As conservative capitalism whips itself into an ecstasy of fevered apoplexy over the change in political climate, it is fun to step back and imagine what might transpire after capitalism’s eventual passing. To offer help, Peter Frase has written the excellent and cautionary “Four Futures: life after capitalism”.
Frase gives us four idealized futures blocked out by a matrix of two variables each ranging over two possibilities: 1) the structure of the social environment being either egalitarian or hierarchical, and 2) the resources of the natural environment being either scarce or abundant. What’s nice about the descriptions of these futures are the ample examples from science fiction media: TV, movies, novels, etc.
One assumption over all four futures is that, given sufficient resources of material and energy, technology, automation, and robotics will improve to the extent that human work as we know it will eventually be made unnecessary. Another is that climate change is real and will demand solutions and amelioration or it will only get much worse. And a big take home message is that the rich and powerful are in a much better position to benefit from ignoring climate change than you and me.
What will happen to the common person when their labor is superfluous? Not detailed are the possibilities if even the humans at the top are deemed unnecessary and the machines revolt. In order of diminishing happiness for most of us:
- Communism: Egalitarian Abundance
- Rentism: Hierarchical Abundance
- Socialism: Egalitarian Scarcity
- Exterminism: Hierarchical Scarcity
The cover has a nice iconography for the futures: a conveyor belt on a 3D printer assembly line shows a glass of wine for Communism (Cheers!), a key hole for Rentism, a watering can for Socialism, and a skull for Exterminism (Ouch!).
Peter Frase / Four Futures: life after capitalism
Some better reviews than mine:
The Art of the Possible: Peter Frase’s “Four Futures”
There’s a similar fourfold of futures I forgot I mentioned in my article on Trompenaars, although fragmentation-coherence is used instead of scarcity-abundance, and there is a more positive spin:
Also, Frase has a blog that can be found at:
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