Four Futures: Life After Capitalism (Jacobin)
a book by Peter Frase
(our site's book review)
The Amazon blurb says that Capitalism is going to end.
Increasing automation and a growing scarcity of resources, thanks to climate change, will bring Capitalism tumbling down
Peter Frase argues that increasing automation and a growing scarcity of resources, thanks to climate change, will bring it all tumbling down. In Four Futures: Life After Capitalism (Jacobin), Frase imagines how this post-capitalist world might look, deploying the tools of both social science and speculative fiction to explore what communism, rentism, socialism and exterminism might actually entail.
Frase imagines how this post-capitalist world might look, deploying the tools of both social science and speculative fiction to explore what four futures—communism, rentism, socialism and exterminism—might actually entail
Could the current rise of real-life robocops usher in a world that resembles Ender’s Game?
Could the current rise of real-life robocops usher in a world that resembles Ender’s Game? (Ender’s Game has an anti-genocide theme to it: the resolution is when Ender finds the bugger queen and realized that the war was totally pointless. The climax, though, was when he destroys the buggers, although Ender realized that the buggers did not truly wish to fight the humans and he feels their sorrow for all that happens. Ender decides to make it his mission to find a place for the buggers to live. So respect for life and compassion end up as story themes.)
And sure, communism will bring an end to material scarcities and inequalities of wealth—but there’s no guarantee that social hierarchies, governed by an economy of “likes,” wouldn’t rise to take their place. A whirlwind tour through science fiction, social theory and the new technologies already shaping our lives, Four Futures: Life After Capitalism (Jacobin) is a balance sheet of the socialisms we may reach if a resurgent Left is successful, and the barbarisms we may be consigned to if those movements fail.
The public relations industry in the United States focuses on controlling the public mind, and not on informing it—this is the workhorse of capitalism
Advertising is part psychological manipulation, part mind control, but always capitalism's main tool
David Korten's The Post-Corporate World has a lot to say about the pitfalls of capitalism. There is a deep chasm between the promises of the new global capitalism and the reality of social breakdown, spiritual emptiness, and environmental destruction it is leaving in its wake. In this important book, David Korten makes a compelling and well-documented case that capitalism is actually delivering a fatal blow not only to life, but also to democracy and the market.
We need to quit looking to social engineering superheroes and rely on local community efforts
Peter F. Drucker's Post-Capitalist Society guides us in the transition from capitalist to post-capitalist civilization. Redemption, self-renewal, spiritual growth, goodness, and virtue—the 'New Man,' to use the traditional term—are likely to be seen again as existential rather than social goals or political prescriptions. The end of the belief in salvation by society surely marks an inward turning. It makes possible renewed emphasis on the individual, the person. It may even lead—at least we can so hope—to a return to individual responsibility.
In Drucker-think, it is time for nations—but more especially individuals being responsible—to respond appropriately to the transition from capitalist to post-capitalist civilization, i.e., the Third Wave. It is up to us to make sure that the change is about what a society can do with individually applied knowledge of the knowledge age, rather than misused power of the nation-state and others. We must drop our search for social engineering solutions and political superheroes who will save us. Look at Dubya, Obama, and Trump. Voting our way to progress, salvation, or happiness has been exposed for the fraud it is.
Frase envisions exterminism as a sort of Terminator scenario in which the automation that might have led to life without work leads instead to mass executions
"Frase, however, is nothing if not a utopian in the Jamesonian sense. He consistently makes the effort to find expressions of utopia in even the worst situations. For this reason, exterminism must not be understood as apocalypse, even if Frase does envision it as a sort of Terminator scenario in which the automation that might have led to life without work leads instead to mass executions. Rather, Frase speculates, 'once the excess population has been dispensed with the rich can settle into a life of equality and abundance — in other words, into communism.' [They will surely not call it that, however!] That is, I would add, if they haven’t today already achieved a communism of the 1%. It goes without saying that we should not cheer for this; that this is not a proposal. Far from it, it is instead an insistence on the undying tendency of everything toward utopia." (Source: On Imagined and Science Fictional Futures, Mitch Murray, Mediations Journal)
Socialism—one of Frase's four futures—supports the view that the goods and services produced should be dispensed based on the productivity of an individual. In contrast, communism believes that the wealth should be shared by the masses based on the needs of the individual. In practice, however, communist party heads were as greedy and corrupt as capitalist leaders and in both cases leaders acted in their own interests, not the people's interests, in spite of their telling the people what they wanted to hear. The end result is rich getting richer while nonrich lost out. The income gap was embarrassing and when citizens complained, many elites pretended to listen while many others didn't even bother. The Occupy Wall Street demonstration is an example of the latter. It was like peons or serfs hollering at kings: zero response but if they kept it up, out came the mace and clubs—which happened at these demonstrations.
Wall Street Protest: Occupy Wall Street—Copyright © 2011 by Louis Lanzano
What changed after the heartfelt, sincere Occupy Wall Street protests where we were telling the powers-that-be that their transference of wealth from the 99% to the 1% was getting sickeningly unfair? Nothing. Who listened? Only others of us 99%ers. Not a single 1%er even bothered to glance in the protesters direction.
'You know, Archibald, my bladder is a tad too full—do these windows open? I'd like to send my regards to those pesky OWS protesters'
"Marx and Engels in their critique of capitalism pointed out that ruthless competition and heartless pursuit of money are immoral as they create exploitation of the masses by the very few privileged ones. As an alternative, they envisioned a classless society, without hierarchy, without currency, without personal property, where people would work in harmony, resolve their problems in friendly discussions, produce enough goods and services, and where each would contribute according to his abilities and receive according to his needs. This community-centered form of social order is called communism." (Source: Capitalism, Socialism and Communism, Henryk A. Kowalczyk, HuffPost)
Marx was surely prescient: capitalism's ruthless competition and heartless pursuit of money create exploitation of the masses by the very few privileged ones. That is precisely what we in the USA are experiencing. See Chomsky's Requiem for the American Dream: The 10 Principles of Concentration of Wealth & Power, the best book of the 21st century!
The ladder of class mobility is rigged so the nonrich cannot climb higher
No one has ever tried real communism—one of Frase's four futures, just authoritarianism and exploitation using communism as a cover label. Perhaps it would actually work but only if the leaders who were chosen weren't cut from the same cloth as 90-99% of the leaders we have and have had, which is the cloth of deceit, pretense, narcissism, exploitation, opportunism, and—especially—greed. There is very little chance of that happening, since the greedy elites have been in control of our media propaganda for a century, and they'd never give it up, and this mind control method is tremendously effective. See Freedom of the Press—an American Delusion and Media Control, Second Edition: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda.
Capitalism's ruthless competition and heartless pursuit of money create exploitation of the masses by the very few privileged ones. That is precisely what we in the USA are experiencing—hence, the huge income gap
In Frase-think, a true future communist society is hopefully so productive and so egalitarian that nobody has to work to survive, fulfilling Marx’s famous dictum, “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need”. For Frase, this ideal (his most benevolent future) might be realized by robots running on an unlimited clean energy source, providing the material basis for a post-work, post-scarcity and post-carbon world. But this utopia won't be automatic once capitalism's tire has a blowout. Which is the point of Four Futures: Life After Capitalism (Jacobin). Elites will NOT relinquish power voluntarily. Translation: blood will flow.
If the elites manage to retain their dominance in a fully automated economy, then we get stuck with the unfairness of “rentism,” which is Frase’s second future. In rentism, the techniques to produce abundance are monopolized by a tiny elite, who exploit it for their own wealth accumulation—citizens be damned. You might recognize this as Trump's mantra, which he covers up with his Make America Great Again farce. (Source: Four Futures: Life After Capitalism review – will robots bring utopia or terror?, Ben Tarnoff, the Guardian)
Make America Great Again is the cover story, but Make American Oligarchs Even Richer Again is the real story
Keep in mind that Frase is no "commie." The commies of the USSR, North Korea, China, Cuba, Laos, and Vietnam are centrally controlled authoritarian states big on control but unsupportive of human rights. Frase is as depressed by these nations as we are. They call themselves communists but are nothing like the benevolent states Marx imagined. They are instead elites controlling citizens and if the non-elites don't like how it exploits them while the elites are rich and do no work, they can jump off a building or they can complain in the media or online and end up in prison. Marx would turn over in his grave.
The problem with creating a system set up so wise, caring overseers can keep society just, fair, and egalitarian, is that those that will aim to be in charge will inevitably NOT be wise, caring overseers who keep society just, fair, and egalitarian, but instead people whose character is full of deceit, pretense, narcissism, exploitation, opportunism, and—especially—greed. They may run their nation with a bit of fairness, like China, or with zero degree of fairness, like the brutal North Korean government. But it will be a cold day in hell when they'll install wise, caring overseers to keep society just, fair, and egalitarian. Humans are just not that evolved or mature, which is the ginormous weakness of the communist idea. We hope Frase is right and if communism ends up as our future it's as humanistic as he says. But there's no possible bridge from here to there—no one ever relinquishes power.
Incidentally, it is not just the ginormous weakness of the communist idea. Humans not being that evolved or mature is also the ginormous weakness of the capitalist idea, and of democracy itself—examine the Presidents we've had in the 21st century. Things seem to be going from bad to worse to . . . Trump. But that's just the leadership issue. The warmongering neocon oligarchs who push us into wars no one wants but them so they can build an American empire and live like emperors are people whose character is full of deceit, pretense, narcissism, exploitation, opportunism, and—especially—greed. And—like the 5 commie states discussed, it will be a cold day in hell when these oligarchs will install wise, caring overseers to keep society just, fair, and egalitarian. The ideal humans Marx was talking about haven't been born yet and, if they are born, there will be little to attract them to the lying, corrupt, phony world of politics. See Politics and Government.
And to see ideas for building a better democracy, see:
- The Revolution Of Hope
- The Quickening of America: Rebuilding Our Nation, Remaking Our Lives
- Why Do We Need Communities?
- Delusional Democracy—Fixing the Republic Without Overthrowing the Government
- The Responsive Communitarian Platform
- A Dream Deferred Tragedy and Hope 101: The Illusion of Justice, Freedom, and Democracy
- Democracy for Realists: Why Elections Do Not Produce Responsive Government (Princeton Studies in Political Behavior)
How do you take power from the elite? The same way you take a banana from a 900 pound gorilla: very carefully
Frase’s third future is socialism, where automation exists, but the breakthrough that creates a cornucopia of carbonless energy doesn’t evolve. The ramification of this unlucky break is that we have to cool our climate through a massive, nation-guided program to radically redo our infrastructure, revamp our landscape, and overhaul our patterns of consumption (and overconsumption).
What the victims of exterminism fantasize about the greedy elites all day long—they're tortured by being forced to roll money bags uphill
Frase’s fourth future is exterminism and it is horrifying: a neo-feudal nightmare. The elites retreat into heavily fortified guarded enclaves where the robots do all the work. So who cares, right? You do. Non-elites are trapped outside in the hot, ugly version of the hell that is the speedily frying planet. As Frase sees it, “The great danger posed by the automation of production, in the context of a world of hierarchy and scarce resources, is that it makes the great mass of people superfluous from the standpoint of the ruling elite.” The elites can choose to keep the non-elite in prisons and refugee camps. However, they're likely to conclude it is convenient to simply exterminate the non-elite. They're unnecessary and useless and—worse—have this nasty habit of breathing oxygen, which elites want all to themselves.
This is how the elites live in exterminism and—yes—it's air conditioned
This is how the non-elites live in exterminism and—no—it's not even the teeniest bit air conditioned
Science has gifted us with amazing ways to ruin the environment and amazing ways to kill each other—if these two continue, life will eventually degenerate to rats fighting in a toilet
"Frase hopes that his book will be used as a kind of ‘self-preventing’ set of visions. Mapping out possible futures is a political act for Frase, one that he hopes will be both preventative and potentially empowering. As he puts it, it is up to us to ‘fight for the futures we want.’ . . . There are two trends pushing at this sense of the inevitable: the increasing automation of work and the emergence of profound environmental changes. These two interconnected issues mean that transition of some form will be forced upon us. Of course, Frase couldn’t have foreseen all of the political upheavals that occurred in 2016. These changes add a further sense of cultural and political inevitability to Frase’s arguments. Reading the book in November 2016 forces some reflection on how future horizons may have been re-set by political opportunities and complex groundswells of opinion. The book’s future visions arrive as we hear claims of making things ‘great again’, with frequent calls on evocative and nostalgic versions of an imagined past, as discussed recently in Owen Hatherley’s book The Ministry of Nostalgia." (Source: Four futures: life after capitalism , David Beer, opendemocracy)
Life will be great in the future for air conditioner salesmen, but not so great for fur coat salesmen—global warming's going to suck, bigtime
“This book is an exercise in public thinking as a political act, charting courses for movement-builders and citizens. In a project of that sort, a somewhat hysterical dystopia is worth the time of day.”—Jedediah Purdy, Los Angeles Review of Books
“The great danger posed by the automation of production, in the context of a world of hierarchy and scarce resources,” Frase says, “is that it makes the great mass of people superfluous from the standpoint of the ruling elite.” (Those are the ass clowns who control the military, the economy, the nuclear weapons, the political agenda, the propaganda-laced mainstream media, the corporatocracy, and the military-industrial-complex that Dwight D. Eisenhower warned us about: "In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military–industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes.") See Requiem for the American Dream: The 10 Principles of Concentration of Wealth & Power and Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire. In the movie Soylent Green, the "great mass of people superfluous from the standpoint of the ruling elite" are used as a food source to counter overpopulation. Superfluous? Yes—but are they tasty?!!!! Never let is be said that the elites do not value the lowly citizens. They DO like them—especially with a side of fries!