Random readings on society, politics and change – Jorge Carrillo
Review of the book “Inventing the Future, (Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams, Verso 2015)” – It is necessary to stress once again that [this] book is aimed at the left. They are arguing for how the left should play a leading role in the transformation of society. From the evidence of this book one I am not reassured that this part of “the left” understand the issues well enough to make such a claim for hegemonic power. True, the left are often strong on championing social justice agendas and supporting vulnerable people. They often have a clear idea within this field of human affairs. Yet their analysis of what is wrong is often outdated. There are many leftists for whom the environmental crisis is seen primarily as just another sign that capitalism is failing. Essentially they see humanity’s problems as a variant of a stock simplified story. This story goes something like this – because it is driven by competition and because it puts profit ahead of other goals capitalism is destroying the environment too. Neo-liberal ideology in particular is our current problem to be resisted. The widely held belief that everything requires a market solution and should be privatised has undermined state protection not only for workers and marginalised social groups but undermined environmental regulation too. These are the things that must be put right.
At first sight hard left ideology appears to be radically different from the ideology of neoliberalism in which things are to be left to the market and to control by corporations. Yet on a closer look both left and right ideologies share the western idea of “progress” as something evidenced by, and expressed through, technological change as its key feature. In this book too while Srnicek and Williams want to “re-purpose” technological transformation, the technology itself is an intrinsic part of their big story of human progress. Essentially they see themselves as being in the business of wrestling the idea of progress away from neo-liberalism in order to create a new ideological mainstream and a new big story. “A counter-hegemonic strategy entails a project to overturn the dominant neoliberal common sense and rejuvernate the collective imagination. Fundamentally it is an attempt to install a new common sense – one organised around the crisis of work and its effects on the proletariat” (pp131-132 ). In their “post capitalist” and “post work” story progress occurs because the machines do the work.
Unfortunately it will be biophysically impossible to complete this technological transformation without wrecking the ecology of the planet. They are trying to construct an alliance behind a future that is neither desirable nor sustainable.
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