In these days of constant turbulence, in which what is nonsense on Tuesday becomes common sense on Wednesday, and what is common sense on Thursday becomes nonsense on Friday, I have found Paul Mason’s ‘Postcapitalism’ a valuable touchstone.
This is a book profound, provocative and demanding a response. With boldness and a breadth of reference Mason has the audacity, not only to explore the sickness of the current times, but also to delineate a possible future.
Mason identifies that the real aim of austerity is to drive down wages in the West so they meet the rising middle class wages of China and India, but that this current political project is generating widespread revolt, which combined with the threats of climate change, and an ageing population makes for intensely unstable times. Around this understanding he builds a wider political analysis and a prognosis of the coming years. To nail colours to the mast in this way takes courage, for it is inevitable that his proposals have drawn criticism, disbelief and ridicule.
Much of the book explores economic theory, but the text is not dry and the force of his argumentation is compelling. So I made the time to read it twice, to take close notes and attempt to unpick those parts that I initially glossed over because I found them too puzzling.
Postcapitalism begins with a survey of the work of Nicolai Kondratieff who undertook groundbreaking economic research as head of the Institute of Conjuncture which he established in Moscow shortly following the 1917 October Revolution. Kondratieff studied the patterns of business in the industrial capitalist economies from the 1790s onwards – in particular those of Britain, France, Germany, the USA and Russia. He proposed that business followed a cyclical pattern that ran over a period of fifty years, a model that became know as the Kondratieff Wave – or the K Wave in shorthand.
Mason explores the theory and historical experience of these K Waves in powerful detail. They run in sequence –
First Wave: 1790s – 1848;
Second Wave: 1848 – 1890s;
Third Wave: 1890s – late 1940s;
Fourth Wave: late 1940s to the present.
In each of these waves there are distinct phases and, crucially, a pivot point where the first period of the wave, the upswing, shifts into the second period, the downswing. The upswing is characterised by rapid growth, the downswing by successive recessions. A prime example of a pivot point is the Oil Crisis of 1973, where the long economic boom of the post-war Social Democratic settlement began to shift into the downswing of Monetarism and what became Thatcherism – the era that we now refer to as Neoliberalism. The way that Mason illustrates these historical shifts is both gripping and convincing.
Kondratieff was arrested at Stalin’s orders in July 1930 and executed by firing squad in September 1938, thus the data he studied finished in the 1920s. However his theory has been used to analyse the post-war period and with it Mason unpicks the 2008 Financial Crash and its aftermath. His analysis is that the Fourth Wave, which should have come to a close in the mid-1990s, became peculiarly extended, running for a further decade. This shift in pattern Mason sees as not only indicating the unique nature of the Fourth Wave and pressaging a shift out of this 220 year cycle, but also the first sign of an evolution out of industrial capitalism itself into a new era of postcapitalism. This forms the core thesis of his book.
Mason argues that the shifts from one wave to the next, in 1848, the mid 1890s and the late 1940s, were in large part enabled by a powerful labour movement that resisted the pressures of capital so effectively that it provided a force external to the business cycles strong enough to catalyse a paradigm shift. However, the labour movement was eviscerated in the 1980s by the brutal use of state power under the Thatcher government. Meanwhile capital was unexpectedly strengthed in the 1990s by the unique events of 1989, which led to the opening up of 20% of the world’s markets that had been largely off limits to western finance for seventy years. This one-off event was a ‘sugar rush’ for capital, as Mason describes it. The combined effect meant that no external force was there to bring the Fourth Wave to a halt and jump-start the Fifth.
Futhermore, Mason explains that info-tech – the innovations of computing power, the Web, social media and the new ‘form of human being’ that has accompanied these changes, whom he calls ‘the networked individual’ – is the harbinger of an utterly new political and economic structure. He articulates the seeming paradox that the boom in info tech has continued despite the Financial Crisis of 2008. He carefully analyses how info tech has destroyed the means by which value has been attributed to products, the norms of property and the principles of the market place. The simultaneous breakdown of all of these, Mason explains, indicates that we are shifting out of capitalism, and into something new which can be described as postcapitalism.
My job in this piece is not to run through Mason’s arguments. I’d urge readers to turn to the book itself. However I can explore how they relate to my own experience and reflect on how his observations impact upon my life.
My first reaction to Mason declaring that capitalism is shifting towards its demise, was to ask: Is this for real? Is this guy having a laugh? I confess that if I didn’t already respect Mason’s work – his books, his comment pieces, his coverage on Newsnight and Channel 4 and his extraordinary levels of energy and curiosity – then I probably wouldn’t have given the text a second reading.
However as I did so, I found myself dwelling on two ideas explored in the book. Firstly, that if industrial capitalism had a start point, in the mid to late eighteenth century, then it must at some time have an end point, just like all historical phases such as Western European feudalism or the Iron Age culture epitomised by Classical Rome. Secondly, these years we have been living through since 2008 are becoming ever more remarkable – the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Leader of the Labour Party (for a second time), his survival against sustained attack, and the surge in Labour membership – is just the latest in a series of unpredictable events. Perhaps Mason’s analysis provides an economic explanation as to why these changes are happening.
In order to both better understand Mason’s arguments and their implications, and to test their veracity, I’m drawn to using them as a lens through which I can look at my own experience. To inspect my own passage through history and perhaps dwell on how the coming years and decades may unfold, both for myself, for my wider family, my companions in Platform and my neighbours in Higham, where I live.
In the midst of re-reading Postcapitalism, with a head full of its argumentation, I have to run some errands. I cycle across Higham, through Frindsbury, off the Hoo Peninsular and into the Medway Towns, the conurbation that merges Strood, Rochester, Chatham and Gillingham. As I do so I find myself inspired to see the K Waves written in the brick, stone and concrete of the buildings I pass by. Here’s the bold exuberance of the former Chatham Town Hall, a fine emblem the Belle Epoque before the First World War, built by Chatham Town Council paid for by the rates. It is a monument to the upswing of the Third Wave, when the Royal Navy Dockyards expanded at a dizzying rate and thousands were drawn into the workforce that built warships and fitted out the Fleet. Here are the housing blocks of the late 1950s when the Rochester City Council gave architectural form to the hope of the Social Democratic settlement, homes for working class families that were bright, well lit, dry and warm.
And here is the dead space of Staples office supplies outlet, so-cheaply built from undisguised breezeblocks and white painted RSJ’s. It has no windows to let in natural light. Florescent tubes illuminate the bored expressions of the handful of low-paid staff. There is no dignity in the architecture, no dignity in the labour of those who work within it; the building itself looks barely less temporary than the employees’ contracts. This structure is not built to stand for fifty years or a century. It is an emblem of the Neoliberal city, a product of the flailing end of the long Fourth Wave. It is an expression of what capital can get away with when social resistance – in this case Medway Borough Council – is too weak to demand something that requires more investment in the urban landscape. The Planning Committee had little chance of facing down the demands of Staples Inc., a US multinational based in Boston with several thousand stores spread across 25 countries and a market capitalisation of $8.07 billion.
I cycle back over Rochester Bridge, delighting that Mason’s ideas can be read in the townscape of my home.
About a third of the way through, Postcapitalism bursts into a flurry of graphs representing economic data. On first inspection I find them impenetrable, but they slowly reveal their meaning. There is one that I come to recognise as a delineation of my family and the family of my lover, Jane.
It is a graph of inequality over the period 1910 to 2010. The dark line shows the real income of the 99% over the Fourth Wave. Having doubled during the Second World War it doubled again between the end of the war and the Oil Shock of 1973. Then it grew very slowly over the following thirty years, with several serious set backs as incomes were impacted by the recessions that characterise the downswing of a K wave. By contrast the income of the 1% was pretty flat between 1945 and the mid-1980s, after which it rose almost exponentially as the ruling classes reaped the benefits of the privatizations and tax cuts that were overseen by the Thatcher, Major and Blair governments navigating that downswing. The free-market economics since the 1980s have been immensely lucrative for the 1%.
I and Jane, were essentially born into different classes. Her maternal grandmother, Cecilia Jenkins was the daughter of a coal miner. My maternal grandmother, Ivy Keswick, was the daughter of an industrial plutocrat. Each of us inherited many things from these women – stories, children’s ditties, photographs. But I inherited a share portfolio and she did not.
In a different century we would surely not have met. But the circumstances of the Twentieth Century, not least the determined struggle of labour against capital from the 1920s to the 40s in which the coal mining communities were pivotal and within which Jane’s maternal family were actively involved, produced the extraordinary phenomena of the Fourth Wave. And that graph of the rising income of the 99%. The increase in wealth in the working and lower-middle classes, plus the social provision of the Welfare State which included the expansion of further education, meant that at Cambridge University I met not only people of my own class but also those of Jane’s.
When our lives crossed we had so much more in common than our parents would have had in their twenties, and unimaginably more than our grandparents had at that stage of their lives. We both shared the culture of the Social Democratic settlement in which we’d grown up. For sure I had gone through private education and she had not, but the norms of television and radio, music and films, had bound together our apparently different worlds. A new culture was born on the upswing of the Fourth Wave that absorbed both our families. Indeed the context of us coming together was our shared desire to defend that culture from the attacks meeted out upon it by successive Neoliberal governments and the 1% behind them.
What for some time set me at odds with my immediate family is that they appeared to support the attacks on this world of my childhood, whilst they benefited from the rising income that accompanied the dismantlement of the Welfare State. Although of course, I too directly, and indirectly, also benefited from that rising income. That rocketting graph from the mid-80s lifted up both my maternal and paternal families. From my late twenties I could see and feel the change all around me, in the scale of houses, the choice of cars, the types of holidays, and so on.
It is possible that my memory selects only the data that reinforces the veracity of the theory, but it seems that Mason’s analysis of the shape of the K Wave since the early 1960s is born out by my own experience.
Together with a remarkable team of companions within Platform and an array of allies from other groups, I’ve spent most of the past 25 years carefully studying the London based oil & gas industry, in particular BP, Shell and the Carbon Web that surrounds them. If I take the lens of Mason’s work and look closely at this field I can see distinct phenomena.
The oil corporations radically reshaped themselves in the second half of the downswing, from the late 1980s onwards, in at least seven clear ways:
Firstly, there was a process of mergers and acquisitions that created monopolistic concentrations in the sector. BP took over all of Britoil, Amoco, Arco and Vastar, Burmah Castrol, Aral and parts of Mobil. Twenty five years ago there was a far greater range of large and medium sized oil & gas companies listed on the London Stock Exchange than there is today. Now BP and Shell dominate the energy sector of FTSE 100 index and, if Shell gets investor approval for its purchase of BG in January 2016, that domination will only increase.
Secondly, despite the great increase in the number of exploration teams, production platforms, pipelines, terminals, refineries, lube plants, petrochemical works, petrol stations and other units that these acquisitions brought onto BP and Shell’s asset registers, the directly employed workforce in the two companies has shrunken sharply. There has been a dramatic lay off of workers right across the industrial chain – partly through shutting down plants, partly through re-selling them, partly through cutting back on whole areas of staffing and partly through greater automation. The owners of the private oil & gas corporations since they were established in the upswing of the Third Wave – Royal Dutch Shell in 1907 and Anglo Iranian Oil Company (later BP) in 1909 – have always been bitter opponents of organised labour within the industry, and they used, and stimulated the enshrining of the anti-trade union legislation created by the Thatcher government and maintained under Major and Blair.
Thirdly, the oil companies both drove and utilised the burst of globalisation that began in the late 1980s. After all, the foundation of a globalised economy is the massive use of oil for the transportation of goods by container ship and cargo plane around the world from places of production to consumption. Meanwhile both BP and Shell have been ferocious in their pursuit of profit via offshoring. In 1990 these two national champions sold petrol through service stations across the UK that was being refined in their plants at Coryton, Shellhaven, Stanlow and Grangemouth. Now all three of these refineries have closed and Stanlow, sold by Shell to Essar Energy, lives under the threat of being shut down. The fuel that is sold by BP and Shell on the motorways and the perimeters of county towns is refined in plants such as that at Haldia in West Bengal. This is a joint venture between BP and CALS Refineries, it produces fuel which is designed to be sold in the European market, as it complies with EU emissions regulations. The workers who enable the production of BP’s petrol and aviation fuel are no longer employed in Essex and Midlothian but in West Bengal where labour is substantially cheaper and worker’s rights substantially weaker.
Fourthly, not only in the blue-collar sections of the corporations were workers laid off but so too in the white-collar areas, for from 1990 onwards both companies followed the lead made by US counterparts such as GE, and outsourced great swathes of their operations. Activities that had once been undertaken by company staff, on company wages and conditions, who had company pensions and country clubs, were now performed by workers on the payrolls of other corporations. For example BP’s accounts were outsourced to PWC and its advertising and PR was contracted out to Ogilvy & Mather.
Fifthly, the oil executives turned decisively to face the investment banks. During the upswing of the Fourth Wave the corporations’ prime audience was often the UK government. BP was itself 68% owned by the British state in the late 1960s, prior to this holding being sold off in the 1970s and 80s. During the downswing, attention became focused on the asset managers in The City who advised the pension funds, insurance companies and banks that now owned the stock of BP and Shell. The corporations became evermore enthralled by the finance sector, and the drive to reduce the size of the payroll was in part to please this audience.
Sixth, the oil companies increasingly became financial concerns in themselves. It is noticable that one of the two areas that grew in staff numbers during the 1990s and 2000s, a period of rapid downsizing, were the commodity trading arms of the corporations which became an ever larger proportion of each company’s profits. This shift in business focus was physically symbolised by BP’s offices in 2001. As refineries and lubricant plants were sold off, the company moved its headquarters from its traditional home in The City and took up residence in Westminster at St James’ Square. At the same time it developed an entirely new premises for BP Trading, its commodity team, at Canary Wharf in the heart of London’s new financial district.
Seventh, in parallel with the above shift the number of staff at BP’s Sunbury Campus near Heathrow doubled. This business park is the hub of its global data system, the place from which units run oil & gas fields in Angola or Azerbaijan, Algeria or Australia. The growth of Sunbury illustrates how BP, like Shell, has become at its heart ever more an info tech company.
In all of these ways the evolutions that we have witnessed in our study of BP and Shell over the past quarter century, bear out Mason’s analysis of the downswing phase of the long Fourth Wave. His work raises a further question, as he explains how financialisation essentially destroyed Lehman Brothers. Will the same process destroy BP and Shell?
So Mason’s reading of the last half-century or so, seem to be borne out by my own experience. Perhaps this is why I find his theory so compelling? But what of his prognosis, his vision of how the next fifty odd years will unfold? Is his description of a possible future both believable and desirable?
Turning first to its believability, its ‘realism’. The phenomena that he describes are ones that I experience in my daily life now and seem likely to continue into the future. Most crucial is his portrayal of the unfolding wave of info tech. The impact of this I have witnessed in Platform.
The first major project we undertook, in the autumn and spring of 1983/84, combined research into the changing economy and ownership patterns in the city of Cambridge with street theatre to engage the public in debate. Two elements stand out as I look back. First, that the new force in the body politic of the city was the info tech companies who were rapidly expanding the Cambridge Science Park. Second, that to create the fliers that we handed out in the Market Square we used our typewriter and the hand-turned Gestetner printing machine that belonged to the Students Union. We seemed to have a sense, however inchoate, that computing companies were changing our world, but the technology that we used to spread our message had been invented a century before.
In 1986 we started an office in London, and our great leap forward took the form of having a phone line. A fax machine, a desktop computer, the Internet, e-mail, a website, a server, a network of laptops, a shared ‘project data management system’, Facebook, Twitter – all these things lay in the future. Over the last 29 years we’ve invested substantial amounts of capital in labour-saving machinery.
Of course each incremental step, from say desktop to laptop, has seemed ‘sensible’, even ‘inevitable’. At many points we’ve berated ourselves at how slow we have been to make each shift. Rarely do we cast a backward glance and ask just how much have we spent on these machines? Or how many staff do these machines actually represent? If we had to do without them, how many person hours per week would it take to perform the functions that these machines so seemlessly complete – the typing, the filing, the printing, the mailing, the filming, the publishing, and so on? The number of people on the payroll has increased, but so too has the number of machines. Indeed in times of financial stress we’ve not replaced workers who’ve left or we’ve dropped our hours. However we’ve never decided to ditch a machine, or set a limit on how much we should use it. Such an idea seems ‘nonsensical’.
The passage through these various pieces of plastic and metal is a story so often told, but Mason is strong on describing the way that while the info tech revolution began with the computer as the machine, it rapidly evolved to the point that the ‘network’ became the machine. He quotes Kevin Kelly’s prophetic words of 1997: ‘We are now engaged in a grand scheme to augment, amplify, enhance and extend the relationships and communications between all beings and all objects.’ We have witnessed precisely this evolution in Platform and in our web of allies. And seen how it has changed behaviour. It certainly seems that the effectiveness of our work has been greatly enhanced by the networking with other groups and individuals that info tech has made possible.
Mason argues that info tech erodes the sanctity of private property. In a subtle way this shift can be seen within Platform. In the 1980s and 90s we would sit in meetings each with a notebook on lap, scribbling down scraps of conversations and ideas in a scrawl that was often only intelligible to the writer. These notebooks were rarely referred back to and tacitly they were accepted as the private property of the scribbler. We each took them home and kept them on our own shelves rather than stored them in the office. Today we sit in meetings and a record is typed – however imperfectly – into a laptop that is slowly circulated around the participants. The notes of the event are made by the group, and (ideally) filed onto the server where it is the common property of those who are in attendance and those who couldn’t make it. The presence of this new machine has ‘commoned’ our experience and knowledge in ways that are sometimes difficult to see. Mason’s book opens my eyes to this and powerfully portrays how Wikipedia represents a phenomenal commoning of knowledge, in a manner that raises important questions over private property and the primacy of the market.
The network that now exists between those working in Platform – be it e-mail, Skype, Skype-chat or Facebook – also has the propensity to create a common space. For a long time those who were in Platform held in common the physical space of our shared office, a backroom at 61 Sandmere Road or the rented 7 Horselydown Lane, as well as the contents of filing cabinets and cardboard archive boxes. Now these things in common have been supplemented, or perhaps overtaken, by what is held in common in the digital realm – the server, the website, the ‘project data management system’, and the record of conversations on e-mail, Skype chat and Facebook. We have slowly evolved a ‘digital commons’ – information that belongs to all of us and none of us. To walk away with this data and store it at home, in the way that we once did with our own notebooks, would seem absurd even before such an act became offensive.
Platform, since its inception has tried to emphasise collectivity in order to build community both within the group and in its relations to others. We have done so despite the norms in the arts and literature that give precedence to solo production; and the pressures in the world of NGOs towards competition over ideas, effectiveness, media profile, capital support and virtue. There is no doubt that our desire to promote this collectivity is aided by info tech systems.
Info tech has profoundly altered the social behaviour of the group of us in and and around Platform – as it has the behaviour in our families and the corporations we act against. This is just as Mason describes, indeed I see how our personal habits embody much of what the book portrays in its representation of ‘the networked individual’, the social agent who will help bring about a new structure of society. The question is, will all this lead to a Postcapitalist society as Mason suggests?
And then, does the Postcapitalist world that Mason heralds sound desirable? As a vision of the future the book is not powerfully descriptive. This is not an equivalent to William Morris’ News From Nowhere, which presents a detailed and visceral picture of the world half a century after ‘the change’, as his characters describe the violent Socialist revolution. In contrast having read Mason I am left only with a vague sense of the world he imagines we are moving into – but perhaps this was not his aim? The strongest image that he leaves is that ‘the change’ will come about as an evolutionary transition rather than a violent transformation. He devotes perhaps too much time in explaining how the proletarian will not be the social agent of change, as described by Marx, nor will revolution come through the catalytic role of the Party as delineated by Lenin. It will come because a more powerful economic force effectively hollows out the foundations of industrial capitalism, just as mercantilism hollowed out feudalism.
What Mason says will be hollowed out are capitalist notions of property and market, and with that will come the abolition of work as we currently understand it. As I explained above, I can see how in my life and the lives of those around me info tech is altering notions of property, but I find it harder to see how the principle of the market will wither. Furthermore the agent of this shift, info tech, will surely mean that the experience of daily life will be evermore dominated by technology. That this process of the penetration of the digital realm into all aspects of human activity is taking place is plain to see, and the scale and speed of this shift is remarkable. There are now 96 mobile phones for every 100 people on the planet. The amount of digital data in the world overtook the amount of analogue data as long ago as 2002. Mason suggests that this digital penetration will fundamentally undermine the structure of value upon which markets are built. At the same time capitalism, which has always sustained itself by expanding into new markets, finds itself bereft of new fields into which it can move. These combined challenges will lead the system to effectively self-destruct.
Intriguingly Morris’s Socialist Utopia is also one in which work, as we understand it, has been abolished, although in his romance machines exist only in the distant background. Perhaps what’s refreshing about Mason is that he takes the project of social change back to one of the concerns that was central to radical thinkers in earlier periods of industrial capitalism, in the Second and Third Waves – the concern with the nature of work and how to get rid of it. I’m surrounded by those who complain about working too long or too hard, and by calls within Platform that we should be careful not to work ‘over our hours’. Personally I enjoy the vast majority of my work, for I have the privilege of believing it to be creative and it being – after consultation with my companions – largely self-determined. Perhaps by the abolition of work Mason means a shift into labour conditions in which work is self-determined and creative? If that is the case, I hail his vision.
If Platform did not have machines such as laptops, servers and mobiles that we have acquired in the past three decades, the current level of productivity from the small number of people involved, would need to be assisted by a team of workers undertaking secretarial labour. We’d surely require a typing pool, a filing clerk, a mailroom, and so on. These were the norms of the world in which my father worked in The City between the 1950s and 1980s. The abolition of these essentially mechanical tasks, and their replacement by each of us using our laptops and endeavouring to file things on the shared server, is a liberation born from the machines of info tech.
But where does this leave the realm of non-digital work beyond the ‘creative economy’? What does the ‘abolition of work’ mean for those employed at the check out in the Chatham branch of Staples? On the way to Stood I cycled past fields in which are grown vegetables bound for gastropubs as ‘locally sourced Kentish produce’. They are picked in all weathers by gangs of women bused in from the Medway Towns and Gravesend. Doubtlessly these workers are poorly paid and employed on a casual basis. What does the info tech revolution mean for them? We may have the pleasure of being self-managed in Platform, but we face the precarious realities of how to finance what we do. How will this be transformed?
Mason does grapple with the growing impacts of climate change and the social transformations that these are driving. He is clear about the need for industrial society to move beyond fossil fuels. But his articulation of what this means seems weak. For a Post Capitalist society to be desirable it needs to have a means of functioning without the use of fossil fuels, whilst perhaps innovating ways of absorbing carbon from the atmosphere.
Will the info tech revolution really combine so neatly with reduction of CO2 emissions by 150% over the next two decades? It’s a truism to draw attention to the oil embedded in the laptop I am using, or the rare earths in a smartphone. Despite the success of campaigns to persuade the likes of Google to try to use only renewable sources, the amount of energy required to underpin the global networks of communication, and manufacture the user devices such as laptops, is phenomenal.
Mason identifies the extraordinary degree to which the info tech realm has spawned the monopolies of Google, Facebook, Twitter, Apple and Microsoft. Will these really be so easily overcome? We are well aware that their power enables, and hides, terrifying examples of social oppression as the case of the Foxconn factories bares witness to.
Mason details the extraordinary success of Open Source software but will democratic control really be exerted over these mega-corporations?
The example of Wikipedia as a new form of digital commons is powerfully described, especially when Mason points out that it is the fifth most visited site in the world. However, ‘whitey-pedia’ is not without its critics and immediately behind it comes the sixth most visited site: Amazon. This corporation has become a byword for casualised labour and brutal conditions of work in its massive distribution hangers. This is well illustrated by its practices at the warehouse in Swansea, South Wales – an area that was one of the engine rooms of the Labour Movement that created the conditions for the long Fourth Wave and the fruits of the Social Democratic Settlement.
I ask myself, why is it that I fall back to pessimism and raise doubts over info tech and its potential to reduce CO2 emissions, or the possibility of overcoming these monopolies and the working conditions they create. Are these questions intrinsic to info tech?
There is no doubt that these technologies have, in Platform’s experience, enabled us to be more decentralised in our working whilst at the same time not loosing our ability to operate democratically. Perhaps this form of networked collaboration is not a survival mechanism, where we struggle to keep up with each new technology that comes onto the market, but a new way of living that is in the process of creation? That we are operating as a networked group, which internally at least, is largely behaving as though it is living outside capitalism, living in a non-market system? This raises the question of whether it’s possible for two systems to co-exist, for Industrial Capitalism and Postcapitalism to operate side-by-side? Post-fossil fuel activism has traditionally been divided on some levels between the anti-capitalist and the non-anti-capitalist groupings. Perhaps this dichotomy be overcome and will be seen as a false division?
In the opening section of his book, Mason is critical of of anti-globalisation movement, and questions whether it really had a ‘desire to win’. I tend to agree with him and with his observation that the movement towards Postcapitalism needs to be seen not just a project of the Left, but a project for everyone. Intriguingly this echoes the closing passages of the excellent survey of the anti-globalisation movement published in 2003 ‘We Are Everywhere’
Mason allows me to see how the economic and technological shifts have created and framed my personal life and the life of the collective and the community I’m part of. Now I need to use his, and other work, to understand better how the turbulent times we are living in are framed by these shifts and how we can navigate them to bring about a post-industrial capitalist and post-fossil fuels society. It seems that the convulsions at the end of the Fourth Wave, the turbulence at the tail of the Neoliberalism’s storm, is producing openings out of which emerge the likes of Syriza, Podemos, the Scottish Independence movement, Corbyn and so on. Now is the time to observe those openings and have the courage to walk though them.
Thanks to Sarah Shoraka and Doreen Massey