Paul Mason: a proper thread on his book

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

Viewing 15 posts - 76 through 90 (of 100 total)
  • Author
    Posts
  • #113190
    robbo203
    Participant
    imposs1904 wrote:
    Link: He has a book to sell.

      Interesting interview.  Mason is quite a slick performer with a nice turn of phrase.   One comment that stuck out is thisAt some point, says Paul, the Wikipedias of this world will be as big as the Facebooks. "I think the choke point for the transition to postcapitalism comes when the market sector and non-market sector become round about the same size."  My understanding is that the non market sector of which the household economy is largest ingredient is and has been for some time about the same size as the market sector – actually, a shade bigger if anything – at least according to some estimates For instance there is  Charles Handy book The Future of Work . (Handy C, The Future of Work, Basil Blackwell, Oxford 1984)  Citing earlier research by Richard Rose, he noted that  within the United Kingdom as a whole the proportion of labour hours devoted to unpaid work of all kinds (or what he dubbed the "grey economy") – namely, 51% –  exceeded the total labour hours worked in paid employment in both the official white economy (46%) and the unofficial or illegal black economy (3%) combined. (p.48)  In America, Scott Burns, referred to the vast scale of the "domestic self provisioning" sector in these terms:How large would this invisible economy be if it could be measured in dollars? Very large.  According to one study (Sirageldin, 1969), the total value of all the goods and services produced by the household economy in 1965 was about $300 billion.  That was about equal to the gross national product of the Soviet Union at that time.  If all the work done within the household by men and women were monetised, the total  would be equal to the entire amount  paid out in wages and salaries  by every corporation in the United States…Very very little of this appears in conventional accountings for the the gross national product…The hours of work done outside the money economy rival those done inside (Burns S,  The Household Economy: Its Shape, Origins and Future,  Beacon Press,  Boston, 1975,  p.6-8)Though these figures are somewhat dated they do not seem to have changed  much over time.  According to more recent figures released by United Nations Development Programme, for the industrialised countries as a whole the consensus seems to be that as much time is spent on unpaid work as on paid work . (The North-South Institute Newsletter Vol.3, No.2 , 1999).  More recently still,  a report on" State of the World Population (2002) by UNFPA notes that "Of men's total work time in industrial countries, roughly two thirds is spent in activities that are counted towards measures of GNP and one third in unpaid activities; for women, the shares are reversed" (http://www.unfpa.org/swp/2002/english/ch4/page3.htm).  This works out to be much the same as 50:50 split suggested earlier. So it seems we have been at  Mason's "choke point" for some time but capitalism is still around.  I think the problem with these kinds of analyses is that they start off from a  position of technological determinism. Its the same with Jeremy Rifkin. Technological change – and Mason is primarily talking about information technology in the first instance –  does not ensure social change , at least not in the direction we might hope for.  It can certainly hint at change but it is for us, conscious human beings, to extrapolate from the potential that technology presents, the real possibility of a post capitalist world. The fact that a very large non market sector exists is of huge (if underrated) importance to the socialist movement – both as a seedbed of new ideas and as an exemplar of patterns of behaviour that break with the capitalist norm.  But there is no reason to think that in and of itself the expansion of this sector, if it comes about in the way Mason and others imagine –  through technological developments – will sideline capitalism and eventually render it obsolete.  For that to happen requires the infusion of revolutionary political ideas rather  than the enhanced functionality of the latest smartphone on the market 

    #113191
    ALB
    Keymaster

    Here's a key passage from that interview

    Quote:
    "The state has to be rethought as a transition motor," he says – meaning it needs to be reimagined as a vehicle for change rather than a defender of the status quo. "And transition's a long period – we're not talking about two years, we're talking about 50," says Paul."Forget defending random bits of the old system. Think about where society could be going in 50 years. Both what its massive problems are, like climate, ageing, and also what the potential of the technology is. If you think that way, what you've then got to do, is do exactly what the British state did in the Waterloo era. They said, 'Look, the whole purpose of this state is to clear a path for these new things' – factories, railways, whatever. I mean literally. The state went, 'We need a railway from there to there, fuck you if you live in between.And now, the same must be done again, with the state promoting a move away from capitalism that he calls "Project Zero", because, he writes, "its aims are a zero-carbon energy system; the production of machines, products and services with zero marginal costs; and the reduction of labour time as close as possible to zero". (….)"I think the choke point for the transition to postcapitalism comes when the market sector and non-market sector become round about the same size."

    So, he is clearly a "reformist" in the original sense of someone who wants political action to gradually transform capitalism into socialism (as opposed to the sense in which it has come to be used, even by us, as someone who merely wants to reform capitalism to try to make it better for people).When he says "Forget defending random bits of the old system. Think about where society could be going in 50 years", this is (well) aimed at those who are behind campaigns and go on demonstrations demanding "Save This" or "Stop That" and asking them to think in terms of a new society. In other words, "Forward to the 2070s rather than Back to the 1970s".  Good advice.

    #113192
    ALB
    Keymaster
    robbo203 wrote:
    So it seems we have been at  Mason's "choke point" for some time but capitalism is still around.

    The trouble is your "non-market sector" only concerns personal services and repairs to manufactured goods. But this sector is not the one that drives the capitalist economy. It's the production of manufactured goods (from raw material to finished product). Hardly any of this is in the non-market sector.In any event we don't have to wait for the labour content and marginal cost of production of manufactured goods to reach zero before socialism, even as a world of abundance, to become possible. A non-market "postcapitalist" world is possible now if the means of production were commonly owned so that they could be geared to producing goods for free use and consumption. We don't need to way for further "spontaneous" technological developments to make this even more feasible. The technological basis for socialism already exists and has done for years.

    #113193
    robbo203
    Participant
    ALB wrote:
    robbo203 wrote:
    So it seems we have been at  Mason's "choke point" for some time but capitalism is still around.

    The trouble is your "non-market sector" only concerns personal services and repairs to manufactured goods. But this sector is not the one that drives the capitalist economy. It's the production of manufactured goods (from raw material to finished product). Hardly any of this is in the non-market sector.

     It depends how you look at it, though. Is the production of manufactured goods really what "drives the capitalist economy".  The manufacturing sector is actually a rather small part of the capitalist economy and getting steadily smaller (at least in the more developed capitalist economies). For example, this is what  Wikipedia says about the manufacturing sector in the UKDuring the second half of the 20th century, there was a steady decline in the importance of manufacturing and the economy of the United Kingdom shifted toward services, although manufacturing remained important for overseas trade and accounted for 83% of exports in 2003. In June 2010, manufacturing in the United Kingdom accounted for 8.2% of the workforce and 12% of the country's national output.I guess the argument could be made that Manufacturing constitutes the productive sector of the economy in the sense that it generates surplus value whereas the non productive sector lives parasitically off this surplus value e.g the bureaucratic apparatus of the state.  That would  certainly raise the profile and functional significnace of manufacturing to the capitalist economy although it has to be noted that some service industries also fall within the productive sector. I don't quite agree with your comment that "non-market sector" only "concerns personal services and repairs to manufactured goods".  That is largely (but not entirely) true of the developed economies but it would certainly not be true of the so called Third World where self provisioning subsistence agriculture remains important .   Having said that, the point of my previous post was to question the validity of Mason's claim that the choke point for the transition to post capitalism comes when the market sector and non-market sector become round about the same size.".   Like I said, that choke point has been around for quite a while and we still have capitalism.  I might be wrong here but Mason seems to have a rather limit view of what actually constitites the "non market sector"  and for him it seems to centre mainly on activities heavily influenced by, or implicated in, information technology.  Would this be a correct reading of him?

    ALB wrote:
    In any event we don't have to wait for the labour content and marginal cost of production of manufactured goods to reach zero before socialism, even as a world of abundance, to become possible. A non-market "post capitalist" world is possible now if the means of production were commonly owned so that they could be geared to producing goods for free use and consumption. We don't need to way for further "spontaneous" technological developments to make this even more feasible. The technological basis for socialism already exists and has done for years.

     Yes I agree with all this and this is why I am critical of the apparent technological determinism of people like Mason and Rifkin. They seem to posit the view that the shift towards a "post capitalist world" is dependent on technological developments that "augur a zero marginal cost society".  The underlying argument behind all this is unconvincing and misleading.  The impression is inadvertently conveyed that thanks to technological developments, production costs have fallen to virtually nothing so that the whole rationale for a market economy has ceased  or will soon cease, to exist. Of course, this is not case and it is to overlook the vital distinction between total costs and marginal costs.  Even if marginal costs – the cost of each additional unit produced did fall to zero as claimed the costs of production would not at all  be eliminated. The point is that capitalism continues not because we lack a sufficiently developed  technology to underpin a socialist society but rather because the social relations of production that define capitalism go largely unchallenged and taken for granted. And the point about the "non market sector", I would suggest,  particularly that part of it opened up by development of information technology is precisely that it makes it easier to envision and to a degree, even "experience", an alternative to capitalism.  The internet for example has often been presented as a kind of "gift economy" in practice.  Without practical examples such as these to draw inspiration from how else can we hope to break the stranglehold of capitalist hegemony on our collective  imagination?

    #113194
    ALB
    Keymaster

    I think our different assessments of what is the more important in the economic system today stems from the fact that you are judging it by the amount of labour involved while I'm judging it by the amount of capital involved. It is true that about 80% of production goes towards government and people's consumption and therefore only about 20% to re-investment (capital accumulation).The point I was making was that what drives the capitalist economy is capital accumulation, overwhelmingly of buildings and machinery. Ok, it might be an oversimplification to identify this entirely with manufacturing but there is virtually no non-market accumulation of buildings and machinery.  The non-market sector just does not have anything like the same economic weight as manufacturing and construction.Basically, the current economic importance of the non-market sector is being exaggerated as well as the illusion that it could spread beyond services, repairs and, yes, food grown on alotments.

    #113195
    robbo203
    Participant
    ALB wrote:
    I think our different assessments of what is the more important in the economic system today stems from the fact that you are judging it by the amount of labour involved while I'm judging it by the amount of capital involved. It is true that about 80% of production goes towards government and people's consumption and therefore only about 20% to re-investment (capital accumulation).The point I was making was that what drives the capitalist economy is capital accumulation, overwhelmingly of buildings and machinery. Ok, it might be an oversimplification to identify this entirely with manufacturing but there is virtually no non-market accumulation of buildings and machinery.  The non-market sector just does not have anything like the same economic weight as manufacturing and construction.Basically, the current economic importance of the non-market sector is being exaggerated as well as the illusion that it could spread beyond services, repairs and, yes, food grown on alotments.

     I don't doubt that "what drives the capitalist economy is capital accumulation",  I just wonder whether this is so overwhelmingly concentrated in the manufacturing sector as you suggest and which after all,  at least in the UK accounts for only 12% of the total national output. Does "capital accumulation" not also occur in the much larger services sector?   While I'm sure you are right to say  that 80% of production goes towards government and people's consumption and therefore only about 20% to re-investment (capital accumulation), the more pertinent question is where does that  "re-investment" occur?. In what parts of the economy do we find "capital accumulation" as opposed to other parts where this does not happen?  This is why I asked  is what you saying here a reference to the Marxian distinction between "productive" and "unproductive work" – work that generates surplus value (out of which capital is accumulated) and work that is paid out of surplus value?  If so , it is surely the case that while a large chunk of the services sector is unproductive other parts of the services sectors are strictly speaking productive  I  would appreciate it if you could clarify the above point, Adam, as I think it is quite an important one.  Also, if possible, provide some statistical evidence for what you say.  One further point I would make in this connection is that since all businesses in capitalism (with the exception of state bureaucracy perhaps which is not really a "business"), whether productive or not, are bound by economic competition to seek a monetary profit in order to be financially viable and are driven by these self same forces of economic competition to enlarge the profits they realise in order to maximise what can be reinvested in these businesses, there is a sense then in which all businesses are subject to quest to "accumulate capital".  That is to say, subjection to the law of capital accumulation, strictly speaking,  stands independently of the question of from whence this capital originates i.e..  in the productive sector alone Turning to your other point that our differing assessments of what is "more important in the economic system today stems from the fact that you are judging it by the amount of labour involved while I'm judging it by the amount of capital involved" – yes, I think  that is a fair comment.  You are looking at this matter from the standpoint of what makes capitalism tick whereas I am looking at from the standpoint of what could aid the changeover towards a post capitalist world.  Naturally the question of labour and how it is applied today figures prominently in my view precisely because I hold that the working class will be the agents of that changeover or revolution.  Obviously I am not suggesting that that is not also your view but we are coming at this from different angles…For you:"the current economic importance of the non-market sector is being exaggerated as well as the illusion that it could spread beyond services, repairs and, yes, food grown on alotments This however is missing the point in several senses.  Firstly while it may well be the case that we cannot expect the non-market sector to spread much beyond services etc thus does not preclude the the non market sector "spreading".  This is because the services sector is itself spreading and relentlessly growing  at the expense of manufacturing to the extent that today only 8.2% of the UK workforce is in manufacturing.  Overwhelmingly workers are based in the services sector precisely where you seem to  agree the non market sector is capable of expansion. (Your reference to food grown on alotments incidentally seems to apply to the First World but overlooks that in the Third World a significant proportion of the food grown does not enter the market at all.  it is self provisioning) Secondly I don't take the view that capitalism of itself will generate technological developments that will permit the expansion of the non market sector, thus heralding a post capitalist world  This is the technological determinist position seemingly adopted by people like Mason and Rifkind which I oppose. For me the importance of non market sector is not so much economic – though I think, with respect, you underestimate that importance as does conventional economic thinking on the matter which tends to undervalue or disregard things that do not have a price tag.   For me the importance is chiefly sociological.  The non market sector provides a fertile and indispensable seedbed of ideas that could help to bring about a genuinely post capitalist world.  You cannot underestimate the importance of actual lived experience in this regard.  Those spaces in our lives that transcend the commodity relationship (as Marx himself recognised when he talked about the worker only becoming himself or herself outside of employment) are powerful sources of inspiration which, combined with an understanding of the workings of capitalism, is what will bring about a post capitalist socialist world. What is interesting about Mason's take on the subject as I see it ( though i cant pretend to be very acquainted with his ideas) is the importance he attaches to the role of information technology with respect to the non market sector.  This is nothing new though,.  The Internet has long been cited as an example of a fully functioning gift economy. But because it engages consciousness in quite a direct way this could facilitate the change in outlook and values that a post capitalist world would depend on. Or at least I hope so….

    #113196
    ALB
    Keymaster

    I agree that the distinction I'm trying to make is not really between manufacturing and services, nor between productive and unproductive labour (I'm not entering that minefield except to say that a distinction needs to be made between work that produces a use-value and work that produces an exchange-value, not the same). It's more between work transforming materials(which would include agriculture) and work providing a personal service for individuals (including that provided by government agencies, national and local)..Mason argues that even work to produce material things for individuals to consume is tending towards these having so low a labour content as be virtually free. It is true that the tendency is for most such goods to become cheaper and cheaper, which does suggeest that at some point they would become so cheap as to be given away or made available to take free. I wouldn't have thought that we are anywhere near that point now or even will be in 50 years as he suggests. Anyway, this point will never be reached under capitalism as it would make capitalist production for profit impossible. This doesn't mean that modern industry, using ever-improving technology, could not turn out enough today to satisfy people's needs. This could be done and would be done in socialism but the goods will still have a "labour content".Your non-market sector includes work done within families, voluntary work and the sort of work LETS schemes aimed to work (though not for free but still through exchange of equivalents) such as repairs and personal services. This sector may or may not be expanding. It probably could but I'm not sure that it is.The other services that could be free to individuals are those provided by national and local government agencies. Some of these have been or still are free, eg. education, health care, libraries, use of roads, but the tendency here is in the opposite direction: to charge for them. I know this is a policy decision and so could be reversed but, at the moment, there is no tendency for non-market relations to spread here.All this is why I say that the economic importance of the non-market sector has been exaggerated. The "ideological" significance of the mere existence of such a sector within capitalism is another matter.

    #113197
    imposs1904
    Participant

    From Paul Mason's Facebook page:"Notes for my Newcastle University "Lord Patten Lecture" on Postcapitalism. 600 people turned up and despite two overflow rooms they had to turn people away. Next up is Sheffield, Saturday afternoon, Ilkey Lit Fest Sunday and then Manchester 22/10. My big LSE lecture will be on 18/11. Oh and St Paul's Cathedral on 3/11 and Leeds on 6/11."It might be worthwhile members getting along to his meetings, if they can.

    #113198
    moderator1
    Participant
    imposs1904 wrote:
    From Paul Mason's Facebook page:"Notes for my Newcastle University "Lord Patten Lecture" on Postcapitalism. 600 people turned up and despite two overflow rooms they had to turn people away. Next up is Sheffield, Saturday afternoon, Ilkey Lit Fest Sunday and then Manchester 22/10. My big LSE lecture will be on 18/11. Oh and St Paul's Cathedral on 3/11 and Leeds on 6/11."It might be worthwhile members getting along to his meetings, if they can.

    Full text of lecture here:  https://medium.com/@paulmasonnews/lord-patten-lecture-2015-15924a18d5de

    #113199
    ALB
    Keymaster

    Good article on Paul Mason's view here on our blog which people might have missed amongst the other 6 or 7 the same day (shouldn't there normally only be two a day, one for each time zone?):http://socialismoryourmoneyback.blogspot.co.uk/2015/10/paul-mason-and-socialism.html

    #113200
    alanjjohnstone
    Keymaster
    Quote:
    shouldn't there normally only be two a day, one for each time zone?

    Darn, i'm about 20 short, in that case, ALB Today was just one of those days that several stories in the media struck me worth highlighting…as i said elsewhere on the forum, the blog will be concentrating more on environmental issue….Other days i struggle for a decent single post for the blog. While some days it is as if the blog has a live-feed with almost hourly updates to it if i'm online for any length of time. I don't think it is a serious challenge to read half-a-dozen posts…particularly when some are related. I'm confident that visitors can single out the more pertinent posts from the chaff. But your reference did make me realise my spelling isn't too sharp…single t in commitment, now correctedI would also like to invite and encourage all other members to contribute to the blog as Cde. Skelly did. You aren't required to be a member of the blog to do so…just email with a submission:spgb.blog@worldsocialism.org with your submission

    #113201
    alanjjohnstone
    Keymaster

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/nov/01/financial-armageddon-crash-warning-signsWhat do our more economic-savvy members think of his prediction…Should i cash in my income bonds now before the pending crash or do i still have time to let them reach maturity?   

    #113202
    ALB
    Keymaster

    Have you heard the one about the economist who predicted five of the last two crises?

    #113203
    Quote:
    Since 2007, the pile of debt in the world has grown by $57tn (£37tn). That’s a compound annual growth rate of 5.3%, significantly beating GDP.

    if that is true, then we are building up trouble, unless GDP spikes soon (or the suggested remedy of an inflation push cuts some of that debt down).  Basically, China is slowing, and that's what's hit the commodities markets.

    #113204
    imposs1904
    Participant

    Paul Mason posted this on his Facebook page about five years ago. I think it's interesting because, for those of us who haven't read his latest book, it brings us up to speed with his political views and the here and now:Yesterday the British chancellor George Osborne accused me — from the front bench and under parliamentary privilege — of being a “revolutionary Marxist”. Various media have reported that I am “advising” the Labour Party. Neither of these claims is true. I have left Channel 4 News to become a freelance journalist, writing a weekly Guardian column, with a wide range of other projects at the planning stage, including a Medium blog called Mosquito Ridge. I have agreed to contribute a lecture to Labour’s The New Economics series, following prestigious names such as Joseph Stiglitz, Yanis Varoufakis, Marianna Mazzucato and Simon Wren-Lewis. I will be focusing on unconvetnional monetary policy and the democratisation of central banks. That’s all. It’s up to the Labour Party whether they listen to what I say. But it is very specifically not formal advice.As to Mr Osborne’s claim that I am “revolutionary Marxist” it is completely inaccurate. I am radical social democrat who favours the creation of a peer-to-peer sector (co-ops, open source etc) alongside the market and the state, as part of a long transition to a post-capitalist economy. There’s a comprehensive critique of Bolshevism in my latest book, Postcapitalism: A Guide to Our Future. In the next months I will likely be travelling to hostile environments, repressive regimes and seeking access to societies where, with one Google search, people will discover that the government of my own country considers me a “revolutionary Marxist”. I will keep you posted on the outcome of that. As for the Mao/Mickey Mouse jibe, I was tailed for hours in 2008 in Beijing by the secret police of Mr Osborne’s favourite Marxist government, after interviewing the victims of Mao’s Great Leap Forward. I am happy to state that Mao was a despot whose policies killed millions; I look forward to hearing Mr Osborne say that on his next trip to China.Mickey Mouse on the other hand is a universal 20th century icon representing the triumph of the little guy against the bully, the innocent against the corrupt, the weak against the strong. I am happy to be identified with those ideals.

Viewing 15 posts - 76 through 90 (of 100 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.