new and revolutionary thing. The proliferation of these non-market economic activities is making it possible for a cooperative, socially just society to emerge… we lie at a moment of possibility: of a controlled transition beyond the free market, beyond carbon, beyond compulsory work.”

In more general terms the Mason model advocates that postcapitalism should and must:

1. Model first, act later.
2. Advance the ‘Wiki state’.
3. Expand collaborative work .
4. Socialize or suppress monopolies.
5. Let market forces disappear.
6. Socialize the finance system including nationalizing the central bank.
7. Pay everyone a basic income.
8. Unleash the network.
9. Liberate the 1%.

Mason sees the wealth of elite as fundamentally dysfunctional to them, separating them from all aspects of society. “The modern elite after the catastrophe of 2008: (are) a financial aristocracy determined to go on living as if the threats outlined are not real…what happens to the 1 per cent? They become poorer and therefore happier”, he optimistically contends, ending the book by telling the rich that the good news is: “the 99 per cent are coming to the rescue. Postcapitalism will set you free.”

CKoiwUQWgAA4Jn9SOME THOUGHTS ON A CRITIQUE

Postcapitalism is a groundbreaking book, both staggering in its ambition, and brilliantly executed. It will, of necessity, generate plenty of discussion. In that spirit, I’m expressing a few reservations, some big, others not so much.

The nature of neoliberalism. By putting technological change at the forefront of his thesis, Paul Mason perhaps downplays corporate strategic behaviour in the development of neoliberalism. During its first phase, in the 1980’s, profits often owed more to mergers and acquisitions than the capturing and developing of new markets. At first this was justified by ‘efficiency’, but it was clear that corporations were using economies of scale as barriers to entry in order to eliminate competition. When private corporations grew to the size where their strategic decisions affected society, as well as themselves, opportunistic self-perpetuation and survival became more manifest goals, sitting alongside the traditional ones of increasing profit or paying shareholders dividends. Once corporations strategized at this level, they became fundamentally risk-aversive entities, using monopoly power and governmental influence, through the lobby system, to undermine the idea of a free market. This might eventually boil down to semantics, but you are moved to wonder just how strictly ‘capitalist’ a risk-free ‘capitalism’ (neoliberalism) can actually be.

The limitations of the Wiki model. As an illustration of a postcapitalist mode of production, an online encyclopedia is as information-based as it gets. However, few products are (at present) so purely comprised of this quality. By marking out such a strong and dynamic schematic model for postcapitalism, Paul Mason might also have defined its structural limitations.

The profit motive and the ownership of the means of production. This is a tough one to address without moving into deeply speculative territory. To his credit Paul Mason suggests a just and equitable reward system in his model of postcapitalism, but this then leads us to postulate on ‘human nature’ and motivation, and how fixed or environmentally adaptive this is. Mason rightly resists the temptation to expand beyond the remit of the book, which is wide and ambitious enough as things stand. But a question we will be drawn to is: could capitalist and postcapitalist societies produce two different types of human being, as (at least psychologically) different to each other as Neanderthals and Homo sapiens were? Social media activists might be driven to conclude that this process is already well underway. But more prosaically, the farms, forests, factories, oil fields, mines and power plants that generate the essentials that we need are owned by people who will want paying for them. Is a postcapitalist society ultimately compatible with private property? How do we abolish this?

• Can post-scarcity ever be ubiquitous across all sectors of a postcapitalist society? Yes, we can produce goods that go on for decades without needing replaced. Granted, information is now the dominant force in our economy, and abundant, but will we ever be able to say the same about more staple items, given our demographic and environmental time bombs? Robots might be able to do our work while we sit back with a good book, but can they put food on the table?

• Something-for-nothing thinking. Stronger than both the values that underpin the market (profit) and the network (sharing), it lies within the base human nature of us all. It’s that supremely rational and substantively irrational notion (from a societal view) that you can get something for nothing, or for at least as little as possible. Tax avoidance by the rich and big corporations like Amazon and Google is seen in the neoliberal paradigm as sensible strategy to reduce business costs, while lower-level welfare benefit frauds are treated as heinous and revolting slights to humanity. But the sanction of the rich tax cheating by the neoliberal elite’s puppet governments sends the subliminal message to all this this is acceptable, however draconian the hypocritical witch-hunts against welfare manipulation are. After all, this thinking dovetails perfectly with the idea of postcapitalist zero cost. Thus the multi-millionaire rock band moving their base of operations to a tax haven to become more ‘tax-efficient’ is defacto sanctioning the student to (illegally) download their music on the basis of ‘savings efficiency.’ We probably have to pay for food, accommodation and transport, but really, in this day and age, why should we have to pay for pretty much anything else? People of wealth are already doing this; restaurant bills, home offices and air and rail travel are already tax deductibles for ‘business’ people. Neoliberalism certainly didn’t event this psychology, but its mechanisms hone personal greed and excess, in a manner ultimately self-defeating to itself. Like (1) above, this is not so much a critique of Paul Mason’s thesis, as a supplement to it.

postcapPOLITICAL RAMIFICATIONS

“Twenty-five years of neoliberalism have forced our thinking about change to become small. But if we are bold enough to imagine we can rescue the planet, we should also imagine rescuing ourselves from an economic system that doesn’t work. In fact, the imagination stage is critical.”

Allowing the license offered above, it’s interesting to address how those changes might affect the differing political sectors in western society.

The neoliberal right in our society currently enjoy hegemonic power across all co-opted institutions of government, business, and private media. However, with more people both aliened from and excluded by such institutions, the authorities become increasingly compelled into trying to control those they can offer nothing substantive to. So the problem Conservatives have always had, namely to convince everyone else that their interests are coterminous with the very wealthiest in our society, becomes more acute and relies on propaganda and physical coercion. This might be expected to intensify as capitalism becomes, at ground level, a threadbare scenario of desperate, scamming low-rent hucksterism for the masses, stuck right in middle of the golden age of information technology with it’s chrome-and-glass office blocks and walled-and-gated mansions.

As the system falls apart, the tendency of the right to precipitate this through desperate action will become tempting. Paul Mason contends, “All that would be needed to blow the whole thing apart is for one or more country to ‘head for the exit’, using protectionism, currency manipulation or debt default.” While the eyes of the European right wing are on countries like Greece, they might do well to look to other big debtor nations. In the USA, the Republican Party is at rhetorically committed to doing all of the above.

On a deeper level, where the oligarchic corporatism of neoliberalism renders the market increasingly unfree, and negates democracy, right-wing politics becomes less about abstractions of freedom, and more nakedly simply about the protection of privileged elites. Critical, thoughtful right-wingers must be existentially heading for the same crisis that those on the left experienced when the extent of Soviet authoritarianism became apparent. Was 2008 their 1956?

On a deeper level, where the oligarchic corporatism of neoliberalism renders the market increasingly unfree, and negates democracy, right-wing politics becomes less about abstractions of freedom, and more nakedly simply about the protection of privileged elites. Critical, thoughtful right-wingers must be existentially heading for the same crisis that those on the left experienced when the extent of Soviet authoritarianism became apparent. Was 2008 their 1956?

The more moderate right, say the Blairite Labour Party, would, pre-2008, and the development of a fully-fledged (and systemically flawed) neo-liberalism, perhaps have been its principal political benefactors. This was almost the New Labour creed: the idea of not confronting power, but persuading it to give up some of its resources for the common good.

bain-capital-corporate-raiderThe problem with the ‘crumbs of the rich man’s table’ approach is that since 2008 and the bail out of the banks, government spending is now largely being reconfigured from the financing of health, education, infrastructure and welfare systems, into a contingency fund for the next impending financial disaster. Having established the logic that private institutions, (the banks) are too big to fail, while public ones (countries, like Greece) are not, it’s easy by extension, to see public money used to bail out big corporations that fall into difficulties. In essence that’s what TTIP is. The ISDS (Investor Trade Dispute Settlement) component allows companies to sue local and national governments if they feel they are being ‘unfairly’ done out of business. In the USA McDonalds are currently taking the city of Seattle to court, claiming that the new minimum wage of $15 (£7) per hour is damaging their profits. When capitalism uses not just economic monopoly power, but state and legal statutes to eliminate risk (the supposed key area of the market) it becomes superfluous to all but the superrich. This negation of risk, and the consequences of failure for its main actors, means capitalism sheds the coat of democracy and universalism. Instead it promotes a corrupt, Soviet-style caste, beyond the laws everybody else is subject to.

So for the Labour right, in the polarization between austerity and non-austerity politics, it might simply be about running out of what the American’s call ‘political real estate’. In essence, they cannot offer what the parties of the right do without becoming one of them, and are subsequently demolished by their own left, with the Corbynite rise in England potentially shadowing that of the SNP’s eclipse of them in Scotland. It’s the lesson PASOK were recently given by Syriza in Greece.

For the left, the postcapitalist thesis seems to offer joy after three decades of defeat, but it carries a load of caveats. In particular, it means some of the old sacred cows need to be taken to the knacker’s yard. Simply going back to Keynesian post-war tax-and-spend economics is no longer tenable, as it essentially runs it into the same problem currently besetting luddite neoliberal capitalism: there is no longer enough paid work to go round. Therefore you have only a limited tax base, unless you are seriously talking about taxing wealth, rather than income. This is something the British left has always been shy about, principally because it’s physically difficult to do.

Here is something that many on the left will find an anathema, but it is essential to acknowledge: “Marxism got it wrong about the working class. The proletariat was the closest thing to an enlightened, collective historical subject that human society has ever produced. But 200 years of experience show it was preoccupied with ‘living despite capitalism’, not overthrowing it.” So while the network must replace the market as the dynamic economic force in postcapitalism, so too must the informed citizenry oust the proletariat as the principal agent of change. In short, the mission of the ‘left’ is probably to moderate its extremists and revolutionize its moderates.

IN SUMMARY – THE IMPORTANCE OF POSTCAPITALISM

Like all prescriptive works of its kind Post-Capitalism must in essence feel stronger on the analysis of the failings of the current system, than in predicting what lies ahead. Yet it’s to Paul Mason’s great credit and courage that he offers a model of how a postcapitalist future might operate. As with such frameworks, it’s first and foremost about opening up the discussion and debate on our futures, which have been circumscribed by a self-interested private media and a state one bullied into timid irrelevance. The great strength of Paul Mason’s speculations is that they are never flights of fancy, always logic extrapolations from grounded observations.

PostCapitalism is a beautifully written work, combining this hardheaded economic analysis with a strong narrative style, which benefits from Mason’s own anecdotal experiences investigating the battlegrounds of neoliberalism. This produces a literary blood that flows through its pages, elevating PostCapitalism above the dry, anodyne texts written by academics, or ‘economists’ (often in reality paid spokespersons for governments or banking interests).

It has the feel of experience well won, as Mason spices the text with anecdotes from the declining peripheries of capitalism, from the river Dniester on the Moldavian border, to Greggs bakers in Kirkcaldy High Street. And it’s probably the first time that any writer on economics has used the value of the last ecstasy tablet in a nightclub to explain the concept of marginal utility.

It has the feel of experience well won, as Mason spices the text with anecdotes from the declining peripheries of capitalism, from the river Dniester on the Moldavian border, to Greggs bakers in Kirkcaldy High Street. And it’s probably the first time that any writer on economics has used the value of the last ecstasy tablet in a nightclub to explain the concept of marginal utility.

The succinct elucidations Paul Mason offers as he traverses seamlessly from one idea to the next, renders the book highly accessible to the layperson. Although Kondratieff, Ricardo, Smith, Keynes, Marx, Drucker, crisis theory and wave theory are all expounded on, the salient rationale of their concepts pertinent to his thesis are explained as you journey through the text. (Surprisingly, Catalan sociologist Manuel Castells, whose ideas on network theory seem weaved into the book, is not referenced.)

The great achievement of PostCapitalism is that it dares to open up big, utopian thinking again, freeing us from the dreary dystopia’s of ‘nothing less than fully-fledged class war’ or ‘let’s just put up with it, as it’s the best we can do.’ After three decades of the nihilistic and stultifying ‘end of history’ thesis, the pervading message is that the human spirit is alive and kicking. And it has a good shot at getting our society into shape to face the enormous demographic, environmental and fiscal time bombs coming our way.

So Post Capitalism is more than a treatise on, or a description of, what’s happening to us right now. It stands as a fundamental intellectual and spiritual service to our common humanity and a GPS to the new world it sees unfolding before us. It’s both a visionary and landmark work, and the most important book about our economy and society to be published in my lifetime.

So Post Capitalism is more than a treatise on, or a description of, what’s happening to us right now. It stands as a fundamental intellectual and spiritual service to our common humanity and a GPS to the new world it sees unfolding before us. It’s both a visionary and landmark work, and the most important book about our economy and society to be published in my lifetime.

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  1. John S Warren says:

    wo quick points: First, “People can borrow, but they can never go bust …. …. But everything changed with the 2008 crash”. In fact the matter is particularly complex because it is cyclical; it has happened before. The real prophet of the Credit Crunch was Hyman Minsky, and he died in 1996. He identified the source of the problem with the comprehensive de-regulation of the post-war international financial system in the 1980s (in the UK critically ‘Big Bang’ in 1986). The Crash is a function of an unregulated capitalist system. The issue is how to regulate the financial system, but neo-liberals do not want to discuss the issue.

    Second, the US anti-trust legislation is much stronger than in the UK which has a very poor history in prosecuting free enterprise or free markets from the perspective of the consumer. Nevertheless the US has not broken-up the Googles or before that the Microsofts the way it used to do with the oil industry early in the 20th century, or with Bell in telecommunications in 1982.

    What is missed by the focus on the internet and software giants however is, I suspect something even more fundamental (following Minsky): the fact that it is precisely the financial sector and banking that has not been chastened by the Credit Crunch in the way it was curbed by Roosevelt.

    Following 2007-8 no decisive action was taken to reform and control the inherent irresponsibility of the financial sector, as it was after the Great Crash. Europe, the UK and to a slightly lesser extent, the US has caved-in to the very sector that caused the catastrophe. Banking was not reformed, but appeased. The transfer of private losses to the public sector and the establishment of guaranteed government support (TBTF), with relatively little new or stronger regulatory (or criminal law) sanctions has consolidated the power of the financial/banking sector. At the same time it is now almost impossible to define a ‘bank’, the dangerous methodologies (CDS, rehypothecation etc) have not been controlled (or, it seems adequately understood by regulators) and in financial markets banks, almost alone are allowed to roam free; unlike almost every other business sector conglomeration is effectively allowed to develop unfettered in banking.

  2. Muscleguy says:

    Thanks for that Irvine, a fairer review than any I have read in the MSM. I’m not sure the book is for me, I’m perhaps a bit too long in the tooth for utopias. I’ll leave it to the Youth to digest it and probably dismiss it while absorbing many of the ideas and themes.

    I agree with your critique about the necessity of the profit motive. The various Communist experiments have all foundered on the problem that workers don’t really bother (outside of idealist Donietsk miners) without some real incentive. Dostoevsky and Tolstoy show how it was the free farmers who were properly productive, rather than the serfs, even those serfs who bought into the system. The owners found they refused to show any initiative, becoming essentially bovine in nature. A corollary of modern work where staff are not allowed to show initiative and so we get ‘computer says no’ regardless of sense or logic. There’s a long disquisition about this in the middle of Anna Karenina.

    A bovine mass of proles fed bread and circuses is probably how the current oligarchic classes want the rest of us. Though they should be aware that it was gangs of former serfs who were most zealous in rooting out the kulaks, those efficient private farmers. Even bovine people stampede sometimes.

    Perhaps instead of persuading the 1% to give up their wealth to be happy we will need to persuade them that it is preferable to being torn apart by the mob or put up against the wall. History shows us that this happens to all elites at some point. You can’t oppress all of the people all of the time. Or if the people don’t revolt then the Praetorian Guard, necessary to protect the 1% from the rest of us decide to take power themselves. There is no alternative one percenters. Volunteer or the masses or your security people will get you.

    1. leavergirl says:

      “Volunteer or the masses or your security people will get you”

      Spot on.

      What I would like to see is a discourse on the PostDomination society. That digs much deeper than a mere economic analysis. (And will step on both right and left toes.)

  3. Kevin Williamson says:

    Book bought (from Word Power of course NOT Amazon). Hope to join the nuances of the debate soon as I’ve read it. I’d say this though; it’s about time the neoliberal right plus the old left were given a firm well–aimed ideological kick up the backside. Neoliberalism is running out of ideas and is taking us nowhere. And the idea that the working proletariat are the primary agent of change is over. Ended. This is not how power is concentrated nor how it acts in the 21st Century. The new emerging alt.power isn’t concentrated, it’s networked and diverse, soft in places, digital in others, and certainly not waiting for the great party-led leap forward. I’ll stop there. This debate is necessary, here and now, specially in the new evolving Scotland as we find our political feet.

    KW

  4. Mike Fenwick says:

    Item above – 6. Socialize the finance system including nationalizing the central bank.

    In other posts on Bella I have made reference to: http://positivemoney.org/

    Follow that link, and you will find videos to watch and documents and analyses to download – all for free – with a central theme being “the nationalisation of the ability to create money”.

    Rational? Extreme? Or is it in keeping with the future that Paul Mason invites us to consider?

    Recently, here and elsewhere, the welfare cuts of £12bn have attracted much (and justifiable) comment and protest.

    But I haven’t seen the same levels of comment and protest over, not £12bn, but the £375bn that was created (electronically – at the push of a button) by the Bank of England in the Quantative Easing programme.

    Can one link what Paul Mason is driving at, and the comparison between a nationalised Central Bank and socialising and nationalising the ability to create money, money which is in reality debt? Just like that £375bn!

    Try this video from Positive Money, on the QE programme, and I think you will see the link:

    http://positivemoney.org/videos/introduction/waste-375-billion-failure-quantitative-easing-video/

    We know the effects of £12bn in welfare cuts – but where did the £375bn of QE go?

    I hope, like me, that one video forces you to ask why am I, and you, and every adult and child in this country in debt for £6,000 each as a result of QE. £375bn of debt for you and me, and future generations, whilst the rich just got richer.

    When you see the debate on what currency an independent Scotland might use (or be denied) – it may be time to ask an even deeper question – who really controls money?

    1. Paul says:

      Good post Mike. More ordinary people need to get informed about money and where it comes from. It occurs to me that all financial wealth (paper, electronic bank deposits and the myriad bits of worthless financial instruments) are in truth absolutely worthless. You cannot eat any of it.

  5. Douglas says:

    In 2006, I produced a film by Rodrgio Cortes called “Concursante”….”The Contestant”….probably the only film I will ever produce….

    …the film, a biting satire of the financial system, a black comedy, contains this by now famous scene which explains how the banking system works…..”the bank prints money, but it doesn’t print the interest it charges on the loans it creates”….how to pay for money which doesn’t exist already in the economy….?

    “And at the end of it all, we will lose our lands, lose our livestock…

    …we will have been turned into slaves of the bank.
    And for what? For nothing, and in exchange for nothing….”

    The film has gone viral in Spain since the financial crisis of 2008….available in English subtitles I think somewhere if you look for it. Well worth a sketch.

    1. leavergirl says:

      If the banker spends the interest received into the economy for the value someone else produced, such a food, then it can work. Still, it’s a Ponzi scheme that can only work as more and more value is produced. The treadmill for all except the bankers. And increasing destruction of the commons.

      1. Douglas says:

        Politics can change things….

        …todos con Manuela Carmena…..!!!

        http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/07/28/us-spain-evictions-idUSKCN0Q21WZ20150728

      2. Douglas says:

        It’s a system designed to crash every X number of years….how much money have the bankers made from Greece? A fortune!!!

        Manuela Carmena gives me hope, a brilliant woman, a woman of principle and ethics. After 20 years of the PP and their corrupt mafias which have been running the city, you can breathe the air of Madrid again: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manuela_Carmena

        El Pais was running a front page yesterday with an interview with Varoufakis who was saying a) the new bailout is designed to fail b) the object is to expel Greece from the Euro, c) Spain could be next but maybe most importantly d) the Germans want to muzzle Paris and any opposition to austerity…

        …all of which sounds totally plausible.

        Sorry, that’s probably me “insulting Spain”, I’ll have the cops at my door tomorrow morning demanding several thousands of Euros.

        The most dangerous man in Europe right now is Mariano Rajoy, make no mistake….

  6. Douglas says:

    So, the film is available in the USA http://www.amazon.com/The-Contestant-Region-Leonardo-Sbaraglia/dp/B0013JHEZG…..has been released in France, Germany and Italy but not the UK of course.

    Nothing foreign gets through the shuttered door of the bastard post imperial home of the Windsors and the Co and the, smug, self-satisfied, thoroughly boring capital of the Empire.
    What a country!
    I can’t stand it!!!

    You walk into a bookshop in Britain and they have a table which says “Literature In Translation” like it was porn on the shelf of the newsagent. …dodgy!!!! Not written in that post imperial English!!!! Foreigners writing!!!

    I can’t take it!!! I can’t live there…

    They are blinkering you by making you monoglots….they want you to forget about the rest of the world.

    Paul Mason – a good man – has been in Greece. He’s had a taste of the fire which is blazing in the south of Europe.

    We have the “gag” law in Spain. The police are turning up every day at the doorsteps of people who have posted comments against the government on Facebook and fining them hundreds or thousands of Euros….they would put them in jail, but The European Convention of Human Rights prevents that….it’s fascism redux friends…hold on to you hats….it’s hot here, 38 degrees, but it is going to get much hotter….

  7. Mathew says:

    I like Paul Mason’s stuff on TV and in the Guardian but I don’t think I’ll bother buying this book. Judging by Irvine Welsh’s review above he barely seems to factor in climate change or environmental degradation to his future vision. To breezily suggest that we should reduce carbon emissions so as to limit warming to 2 degrees C by 2050 and thereby avoid an energy crisis and climate chaos, just sounds naive. Half an hours research on the internet would be enough to tell him that a rise limited to 2 degrees is well nigh impossible now. I agree that we will move into a post-capitalist phase in the near future – the problem is that it’s likely to be a post-human phase as well.

  8. Kenny says:

    I haven’t read the book but I wrote some thoughts on one of Mason’s Guardian articles.

    http://www.khain.net/are-we-at-the-end-of-capitalism/

    I really think Mason overestimates the importance of the information economy and technology in general. We are not moving into a post-scarcity society – quite the opposite. Land, water and other resources are becoming increasingly scarce as the population rises. The power of capital is growing. Has everyone forgotten Picketty already?

    Picketty’s Capital was focused on one theme and produced lots of evidence for it, and even had a simple catchy equation. It sounds like Mason is trying to grapple with far too many big ideas and doesn’t really get a hold of any of them.

    1. Rico says:

      Kenny, you mention that the power of capital is growing. To an extent, I agree. However, at some stage there will have to be decisions made, and a challenge to normal thought. That point will, absolutely, occur. I think in the article’s I’ve read so far, Mason has not gone into the physical, rather just the informational.

      For example, imagine a local phone/internet network that was self-maintaining. A machine extrudes new cable as a response to a request from the owner of a new home being built. The cable is housed in a pipeline of sorts, which can also be extruded (printed) along a pavement, or underground if necessary. It uses GPS and sensors to plan its route. The pipeline is then used as a route for the machine to glide along. When any damage in the line occurs, the machine simply moves to the fault location and corrects the malfunction by re-extruding (printing) the affected area. The machine itself can return to a docking point where any maintenance on it can be performed by another machine. The technology to perform all of the above exists today.

      It’s an arbitrary example of course (I could have given an easy example of a fully automated and maintained transport system – also possible with today’s technology) but nevertheless, it does pose some obvious questions:

      Who would own this system? And, why? The only costs are input (cabling and pipeline materials), and the system – in its entirety – runs itself. It provides a valuable service. Because I came up with the idea, should I own the system? Should the person who owns the land that it runs through own the system? The person who pays for the minimal inputs once built? Or should it be provided for free as an assumed human right and “owned” (although I think it would be just something that is there, rather than requiring ownership) by the community in which it exists?

      Secondly, there needs to be a question of “should we” allow this much automation? One of the problems I have with socialism is that – in mainstream media – it seems to always be associated with job maintenance and unionism rather than freedom and human right. Mason’s suggestion of a living wage (type thing) is logical in the current due to the fact that housing, travel, communication, education, food and health all require payment. That would remove the (IMO) outdated unionism requirement from the equation, which could only really exist on ideological terms rather than as a case for improved conditions for workers. Similarly, the job-creation of the service, nor the human ingenuity of the solution (it could simply be replicated by ten other companies) is no longer a reason for it to be processed through the market system.

      The real answer for me, however, lies in efficiency. Capitalism has lost much, if not all, of its advantage in this. Our most efficient solution would be – using my above example – to provide the internet network for free, to everyone. No one loses out, and no one gains beyond the next person. I can envisage solutions to provide most basic human requirements without human (or state) involvement. In my opinion the two questions above will likely be posed and need to be answered very soon. And, in my opinion, we should be actively setting ourselves the target to provide human rights of shelter, food, travel, health, education and communication as part of a constitutional statement (simply that, no need for state control, just things that exist). This would give everyone the same starting point, and we could – happily – leave everything else to a truly free market system. I believe that a free market is only free if people can choose whether or not to partake in it. We don’t currently have that choice.

      1. Kenny says:

        Hi Rico.

        “However, at some stage there will have to be decisions made, and a challenge to normal thought.”

        Why? Decisions are being made and they seem to be taking us in the opposite direction to what Mason is predicting.

        You use the word ‘should’ a lot. I don’t disagree with much of what you think ‘should’ be the case, but because something is desirable it doesn’t make it inevitable. That may sound glib but Mason’s argument does seem confused on this simple point. If all he’s saying is we should try and make the system better then fine but his point seems to be that capitalism will inevitably collapse because of its flaws. This is an old line.

        Capitalism has always suffered from injustices and inefficiencies and people have been predicting its demise on that basis for a long time. It will end at some point but I don’t see anything radically new or unique in the current world situation to think it will be soon. If anything current conditions favour a strengthening of capitalism.

        1. Rico says:

          Kenny, I don’t believe we’ve experienced anything like the level of automation we’re about to see in the next 5-15 years, that’s why I believe that we’ll see, not necessarily the collapse of capitalism, but certainly the evolution into something completely different – enough that it can be called post capitalism perhaps (to be honest, where I fail to care/grasp Mason’s theory is the requirement to label it at all). I think that automation will make the opportunity not to work or to significantly reduce work so obvious that people will not fail to take the chance to push for something different. I’m actually incredibly surprised that we don’t have a political party pushing an automation/technoligist (I know…)/post-capitalist manifesto already – I’d say it’s a certainty in the coming years and, much like UKIP has helped us all to learn to hate immigrants, the glaring freedom of automation will steer the conversation toward a set of fulfilled human rights as a default. And that’s without mentioning climate change.

          1. Kenny says:

            The past has seen a lot of automation – look at the industrial revolution and history of agriculture, yet we still work plenty of hours today. I doubt the automation we’ll see over the next 10-15 years is going to be as great as the industrial revolution. AI and robotics are nowhere near as advanced as the press is making out and I doubt it will be economical to employ a humanoid robot rather than a human within my lifetime.

            What’s more, robots and AI systems are capital – they’re almost the definition of capital. So, in the absence of large-scale socialisation, automation will tend to favour capital.

          2. Rico says:

            The problem with the mainstream press, is that they keep talking about AI and humanoid robots. None of which are even remotely required to perform functions like managing a communications network, a transport system, procurement, accounting, billing… etc. Those functions can easily be performed using existing technology.

            I design software for various companies, some large, some small. There are swathes of tasks that could be automated easily, now, that would replace people (many people) at very little cost – a huge saving long term – and massive efficiency savings. One of the problems that I/we have right now is that the people at the top of many of these companies are not innovators or technologically motivated; they’re money-makers. I have, on several occasions, mentioned process automation to CEO/CFO level people as an addition to what I am already building for them (i.e. there would be a minor increase in my time/cost) and all have said that they are happy to replicate existing process as is. Without exception. There’s usually several layers of employee between them and the person doing the job too. I’ve just been involved in some savage cuts in my industry, but have still not been asked to provide process automation (I’m still getting plenty of work, strangely), rather the CEO/CFO folks are slashing salaries, jobs and increasing hours for those lucky enough to still be employed. There’s a huge knowledge gap between the understanding of the chaps that face the analysts/investors and what processes are performed in their businesses. There is, and never has been, focus on process improvement and automation. Perhaps you’re right then, that 10-15 years might not see the changes I suggest, but it absolutely isn’t because the technology doesn’t exist. The problem in my industry is that it will just take one company to automate and prove that it can work and the bandwagon will be full. Whilst that is true for the private sector, I don’t imagine the public sector will escape. I might be missing something (probably!), but as hard as I look, I don’t see where the replacement for those jobs are going to come from.

            So that leaves us with a few choices. One is that we accept technological advancement and automation and put people out of work – so we have to decide whether or not to provide a living wage for these people (e.g. an increase in the state) or persecute them for as long as possible. The second that I can think of is to suppress the automation. I don’t believe that “the market” will allow this, as someone will provide a fully automated service at some point that allows people to reduce significant cost. Also, it would bring into question the whole fundamental principle that the free market creates the most efficient solution, which I believe it no longer does – hence why I think we should (emphasis on should!) move beyond it.

  9. Teddy Henfrey says:

    “Paul Mason sees the role of the state declining in postcapitalism, replaced in many of its functions by society itself, in the form of the network”.

    This nonsense, again. Nothing new to see here.

    These “networks” will be voluntary, yes? i.e. no-one will be necessarily be advised, encouraged, compelled or coerced to join these networks … or to stay in them … or to leave them.

    I’ve come across a number of new-age hippy types who are into this kind of thinking. They also applaud the small groups of people who go off and form their own little alternative societies, living in teepees (more of them in a moment).

    Who will be expected to, or be counted upon, or be responsible for providing comprehensive, inclusive services, that don’t leave anyone out … including those who are unwilling (or unable) to join, or remain, in these ‘networks’ – ?

    Services like, Healthcare, for example?

    Who in these ‘networks’ will be responsible for arranging and providing Cancer treatment and care, or mental health care … or even social care? And (at least trying) to ensure that these services are inclusive and that … in this model, those for whom being in the ‘network’ is difficult or impossible, for them and / or for the network?

    Consider treatment of people with mental health problems. Is the ‘network’ and its members going to volunteer to deal with and treat the person who’s mental health condition makes them a very difficult, unpleasant, possibly dangerous person to be around? Won’t they all be off enjoying the upsides and freedom of their networked utopia?

    Back to the hippies in the teepees, who say ‘we are eschewing what progress, technology – and capitalism – have brought us, in favour of a more ‘natural life’. It’s all great – until someone gets injured – or gets cancer. Then they come running back to mummy – to the NHS. Which is there to provide things that we cannot reasonably be expected to arrange and provide ourselves, with people accountable for delivering it. As part of our existing ‘system’, which is obviously evil.

    What this, on face value (to some – not me) is offering is an alluring utopia based on association (which you can chose).

    The reality of what is being suggested is anarchy.

    Variations on this theme are recycled every few years by the latest fantasists’ poster (insert gender identity here).

    Irvine Welsh is easily impressed though, I see.

    1. JBS says:

      For these are the generations of the persistent troll.

      Corporatist Hell begat Glazed Eyed Moonies, and Glazed Eyed Moonies begat One Baw Shaw, and One Baw Shaw begat Lincoln Powell, and Lincoln Powell begat Teddy Henfrey*.

      I wonder if there are any I’ve missed.

      *Actually, this is the second coming of Teddy Henfrey. H.G. Wells was his original begetter, as everyone knows.

      1. John Craig says:

        Teddy Henfrey is a realist and as such, his observations are of increasing worth in a society where every delusional Bullshitter has to have his say. Reality for me is that society’s ailments have long since passed the point of no return and we are all going down the plug hole. The Vox Populi is the Kalashnikov with one for 25% of the worlds male population ( 1995 figures) and for some bizarre reason we think the owners will stay away from our door. Europe’s got them nibbling at it’s borders already, so let’s all indulge in fantasy politics, that will sort things out.

      2. John Page says:

        JBS
        I think you missed Baffled by Hyperbole…..and Bernicia?
        Can you imagine working alongside or indeed living with this creepy narcissist? Top of the class, wannabe teachers’ pet that even the teachers found creepy…..
        On to Word Power next to order book and have printed the reviews by Pat Kane and Irvine Welsh……….thanks to Bella for making all this thought provoking stuff available!
        Busy autumn and winter ahead……planning new allotment, getting ready for Holyrood 2016 and finishing Piketty and Mason and all the associated reading for a non economist to get to grips with it all
        John Page

        1. Rico says:

          John, as mentioned by Mike F above, if you’ve not read Positive Money’s book, it is well worth reading. Technical in places, but well explained (even just watch their youtube videos).

        2. JBS says:

          Thanks, John 🙂

          Forgot about Baffled by Hyperbole. I reckon Bernicia was a different troll, however – different writing style.

          This Corporatist Hell, though – a narcissist, I agree.

    2. Kevin Williamson says:

      That’s one way of looking at the future of the state and the NHS in particular. Another way would be to look a bit closer at the NHS and what its dealing with. Most of the NHS budget in this country is used to deal with illnesses and problems that are a direct result of bad diet, smoking, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, lack of exercise, obesity, poor environment, work-related illnesses, stress and depression. Another way of interpreting your clinging to the NHS as it exists infers that people sit at home in front of their TV and their computer and smartphone screens, stuff their faces full of pizzas, processed junk food and coca-cola, become unfit, obese, ill and depressed, then coming running to the NHS crying “mummy, I’m ill, how did this happen, please treat me.” Defend that system if you want but if that’s the future the NHS as we know it – like much of our communities – is utterly fucked. The future in that situation, where a publicly owned NHS can’t cope, is more likely to be the one they have in the USA; a nightmare scenario, and one unfolding in England already.

      Paul Mason projects a future which is different from the screwed up present, where society becomes more networked, more co-operative, more community-centred, and, as a direct result, less reliant on the NHS and the state to do an increasingly desperate holding operation. Where people become more self-reliant through economic and social co-operation a healthier and less stressful life becomes a real possibility.

      The difference between Paul’s projections and the archetypal hippy of the 60s – as an eternal veteran of the 70s punk wars I’m in the Never Trust A Hippy camp – is that these networked initiatives are developing NOW, around us in many different forms. I’d give just one example that may be familiar to Bella readers: the Fife Diet project, pioneered by the Editor of this website, where people came together to eat locally produced food, often eating collectively (as its much cheaper and more fun). Not tired hippy bullshit but genuine local networking around the key issue of food and indirectly climate change (as it took into account food miles, something supermarkets ignore).

      I’d suggest thinking a bit deeper on the issues being raised in Postcapitalism rather than retreating into knee-jerk 20th Century statism. The worst crime of all when it comes to politics is lack of imagination. The 1% are eternally imaginative when it comes to dispossessing the 99% of the wealth that society collectively creates. Many on the left simply wave slogans back at them and retreat into cliches and insults. We can do better than that.

      KW

      1. Kimberley Cadden says:

        A charity I worked for runs projects in Midlothian where local communities have been given permission by the council to grow food on public land (they mostly do it in schools) where local kids, usually kids who are having challenges, come together with guys from the charity and grow food for their communities for free – lovely organic veg mostly – the results with the kids have been great (and as a result the projects have received huge support from teachers and parents) and the results for communities has been a lot of free, healthy food…..so much is possible with this kind of community cooperation…

        1. John Page says:

          This is brilliant work……on so many levels!
          John

  10. barakabe says:

    The problem is the 1% control the money, physically own most valuable assets, own & control the corporate media, are backed up by the law & vast hit-squads of commercial lawyers & are protected by the state sanctioned violence of the police & the army…so they really don’t need to be that imaginative. As the referendum showed: even with incompetent dimwits like Darling, Carmichael, Murphy, Jackie Baillie, Cameron, McTiernan…the point is if you control the media & can put real pressure on the business community with the economic levers available to you from the City then you can be the most incompetent cabal of idiots in the world & still get people to listen to you as though you were the final repository of divine wisdom on earth.
    The reality is the system is coming up against the hard surface of concrete reality, the invincible laws of necessity ( in the form of global warming, scarcity, over- population etc) & the basic incompetence of those in power- maybe it will take a few internal shocks from the likes of crypto-currencies or innovations in networking to collapse the system. Strangers things have happened. A real problem would be those who manage to hold onto some vestiges of power (& backed up with weaponry) & yet no longer tempered by institutionalized prohibitions from organizations like the UN etc- we might then just see capitalism’s true face without all the slight of hand tricks of its glittering magic-play…corporate fascism backed up by physical threats of violence.

  11. Mike McInnes says:

    A comment on the post-capitalist future.
    We may never get there – we are moving rapidly into a post – sapiens – post sentient future, in other words we are losing our minds.

    Why?

    Sugars which we are consuming in vast quantity since the 1970s when we ditched fats (essential to life) for sugars (absolutely non essential to life) shrink the human brain – honest.

    The human brain has been shrinking for 10,000 years – that is becoming smaller and smarter – Einstein was an example of this with higher ratio of glial cells to neurones – the cells that house the cerebral glucose pump – this is positive.

    However sugars suppress the cerebral glucose pump and short circuit the brain – all of our big metabolic diseases are driven by this mechanism – obesity/diabetes (2) and heart disease, and loads of others also.

    Sugars in excess (hyperglycaemia) act as a cannabinoid signalling system, activate cannabinoid receptors and suppress the cerebral glucose pump and drive the munchies – the more sugars we consume the more hungry we become – that is chronic cerebral hunger.

    If the brain is chronically shorted it cleverly reduces energy consumption by creating amyloid proteins that cause cells to commit suicide (apoptosis) – this is a brilliant energy saving and therefore survival strategy.

    The problem of modern dementia is that is begins in foetus and affects all population ages – it simply remains hidden (incipient) and the big metabolic diseases appear first – but driven by incipient dementia – so the scientific establishment which has for 5 decades maligned fats may now be waking up to sugars but they miss the key driving mechanism – incipient dementia.

    Yes they do claim that the metabolic diseases do increase the risk of dementia –the problem with this notion is that is the reverse of the actual driving mechanism.

    This is bigger than we imagine – 40% of the western population is hyperglycaemic (Catherine Collins at the NIH), the mechanism that shorts the brain – so 40% express hidden dementia – the official figures are 40 million world-wide – the true figure is 400 million – doubling every 20 years – do the sum – 1.6 billion demented humans 40 years from now from birth to death – the demented will be caring for the demented.

    So we are rapidly heading for the post sapiens era – homo insapiens.

    All of course driven by neoliberal corporate food interests – they may not be consciously making us obey via incipient dementia – but they are successfully doing so.

    Jim Flynn in NZ found IQ rose in the 20th century world-wide – the Flynn Effect – a god in cognitive science – recently Dutch and Scandinavian researchers have found this is in reverse but have no idea why.

    Easy – sugar driven incipient dementia.

    That is the real future of humanity unless we can find a way to reverse this.

    All the talk of the new drug that dissolves amyloid proteins is rubbish – this is after the sugars have already done the damage.

    If we would like to live in a post-capitalist world we need to address this question first, or we will be too demented to notice. MMcI

  12. Airconditioned says:

    Excellent review. I’m reminded of this Nikola Tesla quote. Different era and circumstance but still…

    “Out of this war, the greatest since the beginning of history, a new world must be born, a world that would justify the sacrifices offered by humanity. This new world must be a world in which there shall be no exploitation of the weak by the strong, of the good by the evil; where there will be no humiliation of the poor by the violence of the rich; where the products of intellect, science and art will serve society for the betterment and beautification of life, and not the individuals for achieving wealth. This new world shall not be a world of the downtrodden and humiliated, but of free men and free nations, equal in dignity and respect for man.”

  13. Steve Arnott says:

    “It’s both a visionary and landmark work, and the most important book about our economy and society to be published in my lifetime.”

    A great writer and commentator on a very important book.

    I don’t think for a second that everything in Paul Mason’s book will prove to be right, but like all important books it asks fundamental questions and poses possible answers that require serious response.

    If I could meet Paul Mason tomorrow, I’d only have one question for him.

    “Have you ever read Iain Bank’s Culture novels?”

  14. JKBB says:

    “Yes, we can produce goods that go on for decades without needing replaced.”

    Don’t forget though, info tech also justifies planned obsolescence in design, because of so-called Moore’s law. In many ways this model takes us farther away from a circular economy, not closer. These robots will likely also be zombies, never conscious, so by proliferating machine-intelligence around us, we could very likely see ourselves as more machine like too. Philosopher Owen Barfield once said: “How is it that the more able man becomes to manipulate the world to his advantage, the less he can perceive any meaning in it? This is a paradox that has often been noted, and has sometimes been attributed to a fundamental perversity, a sort of ‘pure cussedness’, in human nature.”

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