According to british writer Paul Mason over the past two centuries capitalism has undergone continual changes but now thanks to information technology it has reached its limits and is changing into something wholly new.
Already in 1993, Peter Drucker outlined a similar evolution in his book “Post-Capitalist Society”. In this new world, which would be completed by 2020, the famous management consultant stated that the social classes were expected to be divided into knowledge workers or service workers, in contrast to the capitalists and proletarians described by Karl Marx.
This future revolution announced by Paul Mason has the potential to reshape utterly our familiar notions of work, production and value; and to destroy an economy based on markets and private ownership. The rise of information technology has pushed capitalism beyond its capacity to adapt by dissolving markets, destroying ownership and breaking down the relationship between work and wages. Moving towards postcapitalism requires pulling your energy and time out of the mainstream financial system, to put more of yourself into things like “surfing (which according to Mason) has been playing that function since the 1960s. (…) You can spend your money on it, but it creates a network and becomes life-fulfilling, wellbeing-enhancing and identity-creating”.
His book articulates alternatives to start a transition towards a post-capitalist society operating through non-hierarchical social networks and which key goals are:
- Rapidly reduce carbon emissions.
- Stabilise and socialise the global finance system.
- Prioritise information-rich technologies.
- Gear technology towards minimising necessary labour.
British thinkers Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams think that Postcapitalism is possible due to the major changes information technology has brought in recent years by blurring the edges between work and free time. Significantly, the abundant information is also corroding the market’s ability to form prices correctly. Goods such as music, software or databases do have a production cost, but once made are freely replicable and copied infinitely. This inspirational duo by demanding full automation and universal basic income from the world system, they also demand the return of utopian thinking and serious organization from the left. Their proposals named “Accelerationism” pushes towards a future that is more modern, an alternative modernity that neoliberalism is inherently unable to generate.
According to Jackques Knight, Strategic Advisor Company at Presans, we can find 3 types of accelerationism:
- Ideological accelerationism: the human subject must here choose collectively the form of life made possible by the technological Singularity. The subject of progressive political action is positioned on a spectrum comprising a left and a right.
- Apocalyptic accelerationism: it interprets the verticality and exponential growth of the technological curve as a materialized transcendence, and human structures from the past lose all relevance in this approach opening the doors to the transhumance subject.
- Open accelerationism: under these conditions, societies will face the Singularity without having time to reinvent themselves, to test new institutional compromises, or even new philosophies.
Thinkers like Jan Rotmans and Michel Bauwens compare this change of eras with the Industrial Revolution that happened in the 19th century, and characterized by transitions in which our societies face 3 changes:
- Social order: change from a hierarchically-controlled society to a horizontal, decentralized, and bottom-up working unit.
- Economic structure: where in the past large, bureaucratic organizations were necessary to produce cheap products, in the new digital economy it is possible to develop products and services locally on a small scale.
- Power relations: while in the past political influence and economies of scale determined access to resources and knowledge, now information also accessible outside of political and social institutions.
Following this analysis, the folks at Commonstransition.org have mapped the post-capitalist paradigm and it’s main thinkers to go beyond the anecdotal evidence of popular news of capitalist inspired sharing economy web applications like Airbnb, Uber, Glovo…
While author Paul Mason thinks that the purpose of postcapitalist philosophy is to design a controlled transition in which market forces cease to operate as the main mechanism for the allocation of goods and services on the planet, in which the State is reduced and debt accumulations are deactivated. On the other hand Dave Beech thinks that by focusing on the intersection of art and postcapitalism we can stretch the scale of art’s political ambition beyond the narrow concept of simple critique. Rather than supplying the markets with those supposedly critical commodities that are so easily sold in speculative movements (remember that Banksy painting that self-destructs after $1.4 million sale), artists should take up a critical position to both capitalism and the institutionalised avant-garde.
While current debates on postcapitalism differ from their past counterparts (socialism, communism and anarchism) art today is replete with critical practices but typically lacks a clear understanding of the difference between resisting the existing social system and superseding it. Maybe by experimenting with emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence we will be able to explore their cultural, political and aesthetic possibilities for the construction of an emancipatory future..
*(Picture: The Guardian & Commonstransition.org).