Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work
Nick Srnicek & Alex Williams
Just finished reading this book, and I thought I’d post my thoughts!
Top line review, I found it a really great read! From the cover and description, you’d think it was mostly about how a postcapitalist (full automation & basic income) would work, but that’s actually only one chapter, and there’s so much more.
Instead, it starts with a brilliant dissection of the failure of the old left to fight against neoliberalism, about how the techniques that have been used by things like Occupy are just nowhere near up to the task, and it all really hit home with me. They make the point that localism and refusing to come up with solid demands as Occupy did are nowhere near enough, that neoliberalism is a complete worldview and needs opposing worldviews that people can buy into.
They talk about the need for visions of the future, for optimism, and for giving people something solid to work towards. It’s very in line with what we want to do here, which surprised me.
It’s dense in political theory and terminology, but that was useful for me as well, as my technical knowledge in that area is pretty low.
Anyway, the book presents the case for why we have to build a new optimistic progressive vision, and makes the case that that should be around building a post-work society of full automation. It makes a lot of sense to me, as it’s the sort of future I’ve written about here before, but the way it’s couched in all the rest of the theory backs it up really nicely and once again convinces me that we’re on the right side of history.
One minor annoyance was that the authors keep talking about the “left” needing to do this, but that’s just a personal thing; I think that this future is beyond left and right, and we have to drop those labels as part of our obsolete political history. But, the authors obviously think otherwise, which is fine.
Anyway, I’d highly recommend it, and if anyone else has read it, drop in your thoughts here
I’ll round off with some choice quotes, on what we need to do:
a modern left can neither continue with the current system nor return to an idealised past, but must instead face up to the task of building a new future.
on the scale we need to think at:
Our problems are increasingly systemic and global, and they require an equally systemic response.
Freedom is a synthetic enterprise [i.e. one we create ourselves], not a natural gift.
on the fact that we have to build a better humanity, not rediscover one:
There is no authentic human essence to be realised, no harmonious unity to be returned to, no unalienated humanity obscured by falsed mediations, no organic wholeness to be achieved.
and on the demands:
the political project for the twenty-first-century left must be to build an economy in which people are no longer dependent upon wage labour for survival.
achieving this will require the realisation of four minimal demands:
- full automation
- The reduction of the working week
- The provision of a basic income
- The diminishment of the work ethic
and on utopias:
They demand that the future be realised, they form an impossible but necessary object of desire, and they give us a language of hope and aspiration for a better world.
I’ll finish with an Arthur C Clarke quote, which leads one of the chapters, and which is a direct challenge to parts of our manifesto (which I will be proposing changes to based on this):
The goal of the future is full unemployment.