Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Kate Aronoff — Have reports of the death of capitalism been greatly exaggerated?

Late last week, economic journalist Paul Mason, whose Channel 4 blog has been one of the best English-language sources for making sense of the ongoing Greek crisis, published an excerpt from his forthcoming book in The Guardian. It announces that the end of capitalism has begun and that (spoiler) it doesn’t look how we thought it might. The 20th century old/new leftist dream of some crisis-sparked proletarian revolt, he argues, has been battered by neo-liberalism and, now, is being replaced by a steady trickle of viable, largely technology-fuelled alternatives to the current economy. “Capitalism, it turns out, will not be abolished by forced-march techniques,” Mason writes. “It will be abolished by creating something more dynamic that exists, at first, almost unseen within the old system, but which will break through, reshaping the economy around new values and behaviors.”…
But as Leah Hunt-Hendrix and Astra Taylor noted recently for The Nation, there’s no ready-made path from information to liberation. “Our high-tech tools are constrained by market incentives and government surveillance interests that are often intertwined,” they wrote. “We cannot think about surveillance without paying keen attention to the corporations that benefit from it and the deep inequities that result.” Not only is there a barely-hidden world of workers making the digital revolution possible, but tech itself is already being used to serve the interests of those driving our current, vastly unequal economy. It deserves noting that some of the biggest fans of decentralization — technological or otherwise — are right-wing libertarians, who would be as happy to see workplace protections stripped as they would to see a new start-up food co-op take root….
Mason’s call to “direct all actions towards the transition — not the defense of random elements of the old system,” to focus solely on building alternatives, is a false dichotomy. If Syriza’s project in Greece has shown anything, it’s that combining a broad-based solidarity economy with political power is deeply threatening to neo-liberalism, the top brass of which will risk self-implosion to stamp it out. Acting alone, Solidarity for All didn’t provoke a sadistic backlash from Greece’s creditors. Syriza’s victory at the polls, its leadership’s presence at the negotiating table in Brussels, and the egalitarian populist parties grasping at state power across the Mediterranean did — but neither the challenge nor the solution could exist without the other.

 If the early 20th century labor heroine Lucy Parsons were alive now, she might add an addendum on to the statement she’s best remembered by: “Never be deceived that the rich will permit you to innovate away their wealth.” Today’s movements will need to be at least as creative as the forces they’re taking on, and be building solutions that are even more so. Post-capitalism is coming, but a new and even more disruptive tradition of organizing will have to clear the way first.
Open Democracy
Have reports of the death of capitalism been greatly exaggerated?
Kate Aronoff

4 comments:

Dan Kervick said...

"If Syriza’s project in Greece has shown anything, it’s that combining a broad-based solidarity economy with political power is deeply threatening to neo-liberalism, the top brass of which will risk self-implosion to stamp it out."

What? "Broad-based solidarity economy"? Greece has one of the higher Gini coefficients in the EU and is beset by massive tax evasion. That doesn't sound like a lot of social solidarity to me.

Tom Hickey said...

More left dreaming.

Peter Pan said...

I won't be buying Paul Mason's book.

Matt Franko said...

"“Never be deceived that the rich will permit you to innovate away their wealth.”

That should go down as one of the worst predictions of the century... Amazon just passed Wal-Mart, Apple passed IBM, Tesla passed GM, etc... Remember Wang, DEC, Univac? RR Donelly? Dust bin of history....