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Interesting thesis that is well needed for the modern leftists, and quite a healthy read even for a "neoliberal" as myself (tired of being clumped up with neocons as usual). The problem is that the narrator has frustratingly many breaks where he just quits mid sentence and starts over again.
This is the shit you get when you just leave work when it's not done because your work day is over.
Mason's overall premise is that capitalism is in crisis and is now in a position where it has to evolve into something new, due to the rise of automation and the sharing economy. He argues that capitalism is inherently unstable, especially in a time of abundance driven by the increasing importance of infinitely copyable information goods in the economy. He spends a long time (perhaps too long) seeking to understand the current situation by looking back at the 200 year history of capitalism, and its critics, particularly Marx. He also spends a good chunk of the book discussing the labour theory of value, and how it relates to an economy where less and less work is done by humans. He finally moves on to outlining a programme for the future, including positing the introduction of a universal basic income to ease the transition from capitalism to postcapitalism.
All in all, a very interesting listen. It's easy to find things to agree with and to disagree with in this book but Mason's enthusiasm and style had me coming back for more. I wish he'd spent a bit more time on the future, and bit less time on the past; every time he seemed about to start talking about the future he seemed to get distracted by putting it in its place the historical context of the Left.
Mason's narration is very good, but a minor niggle that spoiled an otherwise enjoyable listen is that the final product is really badly edited; there are lots of places where the narrator retakes a line that are left in the final audiobook.
The historical aspect of this book with especially its critique of Marx and the direction Soviet Russia took was very interesting; some new stuff learned. In this regard it was quite a balanced book. As for a vision of the future it seemed somewhat naive and hopeful. The idea that software theoretically lasts forever for example was naive. It doesn't. The machines on which it runs die and their replacements often cannot run the older software at all. Software has the same legacy issues that most products have; in fact software is often more short lived than common household electrical appliances. It also comes with a maintenance cost due to security issues/bugs etc.
The idea that information is free is also flawed. Storing the information is massively expensive - Google's huge data centres are acknowledged in the book but somehow the cost of maintaining and replacing hardware, cabling and having the energy to run the servers does not get factored into the cost of information. Neither does the cost of accessing the information via data charges, ISP fees, standing charges (to maintain the cabling infrastructure etc.). This audio book is verbal information recorded as digital data - it was not free. The servers where it is stored are not free. The device I listened to it on was not free. The internet connection I used to download it was not free.
The idea that Wikipedia is free is also demonstrably false. It may be free at the point of access but Wikipedia regularly has fundraisers - it actually costs millions of dollars a year to run in hard cash.
As for the vision of the future much of the concerns and observations about capitalism are bang on the money (it does indeed seem to be beginning its death throes). However, I found the vision of a future information economy to be somewhat incomprehensible. Yes a citizens income paid for from savings gained by technology would seem like a good idea (but is highly unlikely to happen) but the repetitive mantra of the (not so) free information economy just didn't make sense to me. It is almost on a par with modern theoretical physics.
I wish I could share the positive future vision held by the author but he has a somewhat utopian view of humanity. Capitalism is a system that has grown as a reflection of humanity on the whole. While people have their good side (some more than others) the predominant forms of behaviour are manipulative, self serving, competitive and adversarial to the point of violence. The author does not address the fundamental state of human nature and how the world we see is really a reflection of it. Yes we can blame leaders but we collectively put them there. We (the masses) choose to listen to the media lies, to have the scope of our reality shaped by outside forces. Most people are not looking for a new way of shaping the economy, they are trying to get more money for a better house or car. Trying to pay for the kids holidays. Very few people have the slightest interest in economics, how fractional reserve lending works etc. We are tribal and defensive.
From considering history and the current state of world economics, including many salient points addressed by this book, I can only see a big war coming. A big one. The one that most people think can only exist in Holywood movies.
On the reading - yes the author restarts many sentences in this reading and why they were not edited out is somewhat mystifying. At first I thought this was a subversive reminder that a real fallible person had written the book and hence a nudge for us all to remember that we too are fallible humans but there were so many it did get quite annoying. Especially given that the fab technology and the ease with which this commercial paid-for release could have been made error-free.
46 of 46 people found this review helpful
Fascinating critique of this 300 year old system in which we live (capitalism) and why it cannot survive in its current form due to the emergence of market destroying info-technologies, rising global (and aging) populations, migration and climate change.
Explores the complicated history of the global labour movement (Bolshevism, Marxism, socialism etc.) in a way that mainstream economics glosses over in collusion with power and describes the role of the networked individual as the new proletariat pushing for social change against an increasingly technocratic and dystopian elite.
13 of 13 people found this review helpful
Any additional comments?
COMPLAINT: there should be a PDF for all the graphs referred to by the author
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
A highly orginal and important contribution to the literature on our future, how bleak the situation is, and the possibilities of charting a more promising course. The author is a realist idealist. A most fascinating, enjoyable and important read!
1 of 1 people found this review helpful