One question I get asked a lot is that post-capitalism and post-scarcity sound like good ideas in theory, but how do we get from here to there in practice?
In other words: What are the actual, concrete political projects we should be advancing?
This is a good question and I don’t have as many good answers as I’d like to have. While I’m working on it, I’ll outline others’ suggestions for practical policies that could, in the long run if not in the short, make a difference.
This is a living document and I’ll append more examples as I find and get around to typing them. Please, feel more than free to leave suggestions!
Mason’s transition to a post-capitalist society
First off are Paul Mason’s five principles of transition from his worthy book, Postcapitalism: A guide to our future (Mason, 2015). The book includes a discussion of potential large-scale postcapitalist project called “Project Zero” (for zero-carbon energy system, the production of machines, products and services with zero marginal costs, and the reduction of necessary labor time as close as possible to zero).
In Mason’s opinion, this transition needs to involve five principles (pp. 266–269:
- Understanding the limitations of human willpower in the face of a complex and fragile system. The solution to this problem, which hobbled the previous revolutionaries, is to test all proposals at small scale and model their macro-economic impact virtually many times before attempting them on a large scale.
- Ecological sustainability: transition and its technologies need to be designed to be sustainable.
- The transition is not just about economics; it needs to be a human transition. New networked economies create new kinds of people with new kinds of insecurities and new priorities. Any project cannot be simply about economic and social justice (important though they are), but needs to be a democratic one where people will see their lives improve meaningfully.
- Attack the problem from all angles. Meaningful action is not limited to a certain place or at certain levels; grassroots activism is just as important as high-level negotiations, particularly so because we need new kinds of regulation and governance to manage a zero marginal cost society. Solutions should be looked for through a mixture of small-scale experiment, proven models that can be scaled up, and top-down action by states.
- Maximize the power of information. Use social technologies, the internet of things, and whatever you can. The goal is to decentralize economic control; Internet could be the perfect tool for that.
Top-level goals (or “victory conditions”)
A list by Mason, not in any order of importance! (pp. 269–270)
A Precaution: WHENEVER POSSIBLE, TEST EVERY PROPOSAL VIRTUALLY WITH SIMULATION TOOLS BEFORE IMPLEMENTATION.
- Rapidly reduce carbon emissions so that the world has warmed by only two degrees Celcius by 2050, prevent an energy crisis and mitigate the chaos caused by climate events.
- Stabilize the finance system between now and 2050 by socialising it, so that ageing populations, climate change and the debt overhang do not combine to detonate a new boom-and-bust cycle and destroy the world economy.
- Deliver high levels of material prosperity and wellbeing to the majority of people, primarily by prioritizing information-rich technologies towards solving major social challenges, such as ill health, welfare dependency, sexual exploitation and poor education.
- Gear technology towards the reduction of necessary work to promote the rapid transition towards an automated economy. Eventually, work becomes voluntary, basic commodities and public services are free, and economic management becomes primarily an issue of energy and resources, not capital and labor.
Mason, P. (2015). Post-Capitalism: A Guide to our Future. London: Allen Lane.