Media Spotlight: Post Capitalism, by Paul Mason

Book

In the years since global financial markets shut down in 2008, leading economists and financial figures have offered their theories on every angle of the crisis, ranging from why it happened at all to what the longer effects will be.

Few have been quite as radical as Channel 4 news economics editor and The Guardian columnist Paul Mason, who offers his view of what he believes the next phase in the global economic cycle will be – namely a paradigm shift that will see the end of capitalism as we know it in the modern world.

Mason’s new book – Post Capitalism: A Guide to Our Future – is an idealistic offering and at times he fails to hide his obvious contempt for the status quo, making this seem like a personal rant. 

There are several points where what Mason says comes across as plain silly. However, these partly explain why he seems so disgruntled – the average person, he says, has simply accepted the way things are.

In this book the author calls for the entire global population to embrace the philosophy engendered by Wikipedia, the free online encyclopaedia that Mason believes is the embodiment of everything that is possible. 

Here is a website that generates millions of hits each day and is therefore a potential goldmine to its creator but has been offered for free to the public.

By virtue of that information being in the public domain, other bodies wishing to capitalise on it are unable to do so. 

While Wikipedia is a specific case, Mason believes that the IT revolution begins with such concepts and that the capitalist world will, in the long run, fail to keep up and eventually die out – provided everyone embraces the change. 

Again, the concept is noble and the idea is a nice one but it is hard to envisage this taking any real shape.

Mason fails to address the obvious pitfalls in what is essentially a modern-Marxist set of views and aspirations. 

The redistribution of capital as the author sees it would create countless problems of its own, not least because workers would essentially become barely necessary.  Mason’s only suggestion to that end is that governments should provide a guaranteed income for all and that those who work should do so on a pseudo-voluntary basis while others are free to pursue different goals for the betterment of society. It is a little far-fetched to say the least.

Nevertheless, some of the theories in Post Capitalism are worth noting. At times there are strong arguments as to why the current system, which has created such vast inequality and chooses to ignore the obvious onset of climate change, is on its last legs. 

But Mason’s prediction of what will happen next tends to read rather like a Christmas wishlist.

Readers may end up at least with a heightened awareness of how precarious the current system is. This is the minimum that Mason hopes to achieve. 

His greater ambition of kicking off a revolution that will change the entire world forever is a little further off.