Saturday, 26 September 2015

Postcapitalism?

"...the status and encouragement of private ventures in a postcapitalist economy..." (Harvest The Fire, p. 75)

A contradiction? Maybe not. We know nothing about postcapitalism. Nineteenth century theoreticians assumed that collective labor would continue to be necessary to generate social wealth. Anderson instead imagines universal automation and nanotechnology controlled by self-evolving artificial intelligences. In the latter situation, I think that:

every human being being should have a substantial share in social wealth;

groups should have the resources for any ventures that they envisage;

but no group would be able to employ members of a work-force economically dependent on being employed.

It is this third point that differentiates postcapitalism and that is hardest to imagine. A character in Anderson's Starfarers says that he has the right to make money and to invest it, i.e., in the labor of others. Of course he does, provided that he is operating in an economy that is organized on that basis in the first place.

"Passage [to the Moon] would consume most of his small savings, and the cost of living would be higher; if he didn't want to exist in poverty, he'd need work, pay, to supplement his citizen's credit." (p. 88)

An economy in which someone who overspends his citizen's credit must choose between poverty and employment is still not postcapitalist.

3 comments:

  1. Kaor, Paul!

    Re your last paragraph, I agree, Anyone who overspends his "citizen's credit" and needs to seek out employment to attain desired goals still can't be truly living in a "post capitalist" economy.

    And, I'm puzzled by the term "social wealth." Isn't wealth having the means needed to purchase goods and services to the extent you are able? An ounce of gold and what you can do with it is valuable only to how much others value it. And the same to the value placed on a worker's labor (which will vary according to the skills, knowledge, character, etc., of that worker).

    I think "wealth" by itself, without such qualifiers as "social," is easier to grasp.

    Sean

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  2. Sean,
    I think that social wealth is products of past mental and manual labor inherited by us all: our language; literature (no one has a copyright on Homer or Shakespeare); the Bible; Westminster Abbey; technical knowledge used to train apprentices; Universities, where "Patet Veritas Omnibus" ("Truth lies open to all," the motto of Lancaster University). When nanotech makes basic necessities as free as air, then no one will need to buy them. They will be "common wealth."
    Paul.

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  3. Kaor, Paul!

    I agree with the first part of what you said. I would add that TRANSLATIONS of Homer can be copyrighted. Iow, it's the price we choose to pay the scholar for translating Homer's works.

    And I certainly hope nanotech becomes practical! So far we have been seeing only the first faint beginnings of that.

    Sean

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