PostCapitalism: A Review (Summary)
Bella Caledonia, by Irvine Welsh
Like all prescriptive works of its kind Post-Capitalism must in essence feel stronger on the analysis of the failings of the current system, than in predicting what lies ahead. Yet it’s to Paul Mason’s great credit and courage that he offers a model of how a postcapitalist future might operate. As with such frameworks, it’s first and foremost about opening up the discussion and debate on our futures, which have been circumscribed by a self-interested private media and a state one bullied into timid irrelevance. The great strength of Paul Mason’s speculations is that they are never flights of fancy, always logic extrapolations from grounded observations.
PostCapitalism is a beautifully written work, combining this hardheaded economic analysis with a strong narrative style, which benefits from Mason’s own anecdotal experiences investigating the battlegrounds of neoliberalism. This produces a literary blood that flows through its pages, elevating PostCapitalism above the dry, anodyne texts written by academics, or ‘economists’ (often in reality paid spokespersons for governments or banking interests).
It has the feel of experience well won, as Mason spices the text with anecdotes from the declining peripheries of capitalism, from the river Dniester on the Moldavian border, to Greggs bakers in Kirkcaldy High Street. And it’s probably the first time that any writer on economics has used the value of the last ecstasy tablet in a nightclub to explain the concept of marginal utility.
The succinct elucidations Paul Mason offers as he traverses seamlessly from one idea to the next, renders the book highly accessible to the layperson. Although Kondratieff, Ricardo, Smith, Keynes, Marx, Drucker, crisis theory and wave theory are all expounded on, the salient rationale of their concepts pertinent to his thesis are explained as you journey through the text. (Surprisingly, Catalan sociologist Manuel Castells, whose ideas on network theory seem weaved into the book, is not referenced.)
The great achievement of PostCapitalism is that it dares to open up big, utopian thinking again, freeing us from the dreary dystopia’s of ‘nothing less than fully-fledged class war’ or ‘let’s just put up with it, as it’s the best we can do.’ After three decades of the nihilistic and stultifying ‘end of history’ thesis, the pervading message is that the human spirit is alive and kicking. And it has a good shot at getting our society into shape to face the enormous demographic, environmental and fiscal time bombs coming our way.
So Post Capitalism is more than a treatise on, or a description of, what’s happening to us right now. It stands as a fundamental intellectual and spiritual service to our common humanity and a GPS to the new world it sees unfolding before us. It’s both a visionary and landmark work, and the most important book about our economy and society to be published in my lifetime.
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