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Penguin presents the unabridged downloadable audiobook edition of PostCapitalism, written and read by Paul Mason.
From Paul Mason, the award-winning Channel 4 presenter, PostCapitalism is a guide to our era of seismic economic change and how we can build a more equal society.
Over the past two centuries or so, capitalism has undergone continual change - economic cycles that lurch from boom to bust - and has always emerged transformed and strengthened. Surveying this turbulent history, Paul Mason wonders whether today we are on the brink of a change so big, so profound, that this time capitalism itself, the immensely complex system by which entire societies function, has reached its limits and is changing into something wholly new.
At the heart of this change is information technology: a revolution that, as Mason shows, 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; in fact, he contends, it is already doing so.
This audiobook has been updated as of March 2017.
Interesting thesis that is well needed for the modern leftists, and quite a healthy read even for a "neoliberal" as myself (tired of being clumped up with neocons as usual). The problem is that the narrator has frustratingly many breaks where he just quits mid sentence and starts over again.
This is the shit you get when you just leave work when it's not done because your work day is over.
Mason's overall premise is that capitalism is in crisis and is now in a position where it has to evolve into something new, due to the rise of automation and the sharing economy. He argues that capitalism is inherently unstable, especially in a time of abundance driven by the increasing importance of infinitely copyable information goods in the economy. He spends a long time (perhaps too long) seeking to understand the current situation by looking back at the 200 year history of capitalism, and its critics, particularly Marx. He also spends a good chunk of the book discussing the labour theory of value, and how it relates to an economy where less and less work is done by humans. He finally moves on to outlining a programme for the future, including positing the introduction of a universal basic income to ease the transition from capitalism to postcapitalism.
All in all, a very interesting listen. It's easy to find things to agree with and to disagree with in this book but Mason's enthusiasm and style had me coming back for more. I wish he'd spent a bit more time on the future, and bit less time on the past; every time he seemed about to start talking about the future he seemed to get distracted by putting it in its place the historical context of the Left.
Mason's narration is very good, but a minor niggle that spoiled an otherwise enjoyable listen is that the final product is really badly edited; there are lots of places where the narrator retakes a line that are left in the final audiobook.
The historical aspect of this book with especially its critique of Marx and the direction Soviet Russia took was very interesting; some new stuff learned. In this regard it was quite a balanced book. As for a vision of the future it seemed somewhat naive and hopeful. The idea that software theoretically lasts forever for example was naive. It doesn't. The machines on which it runs die and their replacements often cannot run the older software at all. Software has the same legacy issues that most products have; in fact software is often more short lived than common household electrical appliances. It also comes with a maintenance cost due to security issues/bugs etc.
The idea that information is free is also flawed. Storing the information is massively expensive - Google's huge data centres are acknowledged in the book but somehow the cost of maintaining and replacing hardware, cabling and having the energy to run the servers does not get factored into the cost of information. Neither does the cost of accessing the information via data charges, ISP fees, standing charges (to maintain the cabling infrastructure etc.). This audio book is verbal information recorded as digital data - it was not free. The servers where it is stored are not free. The device I listened to it on was not free. The internet connection I used to download it was not free.
The idea that Wikipedia is free is also demonstrably false. It may be free at the point of access but Wikipedia regularly has fundraisers - it actually costs millions of dollars a year to run in hard cash.
As for the vision of the future much of the concerns and observations about capitalism are bang on the money (it does indeed seem to be beginning its death throes). However, I found the vision of a future information economy to be somewhat incomprehensible. Yes a citizens income paid for from savings gained by technology would seem like a good idea (but is highly unlikely to happen) but the repetitive mantra of the (not so) free information economy just didn't make sense to me. It is almost on a par with modern theoretical physics.
I wish I could share the positive future vision held by the author but he has a somewhat utopian view of humanity. Capitalism is a system that has grown as a reflection of humanity on the whole. While people have their good side (some more than others) the predominant forms of behaviour are manipulative, self serving, competitive and adversarial to the point of violence. The author does not address the fundamental state of human nature and how the world we see is really a reflection of it. Yes we can blame leaders but we collectively put them there. We (the masses) choose to listen to the media lies, to have the scope of our reality shaped by outside forces. Most people are not looking for a new way of shaping the economy, they are trying to get more money for a better house or car. Trying to pay for the kids holidays. Very few people have the slightest interest in economics, how fractional reserve lending works etc. We are tribal and defensive.
From considering history and the current state of world economics, including many salient points addressed by this book, I can only see a big war coming. A big one. The one that most people think can only exist in Holywood movies.
On the reading - yes the author restarts many sentences in this reading and why they were not edited out is somewhat mystifying. At first I thought this was a subversive reminder that a real fallible person had written the book and hence a nudge for us all to remember that we too are fallible humans but there were so many it did get quite annoying. Especially given that the fab technology and the ease with which this commercial paid-for release could have been made error-free.
43 of 43 people found this review helpful
Fascinating critique of this 300 year old system in which we live (capitalism) and why it cannot survive in its current form due to the emergence of market destroying info-technologies, rising global (and aging) populations, migration and climate change.
Explores the complicated history of the global labour movement (Bolshevism, Marxism, socialism etc.) in a way that mainstream economics glosses over in collusion with power and describes the role of the networked individual as the new proletariat pushing for social change against an increasingly technocratic and dystopian elite.
13 of 13 people found this review helpful
What made the experience of listening to PostCapitalism the most enjoyable?
Mason reads fantastically well and the minor errors and retracing are so minor, and I think make it all the more human. I actually enjoy them. I feel so much more able to understand the complexity of economics and argue the case for an alternative to modern capitalism now. Let me at em!<br/>
What was one of the most memorable moments of PostCapitalism?
The section on Shakespearian history;
10 of 10 people found this review helpful
Thank you for opening my eyes.
Specially coming from a socialist country.
I agree that, making small experiments plus technology, will help us understand the future of the economy. Like driving at night with better headlights.
7 of 7 people found this review helpful
If you are interested in understanding the present and near future this book is essential. Mason's conclusions are unconvincing but his analysis is brilliant. There is nothing earth shattering but the way various historical and contemporary political and economic threads are brought together is really helpful.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
A mixture of historical narrative combined with some techno-future predictions.
As a historical narrative it is just one of many and history is full of different interpretations.
The techno future predictions is that the cost of everything will become zero as the productivity becomes infinite and capitalism ceases to exist. Everything becomes free.
This is on the basis of information being paramount, and as it doesn't wear out and lasts forever e long term cost of it tends to zero
There are only few examples of post capitalism, such as Wikipedia, open source software and the like.
The counter arguments are that software constantly evolves. Most of the free software is sponsored by corporations e.g. Mozilla gets around 600m from Google, oracle sponsors Java . The state pays the wages of academics who write articles for Wikipedia etc. This only covers information based how is this going to translate into free for physical product ?
The ideas may be relevant in a few cases, but as a revolutionary movement I think they are flawed
That's not to say that there are no problems in capatilism. This is the part I do strongly agree with, and neoliberalism is seriously flawed itself. But the solution is to get rid of financialisation, monopolies and exploration and ensure that there is a free information commons, although that's also the remedy that PM offers. I other words, I agree on the direction, just not the eventual outcome.
11 of 12 people found this review helpful
Paul Mason looks at how capitalism works and argued that it is now in decline. He looks at an alternative "Post Capitalism" opportunity that could be grasped. This is an important book to read as he deals head on with the automation of jobs that will happen and how that will threaten the current economic system.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
loved it brilliantly thought out and i visualised everything in every chapter. helped me enormously understand economics and capitalismn.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
Fantastically insightful, engaging and well researched. A book that will be viewed with great distinction in the decades to come.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
Having listened to a few books now relating to economics I found some of Paul's insights well worth considering particularly his sound critique of neoliberalism.
10 of 12 people found this review helpful
A highly orginal and important contribution to the literature on our future, how bleak the situation is, and the possibilities of charting a more promising course. The author is a realist idealist. A most fascinating, enjoyable and important read!
1 of 1 people found this review helpful