"Postcapitalism" by Paul Mason (2015)
"We need to be unashamed utopians. The most effective entrepreneurs were exactly that, and so were all the pioneers of human liberation."
Paul Mason is a journalist and filmmaker. He has NO background in economics, and in fact began his career as a music teacher (!).
And to begin with, the title of this book is completely misleading. It should be titled Communism, since that's what it's about. I suppose Mr. Mason thought "Postcapitalism" was "edgy," or that there was more of a market (oh! the irony!) for a book that seemed to be advocating a new economic model. Yet this remains a book about Communism, written by a guy whose understanding of economic concepts largely dates back to the turn of the previous century.
The author also has a way of ignoring facts he finds inconvenient. In discussing the monopolies of the early 1900s, for example, he fails to mention the anti-trust movement. In discussing Socialism under the Weimar Republic, he fails to mention the disastrous economic policies of that regime, and how they spawned a fascist movement that was vehemently anti-Communist in nature. He ignores a lot of other facts, and what we end up with is a very one-sided view of history, with little regard for the real advantages of a capitalist system.
The chapters dealing with "the information revolution" find the author on much firmer footing, and he says some insightful things about capitalism in the age of the Internet. But at the same time his enthusiasm for modern information technology seems a bit naive, as he once again glosses over many negatives in the service of the point he's trying to make. Is social networking really making us all self-empowered members of a network? Or is it turning us into drones? And what about the social/cultural impact of our addiction to smartphones, Facebook, and getting all of our information beyond the medium of other human beings? What does that spell for the future? And it is it really an unequivocal good?
The author also makes some valid points near the end of this book. He combines climate change, demography, and debt leveraging into a fair assessment of our current situation, and how we might adapt our institutions to changing trends. The only thing is that the points he makes don't originate with him. They are instead the work of other, uncredited authors, and many of these authors draw opposing conclusions from the same data.
Add to this the fact that his idea of "Postcapitalism" is nothing new. All he's really doing is stapling an ill-defined version of Communism onto an ill-defined version of economic history. I get his gripes with capitalism as it's practiced today. The system has real faults that need to be addressed. But it's not hard to see that Paul Mason's vision of the future would produce more problems than it would solve, and that his understanding of human nature - like his understanding of world affairs - is too shaky to be of service to this vision.
I can't remember the last time I had such a strongly negative reaction to a book. It was an act of will to finish it, and as I reached the last page I couldn't help but yell "Fuck you, motherfucker!" at an empty room.
If you're looking for better books about similar topics, I recommend "Who Owns the Future?," "Free Market Environmentalism," and "The Death of Money." They are all far, far better than Postcapitalism.