Is postcapitalism now a reality on the ground?

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Fullofsurprises
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#1
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#1
Very interesting article by Paul Mason today about postcapitalism.
http://www.theguardian.com/books/201...pitalism-begun

He argues that the wave of web-based crowdsourcing, co-operative and people-driven businesses, organisations and movements are creating a post-capitalist infrastructure. Like the collapse of feudalism 500 years ago, which gave way to 'renaissance man', he also detects the presence of 'new people' who are transformed by digital living and no longer feel part of, or increasingly need, the old big corporate solutions and their profit-driven debt models.

I agree with the article that the neoliberal solution to the current disaster of more and more austerity is hopelessly useless, but is he right about the arrival of postcapitalism? It make me think of services like Uber, which whilst they are cheaper and easier and therefore 'empowering' to consumers, still operate on corporate lines with a big central company making a lot of money off many low paid workers doing long hours and in dangerous circumstances. That sounds a lot like Victorian capitalism to me.

He also talks about the value of free information, such as Wikipedia, undermining parts of the profit economy. I don't feel very convinced about that either.

Thoughts?
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the bear
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#2
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#2
bear™ is a fan of austerity. it will stiffen the moral backbone of our fair country. it will need more than a few netwits sipping frappucinos to dismantle the magnificent edifice of capitalism.

:hat:
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Plagioclase
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#3
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#3
(Original post by Fullofsurprises)
Very interesting article by Paul Mason today about postcapitalism.
http://www.theguardian.com/books/201...pitalism-begun

He argues that the wave of web-based crowdsourcing, co-operative and people-driven businesses, organisations and movements are creating a post-capitalist infrastructure. Like the collapse of feudalism 500 years ago, which gave way to 'renaissance man', he also detects the presence of 'new people' who are transformed by digital living and no longer feel part of, or increasingly need, the old big corporate solutions and their profit-driven debt models.

I agree with the article that the neoliberal solution to the current disaster of more and more austerity is hopelessly useless, but is he right about the arrival of postcapitalism? It make me think of services like Uber, which whilst they are cheaper and easier and therefore 'empowering' to consumers, still operate on corporate lines with a big central company making a lot of money off many low paid workers doing long hours and in dangerous circumstances. That sounds a lot like Victorian capitalism to me.

He also talks about the value of free information, such as Wikipedia, undermining parts of the profit economy. I don't feel very convinced about that either.

Thoughts?
As you say, it's just not convincing. I desperately wish it were true but I think most of the points made in that article are wishful thinking at best. I honestly can't see any real movement away from capitalism - the corporate hold on politics is stronger than it ever has been before and the political centre is still moving towards the right, as it has been for the past few decades. I had some brief hope with Syriza in Greece but it quickly became apparent that they were doomed to fail from the start because of the economic establishment that exists.

He's making mountains out of molehills. Wikipedia is an absolutely outstanding project, of course - but that kind of a project definitely isn't the norm.
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Fullofsurprises
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#4
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(Original post by Plagioclase)
As you say, it's just not convincing. I desperately wish it were true but I think most of the points made in that article are wishful thinking at best. I honestly can't see any real movement away from capitalism - the corporate hold on politics is stronger than it ever has been before and the political centre is still moving towards the right, as it has been for the past few decades. I had some brief hope with Syriza in Greece but it quickly became apparent that they were doomed to fail from the start because of the economic establishment that exists.

He's making mountains out of molehills. Wikipedia is an absolutely outstanding project, of course - but that kind of a project definitely isn't the norm.
Having done some editing in Wikipedia, I would say it's exploitative in a different way - it potentially exploits all the volunteers, because they can't be sure that in the long run their free and well-meaning work won't be capitalised. The structure of the Wikimedia organisation suggests it won't be, but it's hard to be sure of that under modern capitalism, which seeks to exploit all corners of human activity.

However, I think there may be something in the idea that capitalism is now in a late phase and is therefore getting redder in tooth and claw, just as the old feudal class and their Papal allies fought back hard against the Reformation with increasing viciousness before the whole thing fell over after the 30 Year's War and the other wars. It's not a complete stretch to think something like that is happening now.

What definitely is happening is that profit making by banks and corporations is getting harder. The average real returns from stock markets have stagnated and vast expansion of credit and government debt, which served as a temporary stop-gap for the last 30 years to try and keep the show on the road, are hitting the buffers. The traditional recourses of capitalism, to exploit new colonial markets and to start major wars, have both essentially ended, although there is some drive behind the latter and new ways of colonialising, such as digital serfdom, are being evolved.

I think we are in the Last Days, anyway.
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L i b
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#5
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#5
More so than ever, it is possible to start businesses and to trade goods and services without established means of production or trade links playing a part. No longer is there a clear divide between wage labour and capital owners: even the working classes own businesses (in terms of shares) and self-employment or contractor-type work is increasingly a part of everyday life for many.

In that sense, capitalism has changed. Whether it is post-capitalism is a semantic argument.
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HigherMinion
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#6
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#6
Without capitalism you have no private property or markets. No, this isn't post-capitalism. It's just the pretentious Guardian desperate for their revolution to seem as if it's progressing.
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APlantinga
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#7
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I'll read it tomorrow. Sound like lunacy to me though; apparently free markets involving technology has nothing to do with capitalism? Co-op does not employ the profit principle?

As I said, haven't read it, but I highly doubt it'll convince of some new political era.
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Sancte
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(Original post by HigherMinion)
Without capitalism you have no private property or markets. No, this isn't post-capitalism. It's just the pretentious Guardian desperate for their revolution to seem as if it's progressing.
Without having read the article myself I already feel as though this is probably spot on.
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Rakas21
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#9
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The simple answer is no.

Private property rights are still enforced, markets are still strong and both small and large business is doing as well as ever. While there certainly has been growth in unconventional/localised business, even firms like the Co-op and John Lewis are not proper versions (just kinder firms).

Perhaps you could call it more libertarian in the sense that it does not depend on large centralized networks for finance ECT.. But its not post capitalism, more a different variant.
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poohat
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#10
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#10
Sounds like the usual phenomena of humanities idiots desperately trying to make themselves relevant in a world which has no use or desire for them. The startup/internet revolution was 100% driven by tech/STEM people along with the finance industry - many of whom (if they have political beliefs) are broadly right-libertarian. Guardian journalist and humanities graduates have no role to play other than to inhibit progress, and noone needs their dumb navel gazing about "post capitalism"
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Rakas21
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#11
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(Original post by Fullofsurprises)
Very interesting article by Paul Mason today about postcapitalism.
http://www.theguardian.com/books/201...pitalism-begun

Thoughts?
Having now read the article, much of it seems to be hopecasting and taking a small (through thriving) select number of ideas and companies and extrapolating them.

I do have issues with a few things in the first half (the second is a highly subjective hope cast for capitalism to die)..

"First, it has reduced the need for work, blurred the edges between work and free time and loosened the relationship between work and wages. The coming wave of automation, currently stalled because our social infrastructure cannot bear the consequences, will hugely diminish the amount of work needed – not just to subsist but to provide a decent life for all."

The number of hours people work has actually being declining for decades although at a much slower rate than old economists thought because they did not anticipate the near unlimited wants of our species, nor the power of the institute of marketing. The comment that automation has stalled is idiotic, both innovation and automation are proceeding at pace never seen before.

"Second, information is corroding the market’s ability to form prices correctly. That is because markets are based on scarcity while information is abundant. The system’s defence mechanism is to form monopolies – the giant tech companies – on a scale not seen in the past 200 years, yet they cannot last. By building business models and share valuations based on the capture and privatisation of all socially produced information, such firms are constructing a fragile corporate edifice at odds with the most basic need of humanity, which is to use ideas freely."

This is complete crap and highly subjective.

To start with, perfect information is required for perfect competition and if anything, information abundance allows prices to be set even more correctly. The second statement regarding monopolies is complete rubbish (that is a function of oligopoly power, not the free market) as is his conclusion given that intellectual property rights are both well defined and enforced. Abundant information simply makes it easier for a rival firm to develop a substitute.


"Third, we’re seeing the spontaneous rise of collaborative production: goods, services and organisations are appearing that no longer respond to the dictates of the market and the managerial hierarchy. The biggest information product in the world – Wikipedia – is made by volunteers for free, abolishing the encyclopedia business and depriving the advertising industry of an estimated $3bn a year in revenue."

This is the bit i agree with and while i don't see how it can be applied in many sectors, that's a much better of a post-profit world.

"The 2008 crash wiped 13% off global production and 20% off global trade. Global growth became negative – on a scale where anything below +3% is counted as a recession. It produced, in the west, a depression phase longer than in 1929-33, and even now, amid a pallid recovery, has left mainstream economists terrified about the prospect of long-term stagnation. The aftershocks in Europe are tearing the continent apart."

While southern and western Europe do apply to this, central and eastern Europe have not suffered the same fate and neither has the US, Canada or Australasia. It's a bit broad brush.
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Moosferatu
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#12
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#12
Didn't some guy make an angry thread about this?

Ah, here it is: http://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/show....php?t=3459945
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ChaoticButterfly
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(Original post by poohat)
Sounds like the usual phenomena of humanities idiots desperately trying to make themselves relevant in a world which has no use or desire for them. The startup/internet revolution was 100% driven by tech/STEM people along with the finance indusotry - many of whom (if they have political beliefs) are broadly right-libertarian. .Guardian journalist and humanities graduates have no role to play other than to inhibit progress, and noone needs their dumb navel gazing about "post capitalism"
Lol

The public sector and public funding played a massive part to play in the developmet of stuff like the internet. Thank god someone like bill gates didn't manage to 'own' the internet.
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poohat
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(Original post by ChaoticButterfly)
Lol

The public sector and public funding played a massive part to play in the developmet of stuff like the internet. Thank god someone like bill gates didn't manage to 'own' the internet.
The military funded the early Internet. It wasn't hiumanities grads, social workers, etc
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ChaoticButterfly
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I read the article now and that is like my political views summed up pretty well in what I think humanity should be striving towards.
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ChaoticButterfly
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(Original post by poohat)
The military funded the early Internet. It wasn't hiumanities grads, social workers, etc
Precisely.
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Fullofsurprises
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#17
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(Original post by poohat)
The military funded the early Internet. It wasn't hiumanities grads, social workers, etc
Actually, that's a slight (but popular) misstatement of the facts. Cerf and his colleagues invented some of the core parts of internet technology when he (and they) were civilian researchers at UCLA and other universities. Later on the work was moved into military research, but according to quite a detailed documentary and talk I saw, the original movement towards what became the internet was definitely a civil public sector thing. However it is certainly true that the military gave it strong impetus with big research grants and concentrating scientists on the project. Later on, universities were again main players and of course the web was a totally civil thing emerging from state funded enterprises like CERN and academics working in universities.
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Fullofsurprises
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#18
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(Original post by Rakas21)
Having now read the article, much of it seems to be hopecasting and taking a small (through thriving) select number of ideas and companies and extrapolating them.

I do have issues with a few things in the first half (the second is a highly subjective hope cast for capitalism to die)..

"First, it has reduced the need for work, blurred the edges between work and free time and loosened the relationship between work and wages. The coming wave of automation, currently stalled because our social infrastructure cannot bear the consequences, will hugely diminish the amount of work needed – not just to subsist but to provide a decent life for all."

The number of hours people work has actually being declining for decades although at a much slower rate than old economists thought because they did not anticipate the near unlimited wants of our species, nor the power of the institute of marketing. The comment that automation has stalled is idiotic, both innovation and automation are proceeding at pace never seen before.

"Second, information is corroding the market’s ability to form prices correctly. That is because markets are based on scarcity while information is abundant. The system’s defence mechanism is to form monopolies – the giant tech companies – on a scale not seen in the past 200 years, yet they cannot last. By building business models and share valuations based on the capture and privatisation of all socially produced information, such firms are constructing a fragile corporate edifice at odds with the most basic need of humanity, which is to use ideas freely."

This is complete crap and highly subjective.

To start with, perfect information is required for perfect competition and if anything, information abundance allows prices to be set even more correctly. The second statement regarding monopolies is complete rubbish (that is a function of oligopoly power, not the free market) as is his conclusion given that intellectual property rights are both well defined and enforced. Abundant information simply makes it easier for a rival firm to develop a substitute.

"Third, we’re seeing the spontaneous rise of collaborative production: goods, services and organisations are appearing that no longer respond to the dictates of the market and the managerial hierarchy. The biggest information product in the world – Wikipedia – is made by volunteers for free, abolishing the encyclopedia business and depriving the advertising industry of an estimated $3bn a year in revenue."

This is the bit i agree with and while i don't see how it can be applied in many sectors, that's a much better of a post-profit world.

"The 2008 crash wiped 13% off global production and 20% off global trade. Global growth became negative – on a scale where anything below +3% is counted as a recession. It produced, in the west, a depression phase longer than in 1929-33, and even now, amid a pallid recovery, has left mainstream economists terrified about the prospect of long-term stagnation. The aftershocks in Europe are tearing the continent apart."

While southern and western Europe do apply to this, central and eastern Europe have not suffered the same fate and neither has the US, Canada or Australasia. It's a bit broad brush.
Good points.

I agree with the bit about the automation. I wonder if he meant, as in, 'industrial automation'? Clearly the massive growth of combination digital technologies, such as smartphone/database/web and so on have led to undreamed of levels of public automation. Who would ever have thought 50 years ago that people now would be booking holidays without a travel agent, a taxi without any human involvement other than that of the customer and a air flight without it ever touching anything other than an airline computer system?

I think he was saying something a little different about the information part in general, but the passage you highlight does seem wrong.

I'm not sure what you mean in your last paragraph. Surely the global figures he quotes are what matter in an argument about postcapitalist signs. After all, capitalism would have to have (a) peaked and (b) be regarded as a global entity for postcapitalism to emerge (presumably) as it can no longer grow into any additional global regions. Therefore the variations across different parts of the world are unimportant if the big picture is a crunch. I'm sure at the end of feudalism there were some feudal states doing better than others for their powerful landowners, but the overall trend was that the new wave of Protestant landowners and city state/merchant guild/banker entities were doing better across the board and giant feudal land-focused societies were collapsing.
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ChaoticButterfly
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#19
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#19
(Original post by Fullofsurprises)
Actually, that's a slight (but popular) misstatement of the facts. Cerf and his colleagues invented some of the core parts of internet technology when he (and they) were civilian researchers at UCLA and other universities. Later on the work was moved into military research, but according to quite a detailed documentary and talk I saw, the original movement towards what became the internet was definitely a civil public sector thing. However it is certainly true that the military gave it strong impetus with big research grants and concentrating scientists on the project. Later on, universities were again main players and of course the web was a totally civil thing emerging from state funded enterprises like CERN and academics working in universities.
My point is non of this is free market entrepreneurialism like we are supposed to believe. People like bill gates used technology that was developed in a very non-free market way and and used it to to build business empires. The public sector or public funding played a very important role.
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Rakas21
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#20
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(Original post by Fullofsurprises)
Good points.

I agree with the bit about the automation. I wonder if he meant, as in, 'industrial automation'? Clearly the massive growth of combination digital technologies, such as smartphone/database/web and so on have led to undreamed of levels of public automation. Who would ever have thought 50 years ago that people now would be booking holidays without a travel agent, a taxi without any human involvement other than that of the customer and a air flight without it ever touching anything other than an airline computer system?

I think he was saying something a little different about the information part in general, but the passage you highlight does seem wrong.

I'm not sure what you mean in your last paragraph. Surely the global figures he quotes are what matter in an argument about postcapitalist signs. After all, capitalism would have to have (a) peaked and (b) be regarded as a global entity for postcapitalism to emerge (presumably) as it can no longer grow into any additional global regions. Therefore the variations across different parts of the world are unimportant if the big picture is a crunch. I'm sure at the end of feudalism there were some feudal states doing better than others for their powerful landowners, but the overall trend was that the new wave of Protestant landowners and city state/merchant guild/banker entities were doing better across the board and giant feudal land-focused societies were collapsing.
Even in industrial automation massive advances have occurred. Just look at how Japan crushed the US car industry and how Germany dominates white good exports today with significantly automated production. The Tesla S is supposed to be at the new plant, the most automated (in terms of production) car ever built.

The only way it could apply is if he's decided that what we have now is an accurate representation of capitalism (it's most certainly not).

On a global scale things are recovering at a moderate pace, that's a good thing if you believe bubbles are bad. I still think he's pulling at straws here to justify what seems to be his hope.
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