Welcome to your post-capitalist future

Welcome to your post-capitalist future
Alex King, Huck Magazine
15.12.15

We’re living through a revolution, swapping skills instead of cash. Huck hangs out with writer Paul Mason and gets a tour of this brave new world.

Tear gas burns the eyes, nose and skin. Without access to first aid, there’s not much you can do but run for cover and try to wash it out with water – or cry it out. The air was thick with the acrid gas as the global financial crisis hit Greece in 2008, which set in motion a debt crisis the country is yet to recover from. In December, young Greeks faced off with riot police in Athens’ Syntagma Square and anger towards failed economic policies came to life in billowing plumes of yellowy smoke.

While tear gas may cause temporary sensory deprivation, it can also lead to moments of clarity. Or, so it was for writer Paul Mason. As Mason watched events unfold on the streets of Greece, he cast his mind back to September that year: wandering around with a TV news crew outside the headquarters of the collapsed investment bank Lehman Brothers, as newly redundant employees put their possessions in cardboard boxes and went home for the last time. He thought too about how he’d seen the internet reshaping society since his time as a tech journalist.

Mason began to connect the dots: this crisis isn’t going away. This train of thought led him to his provocative book Postcapitalism: A Guide to our Future. Mason offers a terminal diagnosis of the current order and a glimpse of what a new world might look like – and its seeds are already visible all around us.

Through the clouds of tear gas in Greece, Mason saw young people challenging authority by using the technologies, networks and philosophies that he believes will form the building blocks of what comes next. “By creating millions of networked people, financially exploited but with the whole of human intelligence one thumb-swipe away, info-capitalism has created a new agent of change in history: the educated and connected human being,” he writes.

You Are The Future

But, who will drive the movement for a brighter, post-capitalist world? It will be a young, tech-savvy and networked grassroots who will leverage their new tools to overturn the power of entrenched elites and rewrite the rules of the game. It’s the connected beings – savvy humans like you – who will use parallel currencies, time banks, cooperatives and self-managed online spaces to build a better future. “The people who make this work are your generation,” Mason tells Huck. “Your generation have the tools and nativity to digital communication. They’ll do this all much better. In many ways, my generation will be seen as a transitional set of people. Of whom some got it, like me. And probably a majority didn’t get it.”

As Channel 4 News economics editor, Mason has been reporting from the frontlines of the financial crisis. He’s seen young people leading the charge to dismantle the decaying, established order. But Greece is where Mason saw the future come into focus. After the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008, people predicted depression and uprisings. “But there were none, except in this one place: Greece,” Mason explains. “The riots of 2008 were worse than any of the other riots we’ve seen since. We had this youth uprising of the precariat [economically insecure (usually) young people] – and academic studies have shown it was the precariat – who were on the streets for two weeks. The first S&P downgrade of Greece in 2009 [which lowered the country’s credit rating] was because of the riots of 2008. I realised then there would be acute social crisis in Greece.”

Mason argues that the 2008 financial crisis was just the tip of the iceberg: our economy is broken. The rise of information technology has pushed capitalism beyond its capacity to adapt by dissolving markets, destroying ownership and breaking down the relationship between work and wages. As stagnation leads to social crisis, armed conflict and the erosion of democracy, a more dynamic force will emerge to reshape the economy around new values. So, where do we begin?

Read the full article at Huck Magazine.