Paul Mason: a proper thread on his book

June 2024 Forums General discussion Paul Mason: a proper thread on his book

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  • #84072
    ALB
    Keymaster

    I think we need a proper thread on the ideas in Paul Mason's new book to replace the other aborted one. I would think his Postcapitalism (to be published on 30 July) is destined to become a cult one like Piketty's on inequality, David Graeber's on debt, and Russell Brand's on revolution. Extracts from it here, introduced by the Guardian as:

    Quote:

     The end of capitalism has begun

    Without us noticing, we are entering the postcapitalist era. At the heart of further change to come is information technology, new ways of working and the sharing economy. The old ways will take a long while to disappear, but it’s time to be utopian.

    http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/jul/17/postcapitalism-end-of-capitalism-begun

    Robbo, I'm sure you'll find this idea of an "emerging post-capitalist soviety" more interesting and rewarding than discussing an interpretation of one particular passage from Marx.

    #113116
    DJP
    Participant

    I doubt theoretically the book will come to much, but I also think that a few years ago it is unlikely that such a book would have been popular or been featured in the Guardian. Perhaps the winds are turning in our favour?

    #113117
    ALB
    Keymaster

    You're probably right. The stuff he's talking about is pretty marginal to production and the theoretical point Marx posited of the labour content of a unit of physical commodities becoming so negligeable that they might as well be given away free is a long, long way away.

    #113118
    DJP
    Participant

    Though I guess the "sharing economy" they talk about may open more people up to the idea of production for use etc. Or maybe not…

    #113119
    stuartw2112
    Participant

    Much as I like Paul Mason, and will read his book with interest, I find his thinking on this pretty hard to swallow, for much the reasons Adam says. We're supposed to believe that free software, cheaper cab rides, blogs and yoof gormlessly gawping at the celebrity chatter and drivel on their iPhones herald a bright new future? Must be getting old, but I just can't see it.

    #113120
    stuartw2112
    Participant

    Prodding an app on an iPhone is currently unthinkable without mines, infrastructure spending, agriculture, oil production and distribution, you name it. Is all this going to be provided for free too?

    #113121

    I think his schtick is to look at the way capitalism emerged from feudalism, and see parrallels.  I'd imagine a feudal lord looking at the merchants coraaled in their cities would have felt themselves entirely safe from their 'buying and selling', how can that compete with 'patronage and obligation'?From what i'm hearing, this is in some ways what I've been looking into: price without value (or practically zero value) sucking up the surplus cvalue, with an increasingly diminishing directly productive workforce.  You're right, that, ultimately, I think b ig capital and its political clout will out (as seen in the slapping Uber and AirBNB have been getting), I suppose in Mason's terms, that just sets up the political battlefield for where he's going.But, a tech aware, multi-skilled organisationally alert citizenry is needful for socialisation of production, so there may be a germ of use in there…Mason hinmself retweeted this critique:

    Quote:
    If I have to read another article where the "sharing economy" is said to have democratized wealth distribution I will hire an Uber to run me over.

    http://www.metafilter.com/151310/Project-Zero

    #113122
    stuartw2112
    Participant

    Some funny stuff in that link! The left constantly and consistently underestimates the power of capitalism to innovate and continue. I'm reasonably confident it'll survive free software and kids that tweet. 

    #113123
    rodshaw
    Participant
    stuartw2112 wrote:
    Some funny stuff in that link! The left constantly and consistently underestimates the power of capitalism to innovate and continue. I'm reasonably confident it'll survive free software and kids that tweet. 

    It certainly will unless people realise that it's the political control by the ruling class that needs to be got rid of, not the act of payment. Certain things have always been "free" in capitalism at the point of consumption.

    #113124
    stuartw2112
    Participant

    Well, I think Mason is right about one thing – that capitalism will only go when people have options and start to make their living in other ways. The old left, Marxist way of taking the state and forcing change has proved a failure, and that's about as likely to change as Uber is to usher in revolution.

    #113125
    ALB
    Keymaster

    It's true that socialism can't be imposed from above by some vanguard after it has somehow won control of political power, as Mason himself once believed when he was in Workers Power. But then we never believed that. OK, you can say that it won't come either by a democratic majority revolution but you must concede that it couldn't come surreptiously on its own like a thief in the night as someone once put it (the Fabians I think). It would have to require some political action, even reformist, to for instance reform patent law and abolish the concept of "intellectual property". I imagine Mason wouldn't deny this. After all, he seems to be drawing a parallel with the transition from feudalism to capitalism (which did involve a struggle for the control of political power as well as the growth of capitalist economic forms).

    #113126
    stuartw2112
    Participant

    I can't see why it couldn't come like a thief in the night. At least, that's probably how it would appear to us "ordinary people", even if historians subsequently made sense of it in other ways.

    #113127
    alanjjohnstone
    Keymaster

    I think this article effectively pricks the Mason bubblehttp://skewednews.net/index.php/2015/07/22/called-post-capitalism-just-another-crappy-capitalist-snowjob/

    Quote:
    Let’s see what remedies many of them point to: “collaborative commons,” “workplace democracy,” “workers’ co-ops,” “mutual aid,” the “sharing economy.” These sound good, and indeed some of them may be positive and necessary steps toward a non-capitalist mode of production. But they are just that—steps—and it’s a mistake to confuse them with the path as a whole. Unless the framework of capitalism is broken entirely, they circle back to the beginning every time. Capitalism is not damaged simply because we engage in activity that is cooperative, non-hierarchical, collaborative or “socialistic.”…only a fool (or a well-paid content provider) could possibly confuse “abolishing the wage system” with “wages dwindling to nothing….Clothing, food, housing, fuel and computers can only be replicated by employing the labor power of exploited workers. Those things are not losing value. Exploitation in the process of production is still at the heart of the global economy. And as long as the value produced by workers is being appropriated and accumulated by capitalists, then we are still in capitalism.”

    And to answer Stuart's question that sort of implies a very passive role for people in the transformation of society.

    Quote:
      There is no easy way out. We need to emancipate ourselves from it through struggle; we need to destroy it. The good news is that it is possible to destroy it. It is the producers of material value—the working class—who are in a position to lead all of us out of capitalism. Their hands are on the means of production—factories and land and infrastructure. By taking it out of the hands of capitalists, they free it so it can be used by all to meet the needs of all, for a real common good.

     

    #113128
    stuartw2112
    Participant

    Mason is at least trying to identifying trends and forces in present day society that push in a socialist direction – the Marxist method. The author of your piece merely reasserts centuries old dogmas and tries to wish into existence ideal situations – a globally organised working class poised to overthrow the system. That's the old utopian method, dressed up in Marxist language.

    #113129
    stuartw2112
    Participant

    "We need to emancipate ourselves from it through struggle" – what does this mean really? 

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