Scottish Independence and “PostCapitalism”

Radical Independence Conference Gather In GlasgowAs you’d expect from a professional reporter, working for a respected global news organisation, Paul Mason’s vision of a “PostCapitalism” – the title of his new book – doesn’t shy away from uncomfortable facts.

The penultimate chapter, which is entitled “The Case For Rational Panic”, is uncompromising and clear. Disruptive global warming, the demographic and pensions crisis, and the forces of migration responding to both of those, will deliver even more convulsive shocks and shudders to every country and region in the world – Scotland included.

As to the solution to these crisis, Mason is again refreshingly direct: a market-led approach to any of this – the default method recommended by the neo-liberal consensus for the last 30 years – is a busted flush. To a very large extent, his postcapitalist vision is an attempt to provide a comprehensive, structural solution to these deep challenges.

In this blog (a long one, but he’s full of ideas) I’m going to go through Paul’s strategies for dealing with these real-world challenges. And I hope to show how the pursuit (and realisation) of Scottish independence could be an ideal test-bed for his vision.

Yesterday I described how Mason is trying to make us all understand how transforming info-technology could be of our current socio-economic order. But it’s worth thumbnailing his basic challenge once more.

Code + Copy = Revolution

A purely digital good, once made, can be reproduced and shared forever, at no extra cost. This is a direct challenge to the classic capitalist idea that goods and services can only be accessed through money and prices.

The more that other goods are shaped by digital processes – designs for manufacture of transport or houses, bio-formulas for drugs or food, machines that are ever more adaptive and even self-directing – the more the price-system for those goods begins to dissolve.

The baroque, often ludicrous structures of copyright and control which snake through our info-lives – suppressing a genuine potential for abundant services and products – could be halted and reversed. That is, if the “left” exerted enough “willpower, confidence and design” (in Mason’s words) to create “projects” that proposed alternatives.

Who does Mason think could take these projects (of which more later) forward? In my previous blog, I charted Paul’s attempt to cast the “universal educated person”, or “networked individualist”, as part of a longer history of the culture of the working-class. A culture which always surpassed, in its dreams and aspirations, any degrading or exploitative relation it had with the managers and bosses of capitalism.

Surely it’s easy for Yessers to understand exactly what Mason is referring to, if they recall the everyday community flourishing unleashed by the Yes campaign during the indyref.

And in Scotland, that flourishing was amplified by the contagious, irrepressible use of network technologies – to organise and archive meetings, to distribute alternative news and counter-factual graphics, to raise cash for activist projects at cost price.

So Indy supporters should know, intuitively, what Mason means by the communicational and liberating power of digital computers and networks.

Networked activists used and built the web in order to prototype their future, “as if” it was already happening (or even “as if you were in the early days of a better nation”). But they aren’t the only agents of change, for Mason, that could bring about a post-capitalism.

Mason spends a lot of his book berating old-style lefties for their lazy, managerialist assumptions – that all you do is take control of the state, by elections or other means, and the socialist dream is achievable.

So it’s comforting to realise that, at the end, Paul does see the state – one with confidence in its regulatory and policy powers – as an essential player in the “transition phase” to post-capitalism. For Yessers, who directed their networked activism to the achievement of a Scottish nation-state, this part of Mason’s vision should be of great interest.

How could the policy programme of a future Scottish Parliament respond to the already “post-capitalist” dimensions of the indy movement? Using whatever powers it can muster, short of and including full nation-statehood?

Helpfully, Mason closes his book with prescriptions – which he will be happy to see “torn apart and revised by the wisdom of angry crowds” – under the title of “Project Zero”. This refers to three overall objectives:

  • a zero-carbon energy system
  • the production of machines, products and services with “zero marginal costs” (ie, too cheap and plentiful to price)
  • and the reduction of necessary labour time as close as possible to zero

Mason then outlines eight tasks in a project plan that might get us to this postcapitalist state.

A “Project Zero” for Scotland

The most pertinent thing to do, for Scottish readers, may be to briefly introduce each one, and then see where that fits into the Scottish policy landscape, whether historic, actual, prospective or hoped-for.

“Model first, act later.” This is an intriguing suggestion from Mason, based on his investigation into how massively powerful computers can now model and simulate designs for reality.

His signature example is the aircraft jet engine, which in the old days was tested a couple of hundred times in real life, but has been tested a hundred million times by a computer simulation, before being actually constructed.

Simulations of climate change, or epidemics, or populations, or traffic flows take in thousands of different inputs, algorithmically calculated. But, Mason complains, when we model our economies, our inputs are pitiful: the European Central Bank uses only households, firms and the central bank.

Why can’t we establish “a global institute or network for simulating the long-term transition beyond capitalism” – starting with “attempting to construct an accurate simulation of economies as they exist today”?

All the “big data” that surrounds us could feed into such a simulation, and allow us to eventually test out our post-capitalist notions to see what ones worked, or didn’t, or needed tweaking.

There’s a few obvious resonances with Scottish policy here. We already have a “Scotland Performs” website, which has scores of “national performance indicators” with arrows pointing up, down or both ways – yet it’s hardly the Wikipedia-like interactive simulation that I think Mason anticipates.

We also have something of a legitimation-crisis when it comes to statistics that measure the performance of the Scottish economy, with claim and counter-claim coming from ScotGov, the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the Office of Budget Responsibility, and various other bodies.

Could a partnership of Scottish universities, government and the business sector take up Mason’s suggestion – not just to use petaflop computers to model in real-time the Scottish economy, but to begin this process with global partners, and with a view to exporting and benchmarking this process? Why not do it here – the land of Clerk-Maxwell, Adam Smith and Red Clydeside?

scotland“The Wiki-State.” If a state is like Wikipedia, it doesn’t provide command-and-control from on high – but it does build a structure that enables much free and creative activity, often of great usefuless and relevance, and produced through diligent and respectful collaboration.

What stiffens Mason’s spine is that such a state should be proactive in extending the zone of postcapitalist collaboration and free services. Which means both “switching off the neoliberal privatisation machine” (ie, don’t cave in to the privatisation of public services (“the EU made me do it”)), and actively using the power of procurement to “favour sustainable, collaborative and socially just outcome”.

Do existing Scottish Governments accredit themselves well here? Not very – though there are enough flurries of protest (recently around the idea that the public service of CalMac Ferries could be passed over to Serco) to show that the Scottish public sphere understands how its state should act to benefit the commonweal.

But in recent legislation around community empowerment, and land reform, there is at least obesiance paid to the principle of pushing back against corporate imperatives in the name of the popular will.

However, it’s not quite “clearing a space in the capitalist jungle”, in Mason’s words, to allow the “fragile new plants… of peer-to-peer projects, collaborative business models and non-profit activities” to grow.
A left-green electoral bloc in the May 2016 Holyrood elections seems like more and more a necessary component of a radical “independence” majority – at least to keep the possibilities open for something more than the SNP’s boilerplate “fairness-and-prosperity” approach.

And in terms of what’s coming, even a safety-first Scottish Parliament could be knocked off-course. Mason also ventures into how a “wiki-state” might stave off a deeper financial collapse, due to accumulating debts not just from botched austerity programmes, but also the looming pension payments crisis. At the very least, his projections should focus Yessers’ minds on what form of Scottish national economic sovereignty could navigate through what looks like some very stormy waters to come – no matter what we do.

blipfoto scotland2_0“Expand collaborative work.” Again, here Mason takes a strong-minded view of the state’s responsibility to exercise “law and regulation”, in order to limit traditional enterprises’ ability to “contribute to social injustice”. These include start-ups incentivized by tax law to pay low-wages from the get-go, or large cheap-labour corporations that benefited from the space “ruthlessly carved out for them since the 90s” by the state.

What a state should also promote are businesses which produce free stuff in a collaborative way: he wants someone to set up an “Office of the Non-Market Economy” to nurture them all.

As I know from my board membership of the think-and-do-tank Common Weal, Scotland already has a deep historical tradition of co-ops, collectives, mutuals and credit unions. It’s now being added to by cafes and bars, creative spaces, and most vibrantly news-and-views media platforms.

The latter – this blog, Wings, CommonSpace, Newsnet, The Ferret, The National and several others – are probably the best example of the kind of spontaneous networked organisations that can be generated from the combination of info-tech and social movement.

Though interestingly, online subscription and net-based crowdfunding – the latter of which doesn’t even merit a mention in Mason’s book – has been a vital, and even reliable way of ensuring sustainability (sometimes even sanity) for those who run these platforms. Yet these are literally gifts to valued figures, granted money by the community in a similar way to the elite employees of high-performance info-capitalist enterprise – who as Mason says, “are basically paid to exist” (or more likely, for the cybernats, post more than a few times a day).

But the idea of an “Office of the Non-Market Economy” sounds like a slam-dunk offer, if the Scottish Government was vaguely interested in Mason’s analysis.

Scotlands-Rorschach“Suppress or socialise monopolies.” Faced with the tendency to abundance and freedom of informational and information-shaped goods, info-capitalism’s primary response is to try and establish a monopoly (the posterboys being Google and Apple). Mason is bracingly militant about the state’s response: break ‘em up. And if you can’t break ‘em up, take them into public ownership.

Paul is also very clear about the impact of public provision of items like water, energy, housing, transport, healthcare, telecom infrastructure and education. If they were delivered at close to cost price, the price of basic necessities would cheapen, labour time could be reduced, and the free production zone increase. It would be a “strategic act of redistribution, vastly more effective than raising real wages”.

In Scotland – and I would love to know how this phrase made it into the First Ministerial vocabulary – we actually have a policy beachhead for all this. The concept of the “social wage” has been part of SNP policy for several years now.

It is usually represented by the eight year freeze in council tax; free prescriptions; elderly personal care; free school meals; a commitment to the Living Wage for all public sector workers under Scottish Government pay policy; the roll out of 600 hours of free childcare for all 3, 4 and vulnerable two year olds; the Scots students saving up to £9,000 per year with fee-free tuition.

As Salmond wrote in the Guardian in 2012: “We have made a conscious decision to provide certain core universal services, rights and benefits, some of which are no longer prioritised by political leaders elsewhere in the UK… We do this because we believe such services benefit the common weal. They provide a sense of security, wellbeing and equity within communities. Such a sense of security is vital to a sense of confidence – and as we have seen over the last three years, confidence is essential to economic growth.”

The last line slides into orthodoxy. But the overall principle is clear – however tough it may prove to use Scottish sovereign power to defend its application (from EU regulators and the like). There is an overall Scots consensus for using public services to counter the atomizing and fear-inducing impact of neoliberal marketisation on everyday communities.

What Mason can add to this defensive argument is a positive opportunity. A “social wage” (along with a citizen’s basic income – see below) can support a steady growth of non-market mutual provision, driven by the sharing, copying and modelling digital technologies he champions.

Even short of full independence, wouldn’t it be possible for a Scottish government to open up and support these possibilities? Does this not go with the very grain of the “commonweal” so often invoked by ScotGov ministers?

“Let market forces disappear.” This is a slightly misleading header, as Mason concedes that “networked individuals” have a strong consumer identity, and that markets – as a way that producers and makers can respond to complex desires – should still have their place. But if the private sector seeks profit, it must do so from “entrepreneurship, rather than rent”.

What that means for information goods is that you don’t just keep extending copyright and controlled-usage for ever – which provides you with rent, forever – but you deliberately make those copyrights “taper away quickly”, after the short-term gains from innovation (new clothing style, hit record) fade away. The way to make more money is to then come up with something new again!

Thus a “commons” of intellectual property grows and grows, providing a necessary resource for non-profit/free labours and enterprises. This would be further enriched by ensuring that state-funded research results, generated by from universities and other institutions, were “free at the point of use”.

Again, in the context of the Yes campaign, Scots have recently had the experience of playing fast and loose with copyright – of people getting themselves together around projects and worrying (or forgetting) about who “owns” it afterwards.

I’ve often thought there could be a much bigger infrastructural responsibility invested in something like “Creative Scotland”. Because if creativity and innovation is “becoming exponential”, as Mason phrases it, shouldn’t the macro-institutions which sustain that be of an appropriate scale?

And again, what is to stop a Scottish Government experimenting with support systems for postcapitalist artists, creatives and enterpreneurs – involving not just open cultural rights, but different forms of communal living, different kinds of community contribution?

Interestingly (for so-called “statist” independistas like myself) Mason isn’t afraid to bat for the state interest when he perceives it to be urgent. Around energy, he’s forceful about the need to take the grid and its carbon-based suppliers into public ownership. (As they can’t burn their reserves without burning the planet, he quips, “these corporations are toast anyway”).

So far, each of Mason’s project goals has consequences for how Yessers think of Scottish sovereign state power – and this is just one of the more acute. If a future Scottish government were to conduct these nationalisations – and it’s certainly not on the SNP-majority ticket at the moment – could this happen within the framework of EU competition law, in its current, neo-liberally punitive form?

The more that Mason specifies the state policies that will help the transition to a postcapitalist society, the more militant it looks like the next Scottish assertion of sovereign independence will need to be, to get anywhere near this state of affairs. The SNP’s indy-lite policy prospectus for 2014 (“independence in the UK”, as Iain Macwhirter once waspishly called it) seems like a proper dead-end, as a model for the next heave (whenever it happens).

“Socialise the finance system.” This is a complex section, and it’s perhaps easier to begin by quoting Paul’s ambition:

“In the short-term, the intention is not to reduce complexity – as the money fundamentalists want – nor simply to stabilize banking, but to promote the most complex form of capitalist finance compatible with progressing the economy towards high automation, low work, and abundant cheap or free goods and services”.

His range of measures to ensure this are pretty familiar to those who have engaged deeply with the Scottish policy debate over the last ten years. Firstly, a nationalised central bank, targeted at sustainability (see notions like a Green or a People’s Quantitative Easing, flagged up in the Corbyn campaign in the last weeks).

Secondly, a much more regionalised and regulated banking sector, with credit unions, peer-to-peer lenders and the like given greater status. And thirdly, a re-regulation of complex global financial activities, emphasizing investment for production, and hunting down tax havens.

But let me keep coming back to the Scottish indy context. To take these measures forward would require a general popular confidence in the ability of one’s state to conduct sovereign reforms of its macro-financial systems.

We just didn’t have enough of that on September 18th, due in part to the terrifying psychological bombardments of the media-establishment complex (though it was touch and go for them). And the spectacle of the Greek Syriza government being pummelled this way and that by their Euro “partners” might have boosted the resolve of the already-engaged, but perhaps has worried even more those older, pensioned, tremulous Nos.

Yet again, Mason’s challenge to any potential postcapitalist state, and its confidence in its agency and sovereignty, is considerable. Are we up to it, and up for it?

“Pay everyone a basic income.” This relates to a pillar of Mason’s overall historic argument. The organised working classes and their militant demands for better terms and conditions, as a wave of capitalist expansion crests, actually helps the whole system thrive in the long run.

The new social measures they force (from public housing to universal education) improve the capabilities of the worker; and the expensiveness of the labour compel companies to develop more efficient and innovative production technologies.

But neo-liberalism smashed the power of labour over the last 30 years – which meant that, even as the startling powers of info-tech have bedded in, stagnation has been the result. This is because neo-liberalism’s control freakery is essentially happy with the majority of its populations working in low-skill, low-wage, “bullshit” jobs. A basic income is an attempt to kickstart the “workers” end of systemic development again – by removing the opportunity to make a business from bullshit jobs.

Basic income is also a future-oriented response to the prospect of postcapitalist enterprise being much more about non-market behaviours and relations. We will have to start valuing this kind of activity, because the necessary hours of labour in society are due to start rapidly declining, due to automation – which threatens to remove 40% of existing jobs by 2040.

In Mason’s vision, basic income (his levels are £6000 for the BI, with a minimum wage at £18,000) provides a basis on which the techno-mutual society can flourish. It gives people a high economic floor, from which they can strike a new mix – between their jobs (which are now tending towards high-wage, high-skill occupations, employers pushed their by the basic income), and their lives (and loves).

The Scottish pathway towards this is, actually, pretty clear. The late feminist economist Ailsa McKay is perhaps best known in the country for persuading Alex Salmond that a massive investment in childcare would serve a number of positive outcomes – both supporting women’s autonomy, and paying for itself by bringing more women into the labour market.

But it’s not as well known that Ailsa’s next policy horizon was the introduction of a “citizen’s basic income” (CBI) in Scotland (see her Royal Society of Edinburgh policy paper). She’s worth quoting in full:

“In contrast to current social security measures, a CBI does not explicitly link income provision with work. In this sense it can be regarded as an emancipatory measure in that it serves to free individuals from the economic necessity of toil and provides the basis to support a range of welfare enhancing activity undertaken outwith the confines of market based exchanges. A CBI is not merely an alternative to existing social security provision but rather a philosophy aimed at enhancing individual freedom and promoting social justice. In essence providing the basis for securing ‘real freedom for all’.”

Certainly, welfare powers are coming piecemeal to Scotland under devolution, and we can’t get the integrating powers required short of independence. But the Utrecht experiment in basic income seems to be happening at the level of a city or municipality. Are there “Yes” towns, with the required cohesion, patience and municipal vision, that would be willing to take on an experiment – Coatbridge? Dundee? Inverness?

“The network unleashed.” You gotta love Paul Mason for paragraphs like this:

“There is no reason other than exploitation why world-class techniques of automation cannot be applied, for example, to the labour of the sandwich factory or the meat-packing plant. In fact, it is only the availability of cheap, unorganised labour, supported by in-work benefits, that permits these business models to exist. In many industries old disciplines of work – time, obedience, attendance, hierarchy – are enforced only because neoliberalism is suppressing innovation. But they are technologically unnecessary”.

Mason performs a crucial service in the PostCapitalism book – in that he continually smacks you upside your head, and jolts you from the consensus view about how our modern, producing-and-consuming lives should be.

But as I wrote in my first piece on the book in The National a few weeks ago, I think Paul underestimates just how brilliantly seductive those info-capitalists are. The Zuckerberg’s, the Ive’s and Jobs’s, Larry and Sergey and Jeff Bezos and all devote billions designing ways to corral us back into a passive, orderly space with our daily techno-structures.

How we keep mentally and imaginatively escaping from those comfort zones into more dynamic, active visions of our coming society – think the closing credits of Wall-E, where the blobby humans work with their robots to rebuild their world – is a question perhaps for artists most of all. (Pause to mourn the passing of National Collective, now probably more needed than ever).

Luckily, Scotland is not short of what Disney called “imagineering” or “imagineers”. From conceptual artists to science-fiction writers, from games-makers to hard-core researchers, from SF blockbuster scripters to open-source coder communities, we have an embarassment of future-oriented riches.

I facilitated an encouraging conference on Scottish innovation a month ago in Edinburgh – and by far the most exciting contribution came from Glasgow School of Art’s head of design, Irene McAra-McWilliams.

Irene actually suggested a new verb to us all – “to studio”. Meaning that the vibrancy of creative practitioners in Scotland was suggesting new organisational forms that we could begin to scale up across Scotland. A studio (as opposed to a a lab) is about a collective display of work, a space of explicit mutual inspiration and soft prototyping.

From everything that Paul has suggested in his extraordinary, mobilising book, what would a “postcapitalist studio” scene look like in Scotland? Who can build them? From what elements? What would they do?

And BTW, dear Yesser: Do you remember what it felt like, to have the energy to ask all these questions, and find the people around you who might help you answer them – or ask better ones?

You do? OK. So there’s one idea – “modular, self-managed, granular”, as Paul might approvingly say – for the Scottish future. Get his book, read carefully (and with pleasure), and come with a fistful of your own.

 

Pat Kane is a musician and writer, and an innovation editor for Bella Caledonia (www.patkane.today)

Comments (17)

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  1. Jon Buchanan says:

    Halfway through ‘Post-Capitalism’ as we speak and have been thinking as I go through how each section applies to an IndyScot situation so thoroughly enjoyed this! As I did the panel discussion for the books intro you were involved in; interesting to read about the notion of ‘to studio’, been trying to work around a similar notion for a few years and am currently in the final stages of launching a new social enterprise based on a creative digital marketing studio supporting epileptics into employment but also as a creative hub generally creating a virtuous circle providing creative services for the third sector, which takes a lot of the ideas here into account, will be keeping the book on hand, and possibly this blog now, as we develop, thanks muchly for the extra input Pat!

  2. Mike Fenwick says:

    I want to think a bit, before maybe expressing some opinions (some negative) but first I want to go back to the 1790’s and Thomas Paine, and his comments on having a citizen’s income – yep, think Marie Antoinette time.

    Paine and others suggested instituting a basic income – so if 200 years ago it was suggested and if it pops up again now via Paul Mason- are we facing some form of inherent integral problem in how we organise ourselves.

    However, if you dig around a bit you will also find some neo-liberal thinkers in the US advocating it. Are they defining the same solution, a basic income to resolve the same problem – or – may I suggest they are offering it as a solution from a vastly different perspective.

    Just my 2p – but before we advocate solutions we better be sure we understand the problem that we are trying to solve. Once instituted, a basic income, just like tax credits, can be reduced and indeed removed.

  3. pat kane says:

    I wrote about Tom Paine, and the long history of basic income schemes in The Play Ethic. It may interest you to know that Mason also envisages the fading away of a basic income, but only as the networked non-market sector of the economy begins to fully occupy and serve our complex lives. It fits into Paul’s whole system – which is definitely pointed in a different direction than a Friedman (or Richard Nixon) trying to slim down welfare expenditure by simplifying the bureaucracy of means-testing. I will update the Ailsa McKay link above which Is the likeliest rationale for its introduction in Scotland.

    1. Mike Fenwick says:

      “Chance favours only the prepared mind” … Louis Pasteur.

      That clinches it, you got another sale coming up, Mr Mason before I run out of luck in my meanderings and musings!

      Tangent: Why whenever I see the words “fade away”, is it an immediate Rolling Stones moment? Memes – who invented them!

  4. barakabe says:

    The issue I have with theory-utopianism is how it can easily serve our individual need to deny the basic misery & devastation existed in the real world. A capital elite is waging a class war in all advanced economies of the world- meaning the poor & people at the bottom spectrum of society are hit hardest by ‘rationalization’- to me its merely another manifestation of false consciousness to deny class war: the evidence of the central issue is staring us in the face everyday. Adorno said we need a transcendence of capitalism that is imminent & emerges out of the concrete socio-historical forces in operation. Theory has its useful place but we cannot deny reality either- the real function of theory should be the disclosure of socially engendered false consciousness; if not then its just anther form of reification.

    1. David Thomson says:

      Good post. I might argue that the ‘real function of theory’ should be proscriptive, a Phronetic social science, as Bent Flyvbjerg argues for in ‘Making Social Science Matter’.

      However, i wanted to point to something else. You say “Adorno said we need a transcendence of capitalism that is imminent & emerges out of the concrete socio-historical forces in operation.” If you take a look at the maker movement, and the immanent reorganisation of energy distribution, the future looks more and more like a post scarcity ‘economy’.

      I think it is interesting that capitalism is bound to produce increasingly better tools for this. e.g. the tendency to simplify and cheapen the manufacturing process leads inevitably to the democratisation of production. Check out ‘open source ecology’ website, MIT’s ‘fablabs’ and Murry Bookchin’s Post Scarcity Anarchism (if any are new to you).

      I fear greatly for the environment and for the capacity for society to regress into embitterred resource wars, bigotry, xenophobia and violence, but capitalism is generating its own replacement, just as Adorno and indeed Marx predicted. As the capacity for ordinary citizens to manufacture goods increases, broadens and verticallly integrates, a seperate economy might well develop, that allows the increasing numbers made redundant by automation, to produce the goods they want outside of the mainstream economy, maintaining a 21st century lifestyle and beginning to ‘produce their own needs’, as marx put it.

      Forces acting on the corporations will cause them to eventually produce the altimate all purpose machine, that can be taught to make anything and others that can provide any service. When this can be reverse engineered we are all equal.

      It is amazingly not far off with 3D printing technology now able to produce circuit boards, whole cars, and products made from several different materials, robots are already designing and building robots, and AI isn’t just walking, talking and crunching big data, but hypothesising, experimenting and solving the most intractable scientific problems.

      The revolution is not political or indeed destructive, but it truely is in building and creating something new.

  5. leavergirl says:

    Pat, a great summary. Thank you. What I am missing is a way to deal with entrenched power. Counter-power? What the heck does that mean, anything?

    I particularly like the individual towns experimenting with basic income. Somebody ought to write for Bella a smart article listing the advantages, disadvantages, and potentially interesting aspects of this approach.

  6. Frank says:

    Networked individualist’s of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your broadband connection…

    I actually read this twice. And I’m still confused, although after a second reading my confusion is at a higher level. There are so many themes and twists and bold claims in the review, that I felt like I was listening to the ramblings of a man on Coke. Nothing wrong in that. But there a few ‘straw men’ arguments tossed around. Like this one:

    ‘Mason spends a lot of his book berating old-style lefties for their lazy, managerialist assumptions – that all you do is take control of the state, by elections or other means, and the socialist dream is achievable’.

    Yeah, lets stick the boot into lazy old style lefties. The bastards. Having not read the book I obviously don’t have much to contribute to the debate, but a couple of things I would point out. Firstly, it seems counter-intuitive to me to suggest that we are living in post-capitalist times. I detect that this might be a sales pitch – make a bold claim, like claim it’s the end of history, or that we are living in Post something or another times. A friend of mine said the other day that he was a post-post Modernist. He was being serious…

    From a cursory reading of the reviews, the book appears to make a pretty good case that the working class, considered by Marxists as the agent of revolutionary change, are not up to the task. Nothing new here. Farewell to the Working Class pretty much destroyed my faith in revolutionary Marxism and that was published in the 1980s. But I’m wary of new agents wrapped up in pseudo Marxist imagery, from the ‘new social movements’ to this…the ‘universal educated person”, or “networked individualist”. Both sound ephemeral. They ignore class. The universal educated person is an interesting concept. I have lost count of the amount of people I meet who in an economistic sense are ‘over qualified’ or ‘underemployed’. There exists a section of the population existentially frustrated because their sense of middle class entitlement (nothing wrong in that!) is not being met under the current neo-liberal regime. But to suggest that this group could be an agent of a new social order, I’m just not convinced.

    Finally, Pat writes:

    The latter – this blog, Wings, CommonSpace, Newsnet, The Ferret, The National and several others – are probably the best example of the kind of spontaneous networked organisations that can be generated from the combination of info-tech and social movement.

    Oh come on, it’s a fucking blog!

  7. john young says:

    From what I understood of this brilliant article it is a go-go and if we grasp the mettle or nettle we could revolutionise the world as we know it.I have always thought that if the government would take back into public ownership all of the utilities and any others that would free up the profits for the people,we could reduce rents/mortgages/travel/energy e.t.c. wages could be reduced but leaving people better off,people shouldn,t have their nose to the grindstone all of their lives,we have so much that could be attuned to leisure events so much land that can be utilised,we have so much to offer.

  8. Mike Fenwick says:

    May I start by transferring a post I made on another blog, this:

    Might it not be that the social experiment is the teacher, the educator, and the state, or states, the pupil?

    That ties in completely with seeing Scotland as an ideal test bed, and if code + copy is the way forward then that too is positive for a world outside Scotland.

    I have been invited at times to join in at the National Economic Forum – and what always strikes me are that the problems being discussed are not simply Scottish, nor if we find solutions are they uniquely Scottish. Nor if solutions arise elsewhere it is perfectly possible for us to learn and copy them, and a digital world opens up all those opportunities. Inside and outside – hugely positive.

    Now for “civil anarchy”. It’s how I see it, and it happens every time I see the word “state”, it also happens, but to a lesser degree when I see the words “Government” and “Scottish Parliament” – and those words keep appearing in the above blog. I also worry about public ownership, when I think of the £bns lost by Local Authorities in Icelandic Banks, and when Mr Osborne sells publicly owned shares in RBS at a loss. Was it public ownership – it sure isn’t now.

    Maybe I’ve just been kicking around for too long, but over my lifetime I’ve watched, what might form the “state”, what may give it a structure, and watched it change and alter eg; we say we have a welfare state, we didn’t always have, and it’s under attack, will it remain? When we joined the EU, was the “State” we thought we lived in the same the day after, had it gained anything, had it lost anything?

    So, when we refer to the “state”, what is the “state” – static or ever changeable?

    More importantly by whom are those changes instigated? Politicians, Governments or as just one example, which is extremely pertinent just now, think perhaps, ISDS and TTIP when I ask that question. Who might decide “the state we’re in”?

    The same is true as I have experienced it as it applies to “Governments” and even the “Scottish Parliament” – too often, for me at least, I seem to be under the control of the Grand Old Duke of York, am I going up or down this time?

    Did those who campaigned in the Yes movement receive marching orders, were they given directions, or was it self generated to achieve change – I don’t want to over achieve in adopting this phrase – but was it “civil anarchy”, perhaps not, but was it at least an expression of individual self determination – with “the social networks” leading, teaching, and others, Governments, politicians and commercial entities learning, and being taught.

    For sure I need to buy the book, I may, even with Pat’s explanations, be missing and misinterpreting far far too much – but what I know and have experienced about change, about innovations, is that they come from the bottom up, from the left field, from surprising places, and that far too often the barriers to their adoption or implementation emanates from the top, be it Governments or the “State”.

    I so hope whatever we see develop is bottom up, collaborative, and surprises those at the top, and they learn, and learn specifically not to be the barrier. Let it be so!

    One last point: Watch how respectful, or hopeful, you might be over mutuals and credit unions. I once interviewed the CEO’s of the 9 Scottish Life Offices, all at that time mutuals, and warned that their promises of unattainable bonuses on with profits policies were a disaster waiting to happen. 15 years later, and finally the regulators woke up, and with considerable damage done to their members, those Life Offices, after over more than 100 years of existence, were either no longer in existence or were no longer mutual.

    I also engaged more recently with the FSCS (Financial Services Compensation Scheme) over how many Credit Unions were going bust, and why. Caveat emptor! But there lies a huge opportunity both to socialise, and collaboratively to digitise.

    Now to buy the book, and find out what I have got completely wrong, or misunderstood, I am sure it will be plenty. Apologies to all for all and any errors on my part.

  9. Graeme Purves says:

    I am interested in the points Pat makes about policy modelling and, as a strategic planner, particularly the spatial dimension of that. In Scotland we already have established strengths in strategic policy development. For example, our National Planning Framework recently won an award for excellence in the 2015 Royal Town Planning Institute Planning Awards. However, we probably lag behind some other small European countries in terms of the institutional infrastructure to support strategic policy modelling. Ireland has its National Institute for Regional and Spatial Analysis (NIRSA) at Maynooth University. In Latvia, the State Regional Development Agency (VRAA) has developed a territory development index to inform policy development.

    The European Observation Network on Territorial Development and Cohesion (ESPON) is the agency which provides spatial data and analysis to inform EU policy development and a couple of years ago I was involved along with partners from Ireland, Latvia, Iceland and the Basque Country in an ESPON research project to identify key indicators for territorial cohesion and spatial planning which could have general applicability across Europe. The KITCASP project looked at indicators of resilience, integrated spatial development, social cohesion, quality of life, and environmental and resource management, so there already international collaboration in these areas and a fairly broad consensus on themes and challenges. The skills for simulating long-term social and economic development are already there. As far as Scotland is concerned, I believe that an institution outside of the Scottish Government needs to be established to undertake the necessary data analysis and policy modelling.

  10. old battle says:

    US foreign policy, real power, as stated by Pastor a State Department security advisor makes it quite clear: nations ” may act independently, EXCEPT, when doing so would affect US interests adversely.” Quoted by Chomsky in his Failed States. The unilateral post-soviet power of the US with its multiple points of power viz military, economic but far more important its new-power in social media and cyber-power would hinder/prevent anti-capitalism as it would ‘ affect US interests adversely’ right here in Scotland.

  11. old battle says:

    To follow up the above: The aggressive US owned and controlled ITC cyber-industry rides rough-shod across our personal cyberspace. The sheer power and increasingly ideological authority of the internet owners has transformed the communication business with the dominant ITC power held by US corporations constituting a fierce cyber-hegemony over this vital resource.
    I would suggest that the near monopoly power of cyberspace technologies gives Washington as much global cultural power as their combined defence industry and military. This cyber-power comes embedded with ideological assumptions in a near global dominance.
    So what do we find in cyber –space?

    Adobe, Amazon, Apple, Blackberry, Cisco, EBay, Facebook, Google, Twitter, Intel, Logitech, Mac, MacAfee, Memorex, Microsoft, Netflix, Netscape, Oracle, Palm, PayPal, San Disk, Skype, Stumble-upon, Symantec, TiVo, Yahoo, You-tube et al

    (I have not ignored other major US global cultural media CNN, FOX, ABC, NBC plus the movie industry power players, Dream Works , 20th Century Fox, MGM , United Artists, Orion, Universal Studios, Pixar , Touchstones Pictures, Disney, Miramax, Lions Gate and many more with still further cultural power in print through Random House, Pearson, Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster and more… including our own Herald and the National owned by a US media house.

    I have little understanding of the enormity of economic wealth tied up in that list of powerful players. I am trying to intelligently assess the cultural and political implications of such power. Yet once again the sheer enormity of the potential to shape and manipulate not just global communications but global consciousness is almost overwhelming.
    This power to collect , collate and store the ideas expressed by millions of individuals and to use that information for political, economic, military, financial ,intelligence, marketing, cultural, commercial and illicit power manipulation is quite frankly frightening.
    It needs a Chomsky to attempt to pursue the implications of this threat to global popular democracy. SR and its readers might help.

    1. Douglas says:

      Exactly, Old Battle, and Chomsky is very clear about what has happened in Greece and the south of Europe in general: class war….

      http://www.democracynow.org/blog/2015/7/1/chomsky_greece_s_syriza_spain_s

  12. N_T_C_W says:

    The Yes campaign couldn’t convince Scotland they’d manage to keep the pound. What chance gaining independence with this collection of leftist fantasy and economic diarrhea. It’s hardly likely to entice the good burghers of Edinburgh and Aberdeen to join the fold.

    Sadly, the usual suspects are talking among themselves. A much better approach for the Yes campaign would be to focus on a more practical, hard headed approach to Scotland’s economy. More Milton Friedman and less Paul Mason.

  13. Douglas says:

    The informed networks Paul talks about would last about ten minutes if they actually challenged capitalist power.

    If MI5 wanted to shut down the networking of all of the people who comment on Bella – we are an example of what Mason means I guess – they could do it in a morning. Just freeze bank accounts, or, as the Spanish are doing currently, use HMRC to dissuade people from expressing their opinion by inventing back tax bills for them which they don’t owe.

    Everybody I know in the arts in Spain is currently being screwed by the Spanish taxman…for being on the Left. The minister of finance in Spain, Montoro, is on the record as saying that “there were too many Socialists” in Spain’s HMRC when he took over. Since then, countless people I know have been landed a tax bill which, if you challenge, will take you years and a lot of money to get to court…it’s an open secret in Spain….

    By the way, I did write to The National about it, but nobody seems to care what is happening in the south of Europe. Where did fascism start in Europe? Italy and Spain…

    British democracy is absolutely fundamental as the shop-window of neo-liberal capitalism. Neo-capitalism needs people like Paul Mason and needs people like Pat Kane. Good, well-meaning people, but you are both writing from the UK bubble-land. The UK needs to have a few dissident voices, but it is all just more shop-window dressing so that people believe that democracy exists…

    The only response I can see is a personal response….be the change you want to see, etc…and please remember Bahktin….it’s not all doom and gloom….party and fight the Power….

    https://ceasefiremagazine.co.uk/in-theory-bakhtin-2/

  14. Douglas says:

    Scotland is a country which lives in fear……and the fight against neo-liberal capitalism needs people to live their fear. Give up everything and you have nothing to fear….your fear almost disappears entirely…

    “And I have come to understand that the maximum task proposed to human beings is to forge their own destiny. Because here, in the multitude and the reality which surrounds me…I see lots of face and few destinies. And the thing is, behind those faces, some deep desire, some act of rebellion, whatever impulse is always scuppered by fear. Fear of being reprimanded, fear of time, fear of the news, fear of the collective group…fear of one’s own body in the face of so many indicators fed by marketing; fear of the womb which takes in semen; fear of fruits and fear of water; fear of dates, fear of laws, fear of watchwords; fear of mistakes, fear of sealed envelopes, fear of “what might happen”….

    Alejo Carpentier “Los Pasos Perdidos”…”The Lost Footsteps”

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