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Postcapitalism is a state in which the economic systems of the world can no longer be described as forms of capitalism. ‘Post’ translates to ‘after’ and ‘beyond’ which shows us the certain temporality of capitalism. Postcapitalism is about exploring and imagining a possible world where we would live so vastly different from our current capitalistic behaviors, it would no longer be called that. Postcapitalism is any hypothetical economic system proposed as a future replacement for capitalism.
Oxford dictionary's definition of capitalism is as followed; ‘an economic and political system in which a country's trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state.’ It describes a world where billionaires can live and the poor are exploited. When searching for a solution or alternative for capitalism in history you will inevitably come across communism as the opposite and solution to capitalism. Capitalism and communism faced each other during the cold war, west against east. During the cold war communist political leaders took advantage of the system and gave themselves too much power. Especially in the western world communism is therefore viewed as a failed system. However, we should not forget the context of this first trial. During the cold war there was a huge competition and pressure between east and west, trying to overpower each other on every level. By trying to overpower capitalism on an economic level the east totally gave up their communist ideologies and followed the capitalist economic growth. Because of the context this ‘communist state’ wasn’t actually communist because of how productivist it was.
Seeing as there is no easy solution to be found in history we are going to explore some futuristic ideas.
I would describe postcapitalism as a world where we aim for political and economic balance. This balance would ensure as much equality as possible. A system with public goods available for everyone and creating equal opportunities for every citizen. I think postcapitalism searches for a state where there is political and economic democracy. It is as wrong for billionaires to have as much economic power as oppressor politicians would. In a post capitalist world both politics and economics should redistribute their power. It is a system where millionaires and billionaires could not exist.
The animated video from the Guardian below talks about possible advanced forms of social democracy to create economic democracy. Some of the systems mentioned in the video: -No private schooling. Creates a gap between rich and poor. Makes some people feel unnecessarily better than others. -An ascending tax system. Where the rich pay more taxes for public needs. -Participatory budgeting. Where the public budget (taxes) are openly discussed and people can vote where the money should go. -Higher inheritance taxes. Losing more/all your money when you die, leaving no inheritance for your children but only for the world. Creates less inequality from the start of a life. -A living wage for all everybody. So no people can become rich by keeping others poor.
I think the most thorough and therefore maybe most effective system would be an UBI, Universal basic income. This is a system where every citizen would receive a monthly income from the government, enough to sustain themselves without working. Within this system you break the link between income and employment. Creating more time for people to really flourish, do work they enjoy doing and are good at. Some people might stop working but studies and surveys have shown most people would keep working. Not so hard to believe as one of the six basic human needs is personal growth.
Capitalism also isn’t a set system at the moment. It has been changing over the years and inevitably will change further. So much it will someday not be described by the same word. American economist Jeremy Rifkin believes we are already at the horizon, the end of our capitalist system, and that we are witnessing the birth of a new economic system; ‘collaborative commons’. He describes how a paradox in the capitalist system was its power but will soon be the cause of the end of our capitalist system. Rifkin explains how sellers are always exploring new technology, to increase their productivity, reducing their marginal costs, to put out cheaper products and gain more profit. Their goal is always to increase productivity and reduce marginal costs. However, they never expected such technological developments. Where the productivity becomes so high the marginal costs become close to zero, making goods and services essentially free. A big technological development was the world wide web. We saw zero marginal costs invaded within the newspaper industry, magazines and book publishing when the internet became more accessible and knowledge and e-books where all of a sudden freely available. In the video below, another postcapitalist thinker of our time, Paul Mason, talks about technology as a driver of change in our economic system. He talks about rival goods and how technology eliminates that element of economics. (price mechanism dissolving). How information blurs the line between work and life, not being able to identify what ‘work’ is and what ‘real life’ (link between work and wages dissolving). How we create jobs that could be taken over by technology already just to create low value person to person work. (organizations and hierarchy being decentralized).
The topic of postcapitalism relates to loads of other topics discussed in our reading group as some are systems and solutions to the problem of our capitalist economic system. Degrowth and a steady state economy is needed to redistribute our economic wealth. Profit is not the answer in a post capitalist world. Also a system of commons relates to a possible post capitalist world. A system in which we share products and facilities creates more economic equality. If these systems are part of our government it would rule out the need for profit and therefore eliminates companies and people becoming too wealthy.
These systems however, would only work with a government that totally approves of it and ensures fair laws and guidelines.
Look at the full videos of Mason and Jefkin to get more information on their views.
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