Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work by Nick Srnicek, Alex Williams. Ambitious book aiming to describe how the political left can reverse the rightward drift of the last few decades with a long term plan to reestablish political hegemony, by using a positive vision of the future to unite disparate groups and organize.
They start with a criticism of the limits of what they call the "folk politics" of the left, which they regards as too negative, localist and horizontalist. Movements aim at "resisting" the advance of neoliberalism, which might be successful, but creates a view of the future as intrinsically right wing, and doesn't help reverse things. The authors think that snall-scale local activism isn't sufficient to roll back a global capitalist system with universalist aspirations.
They then look at how the right wing has established political dominance. They look at the Mont Pelerin Society which sought to roll back Keynesianism and establish monetarist, neoliberal dominance, and the network of think-tanks, journalists and politicians that sprung from it. They point out that this was a very long-term project which begun in the late 1940s and wasn't that successful until they took advantage of the Stagflation crisis of the 1970s to promote their ideas as superseding Keynesianism.
They think that a leftist fightback has to work the same way: patiently spending decades building up an infrastructure, then using a crisis to put ideas into practice. It's already too late to take advantage of the banking crisis, which has already been seiezed by the right to further extend its dominance.
Their four demands for a positive vision of the future are:
1) Full automation
2) The reduction of the working week
3) The provision of a basic income
4. The diminishment of the work ethic
Their view is that we should be aiming towards a modern future where work is optional and the focus is on leisure.
Overall, I like the idea of a future-oriented left. As usual though, the analysis of the left's weaknesses and the right's strength is more convincing than the actual future programme. I do like the idea of a basic income, but I think it would encourage more work rather than less by reducing benefit traps, and the authors acknowledge that if set at a low level it wouldn't do what they say. There also isn't anything on reducing the skyrocketing inequality documented by Piketty, perhaps because they think that's covered by existing "negative" left thought.
In the short term, the goal of a work-free future would be a problem given that the right are convinced that their is an army of scroungers/skiver/welfare queens out to live at their expense. The book raised the term "negative solidarity" for one aspect of how the right works: people think "I have to work long hours in precarious conditions, therefore everyone else should".
The most useful parts of the book are the detailed exposition of how the Mont Pelerin Society and the networks it generated operated. Even there I think there is a little bit of wishful thinking: the stagflation of the Seventies did illustrate a genuine limit to the power of Keynesian stimulus: the move away from it wasn't purely driven by ideology.
Overall, a fairly interesting book. Worth reading for serious political junkies.
What I'm Watching
Saw Cowboys and Aliens on the Netflix free trial. Started out pretty well with some fun stuff from a surprisingly starry cast including Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford. The problem is an uneven tone which abruptly shifts into tragic death scenes and emoting over relationships: really needed a lighter touch to keep it fun. Not really very good on the whole.
What I'm Watching 2
Saw the documentary about "pro-amateur" porn Hot Girls Wanted which has apparently caused controversy. Some of the exploitation stuff does seem pretty horrific for the women involved. Otherwise pretty much what you'd expect.
For the first time in my life, this country is actually coming to resemble the Marxist caricature of crude money and power, concentrated in a power elite...
The only opposition they are ready to tolerate is one that doesn’t raise any awkward questions. They expect to beat Labour whoever leads it. But they don’t want the Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition - still an implicitly influential position - to haunt them with memories of when this country had a genuinely two-party system and all that went with that.
Sci/Tech. How MSG Got A Bad Rap. Women don't get credit for scientific collaboration. Respected research math is dominated by men of a certain attitude. Why too much evidence can be a bad thing via: "Under ancient Jewish law, if a suspect on trial was unanimously found guilty by all judges, then the suspect was acquitted". Simulating candle flicker. How to be a programmer.
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