New technology will be the downfall of crony capitalism.
According to a provocative new article in the Guardian, author Paul Mason believes an era of postcapitalism has begun. In his forthcoming book, Postcapitalism, Mason makes the argument that traditional State capitalism will not be dismantled from above, as the left has traditionally claimed, but rather reshaped and inexorably altered by a more dynamic force driven by a new kind of peer-to-peer, information-driven society.
This new society, Mason argues, is being created principally by three major shifts in information technology that have occurred in the last 25 years.
The first major shift is marked by a reduced need for work made glaringly obvious by the rise of automation. It’s not yet fully understood how our society will adjust to such a massive rift in the traditional human workforce, but we do know it will change fundamental assumptions we have about wages and the division between work and leisure.
The second major shift involves how information is diminishing our ability to accurately price products and services. According to Mason, “That is because markets are based on scarcity while information is abundant.” Because of this, economists find it increasingly difficult to put a dollar valuation on information. In the past decade, this has spawned an entirely new business ecosystem known as the “sharing economy,” which is fueled by new kinds of ownership and peer to peer production and lending. Karl Marx actually first envisioned this type of economy, according to Mason.
The third shift is the prominence of “collaborative production,” which Mason describes as “goods, services and organisations are appearing that no longer respond to the dictates of the market and the managerial hierarchy.” The most salient example of this mode of production is Wikipedia, which Mason says has single-handedly eviscerated the encyclopedia industry and fleeces approximately $3 billion a year from advertising revenue.
Meanwhile, as austerity and monetary excess continue to fail, the 1% get even richer and the shadow banking system, which flourished prior to the 2008 global economic crisis, has become even more powerful.
Mason points to Greece, which has been embroiled in an economic crisis of mammoth proportions as the nation debates whether or not to exit the Eurozone and austerity measures imposed by the IMF. Despite this turmoil, an NGO has documented over 70 civic projects that epitomize a postcapitalist economy. These projects include “food co-ops, alternative producers, parallel currencies and local exchange systems….[as well as] hundreds of smaller initiatives ranging from squats to carpools to free kindergartens.”
Mason elaborates that the transition to postcapitalism will be fundamentally different than neoliberal responses to economic crises of the past:
“Once you understand the transition in this way, the need is not for a supercomputed Five Year Plan – but a project, the aim of which should be to expand those technologies, business models and behaviours that dissolve market forces, socialise knowledge, eradicate the need for work and push the economy towards abundance. I call it Project Zero – because its aims are a zero-carbon-energy system; the production of machines, products and services with zero marginal costs; and the reduction of necessary work time as close as possible to zero.”
What do you think? By the year 2075, will “millions of networked humans” be able to liberate themselves from corporate monopolies and the surveillance state?
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