Capitalism, writes a British journalist/broadcaster, verges now on self-destruction, and he forecasts an economic future quite unlike any we’ve known.
Predicting the end of capitalism is a game at least as old as Karl Marx, but Mason (Why It’s Still Kicking Off Everywhere: The New Global Revolutions, 2012, etc.) reminds us that this socio-economic system has not always been with us and, despite its remarkable adaptability, carries with it no guarantee of perpetuity. Old arrangements that ordered the feudal era, after all, collapsed, and something similar may be happening today, requiring us to abandon accepted notions about markets, supply and demand, property ownership and exchange, and “the old relationship between wages, work, and profit.” From a forthrightly leftist perspective, Mason analyzes the external forces—principally income inequality and climate change—and the internal contradictions eroding capitalism as we know it. These he traces to information technology, an unprecedented development that reduces the need for work, corrodes market mechanisms accustomed to scarcity rather than abundance, and features collaborative production of goods and services. The transformation to post-capitalism, he writes, will not be led by the old-model, industrial-laboring class but rather midwifed by the “values, voices, and morals” of a networked generation, connected people who today operate in the interstices of the current system and who tomorrow will replace it. Even readers not quite persuaded will appreciate Mason’s readable, reportorial style, his use of a wide range of economists, business gurus, and economic thinkers to help support his thesis, and his deft treatment of sometimes-difficult economic theories. He’s especially good on the Stalin-era “wave-theory” economist Nikolai Kondratieff, and he shines an eye-opening light on Marx’s 1858 Fragment on Machines (unpublished in English till 1973), which hints at a “route out of capitalism” similar to Mason’s own.
A radical diagnosis and a bold prognostication bound to energize progressives.