Paul Mason on Postcapitalism: Why the World Economic System May Be Breathless


British journalist and author Paul Mason doesn’t mince his words when it comes to what he sees as the dominant ideology at the moment: neoliberalism. He thinks that capitalism and neoliberalism, as we know them, may have played their last hand.

“What started in 2008 as an economic crisis has turned into a social crisis, resulting in mass unrest. And now, as revolutions turn into civil wars, creating military tensions between military superpowers, it is become a crisis of the world order, “he said. .

“If we cannot create a lasting world order and restore economic dynamism, the decades after 2050 will be chaos.”

Paul Mason argues that if we cannot create a sustainable world order and restore economic dynamism in the face of increasing disruption to the workforce caused by the use of technology and automation, the decades after 2050 will be the chaos. (Toby Melville / Reuters)

Paul Mason is the author of Postcapitalism: a guide for our future, the business editor of UK television news Channel 4 and a regular contributor to The Guardian and The New Statesman. One of Britain’s most vocal critics of neoliberalism, he is one of a growing number of thinkers – economists, writers and activists – who while rejecting the well-worn notion of a “class struggle leading to a socialist revolution” , nevertheless believe that a more equitable society is possible.

As a journalist, Mason has visited many conflict zones. “In each case,” he writes in Postcapitalism, “the struggle for justice has collided with the real power which rules the world”.

Ideas facilitator Paul Kennedy spoke to Paul Mason about his theory of how the world economy is changing. Mason explains why he is optimistic that technology and our changing relationship with the state can create healthier, more just societies. Here are excerpts from the interview, which airs on CBC radio at 9 p.m. on November 25 or can be aired here.


Paul Kennedy: Haven’t we heard this message before, that capitalism is failing?

Paul Mason: Well, for 250 years we have had economists predicting the end of capitalism. Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill, and Karl Marx all discussed the problem of capitalism’s self-reproduction. How long can it continue to reproduce?

Now my idea is that it can continue to reproduce for a long time, as long as it can adapt. So whenever there is a downturn or a societal economic model collapses, you usually get a mixture of technological innovation and changes in the structure of the economy and we go back.

Kennedy: So when did you get the idea that we had come to the end of the line?

Paul Mason’s book, Postcapitalism: A Guide To Our Future, argues that the global economy is on the verge of a massive change that will see capitalism evolve into something completely new.

Mason: If you study the old springs – the 1840s in Britain, the 1890s, after World War II – you still see a synthesis of high-value labor and high-value production.

The problem is, information technology makes this very difficult, I would say almost impossible, to do. Because information technology removes value. Information technology allows us to produce things that could and should be cheap or free.

And so we don’t produce, as the Victor record company did in around 1910, shellac records. We create mp3 files, and it is very difficult to make money from them.

Kennedy: What I have been led to believe is that this new information revolution is going to set me free.

Mason: What has happened is that the information makes it possible to dissociate work and salary. It allows work and life to blur. We will respond to emails from our boss at midnight.


Editor’s Note: In the last words of his book Postcapitalism, Paul Mason describes how he sees the near future:

Now what does this mean for the future of work? This means that there is a struggle over time, but it is not the same struggle as in the 20th century between workers and bosses. It’s a struggle to decide who will control and determine the course of the automation that might now occur.

The work of lawyers, even doctors, will become automated, leaving aside the poor hamburger who suddenly discovers that his front work has been replaced by a touch screen. I argue we should do it a lot faster… we should automate the world fast.

But in order to do that, we will need to aggressively decouple work from pay. We have to pay people just to exist.

“The danger is that as the crisis drags on, the elite’s commitment to liberalism will evaporate. The successful crooks and dictators of the emerging world have already bought influence and respectability: you can feel their power when you walk through the doors of certain law firms, PR consultants, and even corporations.

How long will it take before the culture of the Western elite switches to imitation of Putin and Xi Jinping? On some campuses, you can already hear it: “China shows capitalism works best without democracy” has become a standard topic of discussion. The self-confidence of the 1 percent is in danger of fading and being replaced by a pure, undisguised oligarchy.

But there is good news. The 99 percent come to the rescue. Post-capitalism will set you free. “


(Listen to Ideas’ full interview with Paul Mason here.)


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