Paul Mason is deluded here

Bye Bye Capitalism! Welcome to postcapitalism!

Sigh.

The red flags and marching songs of Syriza during the Greek crisis, plus the expectation that the banks would be nationalised, revived briefly a 20th-century dream: the forced destruction of the market from above. For much of the 20th century this was how the left conceived the first stage of an economy beyond capitalism. The force would be applied by the working class, either at the ballot box or on the barricades. The lever would be the state. The opportunity would come through frequent episodes of economic collapse.

Instead over the past 25 years it has been the left’s project that has collapsed. The market destroyed the plan; individualism replaced collectivism and solidarity; the hugely expanded workforce of the world looks like a “proletariat”, but no longer thinks or behaves as it once did.

If you lived through all this, and disliked capitalism, it was traumatic. But in the process technology has created a new route out, which the remnants of the old left – and all other forces influenced by it – have either to embrace or die. Capitalism, it turns out, will not be abolished by forced-march techniques. It will be abolished by creating something more dynamic that exists, at first, almost unseen within the old system, but which will break through, reshaping the economy around new values and behaviours. I call this postcapitalism.

He’s made the basic error of confusing capitalism with market exchange. They’re simply not the same thing: they’re not even measuring something on the same axis. That’s an error which doesn’t bode well for the analysis, does it?

Third, we’re seeing the spontaneous rise of collaborative production: goods, services and organisations are appearing that no longer respond to the dictates of the market and the managerial hierarchy. The biggest information product in the world – Wikipedia – is made by volunteers for free, abolishing the encyclopedia business and depriving the advertising industry of an estimated $3bn a year in revenue.

Almost unnoticed, in the niches and hollows of the market system, whole swaths of economic life are beginning to move to a different rhythm. Parallel currencies, time banks, cooperatives and self-managed spaces have proliferated, barely noticed by the economics profession, and often as a direct result of the shattering of the old structures in the post-2008 crisis.

You only find this new economy if you look hard for it. In Greece, when a grassroots NGO mapped the country’s food co-ops, alternative producers, parallel currencies and local exchange systems they found more than 70 substantive projects and hundreds of smaller initiatives ranging from squats to carpools to free kindergartens. To mainstream economics such things seem barely to qualify as economic activity – but that’s the point. They exist because they trade, however haltingly and inefficiently, in the currency of postcapitalism: free time, networked activity and free stuff. It seems a meagre and unofficial and even dangerous thing from which to craft an entire alternative to a global system, but so did money and credit in the age of Edward III.

Those are all market exchanges while they’re not capitalist ones.

It really is that usual confusion among the British left of equating markets and capitalism. And of the two it’s markets and competition which are the vastly more important. Something we can tell from our legal structure in fact. There’s laws against monopolies but there ain’t any against not being a capitalist.

The rest of it is just the panting fantasies of some frotting Teenage Trot. Capitalism is about to die and I will be there in that very dawn of the revolution! Huzzah!

22 thoughts on “Paul Mason is deluded here”

  1. The real agenda of this post-capitalism movement is summed up by these key words in his mumblings: FREE STUFF.

    He wants stuff without having to work and pay for it, just by virtue of the fact that he was born with an dick.

    This happens when you ignore a certain book that mentions the ‘sweat of your brow’.

  2. How this man managed to get a senior editorial role at the BBC, with those beliefs, is a total mystery.

  3. “”information is corroding the market’s ability to form prices correctly” he takes an interestiong point/phenomenon and then chucks in “corroding” and “correctly” to make it fit …this system we’ve got is fucked because…technology.

  4. Twitter tells it like it is:

    http://twitter.com/richardjmurphy

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  5. Haha, twitter has *definitely* decided!

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  6. I sneeze in threes

    Does capitalism not just mean property rights (for the means of production, what ever the hell they are, a pencil for a writer?)?.

    Without property rights how does a free market operate? A free market without capitalism implies just trading outputs of the state, but what if you start using those outputs you’ve just acquired through trade as inputs, well you are a capitalist.

    Capitalism doesn’t mandate the profit motive, look at Amazon or Co-operatives. Capitalism is the right for the owners of capital (including the members of co-operatives) to do what ever they want (putting aside from the moment negative externalities) with their capital. Capital is just stuff that is in a higher order of the stuff that is on its way to the consumer.

  7. All the things he mentions and approves of are voluntary transactions-the classic liberal position. If he wants more of this it’s not the market that impedes but the state.
    The harm in socialism is not the sharing and caring-who wld object to that?- but the forced sharing, which in the hands of unscrupulous leaders has shown itself to be not so caring.

  8. He also makes the usual stupid mistake of assuming that any reward that isn’t money doesn’t count in economic terms. No, Wikipedia editors don’t do their work for free; they do it in return for non-financial reward. And he does it while claiming that economists never take such transactions into account, when in fact it is economists who I see making this point again and again, and people like Mason who never grasp it.

  9. “The rest of it is just the panting fantasies of some frotting Teenage Trot. Capitalism is about to die and I will be there in that very dawn of the revolution! Huzzah!”

    The irony is that it’s really libertarian/free-market activity that he’s referring to. He thinks this will bring about the revolution, but actually, it just means more people are “unplugged”.

  10. Noel

    I hadn’t realised Clarke had changed his tag line – thanks for that – what a craven lickspittle piece of garbage. Even worse (if that’s possible) in some ways than Owen Jones or Murphy I think – if an original thought entered his head he would spontaneously combust…..

  11. Again though this has been recycled endlessly on FB and Twitter by ‘highly educated’ people – trite though it is, the hard yards need to be put in refuting the thesis – pointing out the folly and explaining hard truths. Instead, we get the maximum wage and other gimmicks – the General election could be a very Pyrrhic victory if the Tories are not careful…

  12. “They exist because they trade, however haltingly and inefficiently, in the currency of postcapitalism: free time, networked activity and free stuff. ”

    So, who’s going to pay all those taxes to fund all those wonderful, kind-hearted state employees then?

  13. Barter economies are post-capitalist now? Sure, modern tech can broaden them (time banks etc) but it still doesn’t scale well. Which is why eBay needed a PayPal system. Not going to smash amazon, and irrelevant to service franchises like Starbucks and macd’s.

    I’m just baffled why this kind of article always sees the state as an enabler of change in ‘the system’, rather than just another part of that same system (and therefore unlikely to rock the boat.)

  14. Just saw this in the Guardian:

    ” The three-week shutdown has cost the country’s struggling economy an estimated €3 not counting lost tourism revenue, according to reports.”

    So not bad as we thought then lol.

  15. Yes, lets have the new economy.

    I’ll deflower the virgins for free, you can clean the toilets for free.

  16. What, you don’t like the deal on offer in preceding post.

    Ok, I’ll test the beer and you can weed the fields …

  17. The other point I think he omits about that Greek “survey” is that probably exactly 0% of those organisations he so admires were paying any taxes. Taxes that he wants others to pay, but his idols are arrant tax evaders themselves !

  18. Bloke in Costa Rica

    The purpose of a stock market is to provide liquidity by putting willing buyers in touch with willing sellers. If technology allows us to extend the idea to other forms of mutually-agreeable trade with a minimum of regulatory hindrance then that is the acme, the cynosure, the sine qua non of free-market economics. I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised that on the rare occasions that a Grauniadista stumbles on something he grasps the wrong end of the stick. That’s pretty much their stock-in-trade, that and full-throated question-begging, usually prefaced with some variant of the phrase “we should…”.

  19. I made it about halfway through his post until I thought “Fuck this, maybe Tim will nicely articulate why this is bollocks.” And you did, on my birthday!0

  20. Capitalism is the change from hunter-gatherer to agriculture.
    Post-capitalism means the abolition of agriculture.
    Maybe that might work with a world population of 70,000 but with a world population of 70,000 million?

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