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August 04, 2015

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Steven Clarke

"Yes, we have successfully abolished capitalism; all we have to do now is to abolish feudalism."

There are rarely any clean breaks in history (and attempts at them are rarely nice).

In Britain, there are plenty of feudal hangovers - the monarchy, aristocracy, attitudes to class and region.

Similarly, there are some socialistic institutions, like the NHS.

Rather than succeeding epochs, I think new epochs grow within the old one, never fully replacing it.

An Alien visitor

If slashing vital public services, increase in food banks and destitution, widening gap between rich and poor, work until you drop, attacks on the sick and disabled, represent a sign of post capitalism then maybe capitalism was never as bad as it was made out to be!

I suspect the signs point to neither post nor pre capitalism but just plain and simple capitalism.


Peter K.

Here's a clear-eyed takedown of Mason from the Left:

http://lbo-news.com/2015/07/17/workers-no-longer-needed/

"Paul Mason has a breathless piece in The Guardian making grand New Economy claims that sound like recycled propaganda from the late-1990s—though he gives them a left spin: postmateriality is already liberating us. I wrote a book that was in large part about all that ideological froth, published in 2003, and so far I’ve been struck by the nonrevival of that discourse despite a new tech bubble. Uber and Snapchat don’t excite the same Utopian passions that the initial massification of the web did.

I’ll pass on refuting Mason’s article, because I already did that twelve years ago. But I do want to comment on one point that Mason makes—one that’s ubiquitous in a lot of economic commentary today: capitalists don’t need workers anymore. As he puts it:

Postcapitalism is possible because of three major changes information technology has brought about in the past 25 years. 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.

I can’t make sense of the “currently stalled because our social infrastructure cannot bear the consequences”—has capitalism ever skipped an innovation because of its social consequences?—but there’s no evidence that info tech is “hugely diminish[ing] the amount of work needed.” Sure, wages and benefits stink, but that’s about politics and class power, not because of the latest generation of Intel chips or something fresh out of the latest TechCrunch Disrupt.

Expressing this argument in some economically quantifiable way probably means something like “the relation between GDP growth and employment growth has broken down.” If that’s what proponents mean—the presentations are usually light on precision—then it’s just not true.

....

Bob

The UK is still definitely a feudal economy.

Ben

Ugh. AirBnB/Uber - do tell how this is "sharing". Come on man!

rogerh

Pulleeeze, this looks more like people struggling to make ends meet rather than any kind of new economy. Round these parts the 'Farmers Markets' are struggling as fewer real local producers turn up and larger generic suppliers keep the charade going. Then you would expect the pin makers to continue to specialise, why would becoming a Jack of all Trades make any sense - only if fewer decent jobs are available. Capitalism is not changing, it is just cutting costs and searching out nice cosy markets to exploit. Eliminating work? Tosh, decent family life still costs a lot and is not getting cheaper.

aragon

Post-Capitalism, the book by Paul Mason.

tl;dr

We are at the start of a transition that we have been talking about since at least the 1980's.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Microchips-Everything-Consequences-Information-Technology/dp/0906890330

Robotisation, has taken over much of manufacturing, but is about to take another step forward. New areas like Transportation (Logistics) may be the next to be impacted, the Google Driverless Car, applied to Trucking too?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_driverless_car
www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-33702394

What price Uber then? Of course Uber may be an operator of driverless Taxis.
Uber and AirBnB are not the future.

You could say that this is incremental-ism, reaching it's logical conclusion, but what are the consequences of manufacturing with no labour content.

http://en.people.cn/n/2015/0715/c90000-8920747.html

"With the implementation of "Made in China 2025" strategy, a growing number of "unmanned workshops or factories" will come out."

Not to mention, on demand production, where an object becomes a file that can be distributed on the internet, yes you still require (expensive) plant, materials and energy.

Is the future sophisticated 3D printing, including to some extent food preparation.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/3D_printing

How about things computers can't do, Doctors, Lawyers etc. After reading about predictions for AI and Expert systems for years could the Electronic GP be around the corner?

http://www.cio.co.uk/news/data-management/ibm-watson-assist-cancer-doctors/

"Watson can interpret queries in natural language and use statistical analysis, advanced analytics and an array of processors to search millions of pages in seconds and then deliver evidence-based, statistically-ranked responses."

http://www.physicianspractice.com/blog/ibms-watson-has-time-come-expert-systems-medicine

"If IBM succeeds in hitting a “home run” with Watson and produces something that is revolutionary and which results in improved outcome or patient safety, the product cannot remain something from which only the patients of IBM customers can benefit. It must be equally accessible to every practitioner at every patient encounter regardless of which EHR he or she uses."

In a world where human labour is not required for physical products, or distribution (logistics) or for the diagnosis of disease, or even surgery and day to day care, legal opinions, justice etc, how many (millions) of people are displaced from the workforce? 50%-95% unemployment?

We do not need many people to operate the factories, the data centres, the logistics hubs, design new porducts etc.

Once many more physical objects with automated on demand manufacturing and logistics, and professional services follow music to become non-rival, and none exclusive, how does it change the game?

Can we leave it to monopolies to moniterise, how does the economy work, who owns the IT, the Robots, the resources like energy and materials? The elite or the public (socialism)?

How do we manage this non-human, potentially limitless, in the case of information, and only resource constrained in terms of physical objects abundance?

A 'Star Trek' economy of abundance, or a fascist dystopia, where an elite, subject the masses to panoptical surveillance and coercive control.

The world of 2025? Sooner then you expect?

aragon

A bit of fun, the idea taken to absurdity or is it? Asimov is always worth reading.

An all knowing computer that becomes God!

Written in 1956 set in 2061!

http://www.multivax.com/last_question.html

""Cosmic AC," said Man, "How may entropy be reversed?""

As they say on slashdot:

"I welcome our new robot overlords!"

Steven Clarke

@aragon Have you read Asimov's 'Sally', about a driverless car?

Will Richardson

Where will the mass consumer demand come from?

aragon

@Stephen Clarke
Yes, looking for my copy of Nightfall and other stories. Yellow cover.

The story is online and wikipedia has a summary of the plot, as near as Asimov comes to the revolt of them machines.

I enjoyed Roger MacBride Allen, trilogy, Caliban , Inferno, Utopia, playing with Asimov and no law Robots.

@Will Richardson.
Demand is not the problem, people need to live and want goods and services. The question is without money how do you stimulate supply, even totally automated?

Jeffrey Stewart

Typical tosh from someone who doesn't know the sligthtest thing about Marx's methodology and economic analysis. Apparently, s/he thinks it will give him/her some respectability by mentioning Marx.

According to Marx, capitalism is a mode of production. Capital is a social relation between the class of private owners of the means of production and the working class that owns a single commodity labor power, which they must sell in order to live. Therefore, regardless of this other superficial nonsense about Uber and so on, as long as the capital social relation exists, CAPITALISM EXISTS!!!

Rogerh above already indicated that the reason people are working two and three jobs is because they can't find one job at living wages. This isn't "post-capitalism" its as old as capitalism itself!

Geez Louise and the bees' freakin' knees! Please don't make me come back here and school you on such an elementary point again. Your ignorance of Marx and his methodology are apparent with almost every mention of him.

Please leave Marx alone until you take the time to read and understand Capital's three Volumes, the Grundrisse, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy and the three books of Theories of Surplus Value.

Geez! I mean, really!

chris

@ Jeffrey - I have an implicit contract with my readers. On the one hand, I don't make big demands on their time by being longwinded; one way in which I do this is by not bothering to anticipate every idiot objection to what I write. In exchange, my readers read me generously; they know what those ojections are, and can imagine what my counter-objections are. (Yes, I assume my readers are more intelligent than reviewers of academic papers.)
I was not arguing (and nor I think is Paul) that capitalism is completely and quickly disappearing in its entirity. I was merely pointing out that, within a complex and multi-faceted system, there are a few tendencies - which might not continue - towards pre-capitalism. This is, of course, wholly consistent with key features of capitalism remaining.
As for your point that people are working multiple jobs because they can't find one decent one, check that final italicised paragraph.

Jeffrey Stewart

Well, you're the joker that tries to pass himself off as knowing something about Marx. Why not just leave him out of it? You don't understand capitalism's laws of motion because you didn't read and understand Marx. Your level of Marx understanding seems to begin and end with the Manifesto. You think you give yourself importance by citing him, but you don't. You just make yourself look like the ignorant ass you are. Where, exactly where, did you get your economics Ph.D.?

You didn't refute my main points. You just point out you're aware people work more jobs to make ends meet. Wow! That's profound!

You think you deserve the benefit of the doubt because you're a journalist? It's exactly the opposite. Why not just be explicit about your dilettantism? You don't know Marx so quit Sullying him with your ignorance and misunderstanding just to increase traffic to your site.

Jeffrey Stewart

By admitting that people work more than one job to make ends meet and implicitly that this is because of capitalism and it's not post-capitalism, you undermine the whole conjecture of your blog post. Again, why bother?

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