Paul Mason PoslCapitalism: A Guide to Our Future, London: Allen Lane, 2015; 368 pp.: ISBN 9781846147388, 16.99 [pounds sterling]
It is hard to escape the feeling that, for better or for worse, we are living in a transitional age. Capitalism remains on its feet, but is looking ever more unsteady as neoliberalism proves incapable of providing durable economic growth and good jobs. A particularly lethal cocktail of imperialism and religious fanaticism has set the Middle East aflame. In Europe, the far-right is on the march as nationalist politics threatens to tear apart the European Union. The rapid development of information and communication technologies is challenging extant economic structures and human relationships. Standing over everything is the spectre of profound, irreversible climate change. Making sense of this turbulent reality, and charting a progressive course forward, is the task Paul Mason takes upon himself in PostCapitalism: A Guide to Our Future. More specifically, he seeks to understand why neoliberalism has stalled economically and politically and elucidates how information technologies offer a path beyond not only neoliberalism but, in the long term, the capitalist mode of production itself.
Mason begins by stating clearly the central issue: neoliberalism is broken. The 2008 global crash marked a watershed in the history of neoliberalism. Fiat money, financialization, global imbalances and burgeoning information technologies, hitherto the planks of neoliberal stability, have become corrosive agents. Their combination ensures that even an enlightened 'info-capitalism' could produce only long-term stagnation, rising inequality and environmental destruction. Moreover, it would be premised on a fundamental shift in the global political and economic order, a shift that is more likely to be manifested as a 'de-globalization crisis originating in diplomatic and military conflicts' (p- 29).
Using a modified form of Kondratieff wave theory, Mason locates this problem historically. He forwards a fairly orthodox account of capitalism moving in more-or-Iess regular 50-year cycles. A period of upswing, characterized by clusters of technological innovation, new business models, the development of new markets and increases in the quantity and availability of money, is typically followed by a downward phase of falling wages, prices and investment. He departs from Kondratieff and other wave theorists, such as Schumpeter and Perez, in tying 50-year...