Neoliberalism and Postcapitalism

This year’s American electoral shakeup sends us looking for deeper economic tremors. Unemployment is down to 4.9%, even as discouraged workers are reentering the market and the average hourly wage rose 7 cents. “More good news,” says The Atlantic.

But retail spending and consumer confidence remain low — as if the recovery were less solid than it appears.

Our guest, the journalist and reader Paul Mason, has a thought. He looks at the present Western economy — defined by global trade, bygone unions, knowledge work, and high finance, of Davos, TED Talks, and creative disruption — and finds a glitch, a transitional crisis long in arriving.

Can our global system keep going without a reworking for the Internet age? Or is Mason’s “post-capitalism” an idea whose time has come?

The Tom Frank take

In preparation for this week’s show, we spoke with Thomas Frank, author of Listen, Liberal: Or What Happened to the Party of the People. He points to the Clinton era as neoliberalism’s crystallizing moment:

Guest List
Paul Mason
British journalist, BBC broadcaster, and author of Postcapitalism: A Guide to Our Future.
Andrew McAfee
Researcher at MIT and co-author of The Second Machine Age.
Bill Curry
Former White House adviser during Bill Clinton's administration, current Salon contributor.

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  • Paul Mason: Fail
    It’s different this time…..different than the industrial revolution with its filthy cities, decimation of the whales, its great wars. Stagnation now is “The market is telling us that the
    future is going to be very troublesome because of the technology.”
    I just see that thesis as the fog of transition – we just can’t see the future due to the amount of time compression.
    The wording is vague Market? Job market? Stock market ?
    technology ? medical technology? Computing technology? Surveillance technology?
    His answer: dissolution of Globalism. Build non-free market economic models.
    Can be done politically (social democratic Fascism?) Mason wants it done economically but how to stop technology? He doesn’t define growth – what kind of growth ? E. F. Schumacher…..
    Starts contradicting himself 28 minutes in.
    Unbelievable! right at the end, he wants the government to limit people’s source of dignity !

    Andrew McAfee: Pass
    Neo-liberalism = corruption.
    Ha ! Uncritical press re information technology – there’s some symmetry for ya! Yes, in order to stop the madness people need to shoot themselves in the foot.
    22 minutes in: free market defense

    Bill Curry: Pass
    Yes, not having a coherent ideology is an ideology.

    Overall: well-structured show – broad coverage with diverging viewpoints.

  • Pat Crowley

    I have the poster used for this post in my office. Neoliberalism is indeed the new feudalism. I found the defense of “free markets” from McAfee rather insipid. By defining ‘free market’s’ as narrowly as he did it seemed to be a convenient way to avoid the criticism. Through in the cliches and it’s like reading the op-ed pages in most major newspapers. Bill Curry was great.

  • J_Rudkus

    Free market capitalism is working well Bill Curry? Yes, for the 1% it’s working very well. For the other 99% not so much.

    • Byard Pidgeon

      Bill Curry is NOT the person touting the free market…that was Andrew McAfee.

  • Gary Weiner

    Brilliant. Must listen. Professor Lydon, I live in a bubble Community called Sebastopol California. It is a Bastion of Prius driving locavores who are all going to vote for Bernie Sanders. Even though, I think, are missing some of the most salient points your guests and you made during this show and, you and other guests have continued to make over the past couple of years. I have enormous respect for your show and your compassionate and impassioned politics and mind. What can we do to get you to visit us out here. I would be thrilled for an opportunity to meet you and to provide a platform for you here in Northern California if I could possibly do so. I am constantly recommending your shows to my friends on Facebook and most importantly to my two children who are 24 and 26 years old. They are in many ways archetypical of the strong Progressive wing of their age cohort. The 26 year old is a journalist online and rights on the intersection of politics culture and Technology and gender. The 24 year old is a musician. At a minimum please accept my profound gratitude for your work.

  • Potter

    This conversation is a great antidote to what this primary season seems to be heading us towards. To the question of what do we do without work? I emphatically say we connect people somehow, anyhow, to their creativity… and yes give them a basic income. People may flounder but they will get ahold of themselves.

    Thank you for getting to the nitty gritty. Sanders must know he has only begun ( and I hope he knows he has won too) and that it’s not about being President. That job I don’t know if I would wish on a person anyway. Still what it seems we will face in our choices in the end does make me want to look beyond. Thank you for that. as always.

    • GIVE people a basic income, 60 years after the red scare where no human being (in the christike sense that is) could even be sure of surviving till tomorrow because all his support had been cut off? ‘Scuse me but how about instead creating a LIFE climate here so people could actually start non-capitalistic, skill -driven community self-growing and owned businesses…. duh? ..I mean..are the critic and the subject critiqued..all one on these standard-fare internet meaning-maker blogs? Gimmie a break.Global warming marches on….

      • mulp

        You mean working without tools?

        Tools are capital. You can dig a hole with your hands, but employing capital makes you more productive. Spend time investing in a tool, say finding a good stick, and do some work to make it easy to handle and to put a point on it to dig into the dirt. Better yet, find some appropriate rock that you flake into a cutting blade, then find something for cord to tie it to your stick.

        All the time you invest in not digging is capitalism, but you waste time not digging in the hopes of being more productive in the long term.

        All time spent not producing final goods and services but instead devoted to building tools is capitalism. The reason work is invested in tools of production is you can charge more for goods and services than paid to workers using the tools to pay the workers who built the tools.

  • Todd Suomela

    As always a very interesting discussion. I’ve been a listener since the early days back when the new new thing was Howard Dean.

    But I was a bit disappointed that Chris failed to push McAfee a bit harder on a couple of blithe statements and failures to answer questions. You asked what was to be done and both speakers agreed that inequality is coming and that technology is decimating the “middle” class. At 41 minutes you asked what happens when work is no longer available. McAfee recites the dramatic evidence that marriage is declining, that the mortality rates for middle age white Americans are increasing but he proposes nothing for addressing this problem. Mason at least proposed a basic income and a shorter workday as a way to start helping those who are left behind.

    The other howler was the assumption that technical changes always lead to dramatic business changes. He said that the technology companies dominating the web today will be different in a decade, but the evidence of the actual web contradicts this. Google has been around for 15 years, Amazon for 20 years, Apple and Microsoft for 35+, Intel, IBM, and more. Facebook and Twitter are both nearing a decade and show, at least for Facebook, few signs of decline. Big companies have the capital to invest in new technologies. There is no guarantee that they will and many of them do fail, but to say that technology advances change the business landscape is way too simplistic. The number of major companies involved in the so-called second machine age that McAfee is describing can probably be counted on two hands. The industries that have deregulated – airlines and communication – which McAfee praises, are now dominated by less than 5 companies in each sector. Media consolidation is in exactly the same phase of oligopoly.

    What if the government were to enforce anti-trust laws for online advertising or social media? Remember when the government sued Microsoft over Internet Explorer back in the late 1990s. That may be one of the exceptions to the Clintonism that Tom Frank describes well.

    Keep up the good work.