Paul Mason’s “post-capitalist guide to our future” points to emerging technology as a sort of savior, something that has the potential for great societal change. While this is certainly true, there are many concerns that make our new technology problematic. As pointed out by many, the leaders of our capitalist society will almost certainly claw and scratch at any semblance of their diminishing system in order for personal gain. This makes me incredibly weary of the feasibility of full automation without the exploitation of the working class. Whether the increased power of wage workers will be enough to create unity and squash the efforts of those clambering to fight against anti-capitalist movements, I do not know. Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams convincingly suggest that by accelerating the long and painful process of transition and implementing change that radically defines the structure of our society, we can circumvent this fear.
While I do long for this world characterized by universal basic income and full automation, I find my preconceived view of humanity and generally nihilistic outlook hindering my ability to actually see this succeeding. Peter Frase’s writings on our four potential futures further solidified our societal trajectory. By pointing out that the “Bourgeois society stands at the crossroads, either transition to socialism or regression into barbarism”, he effectively lays our future in front of us. A future in which there are not all great options. I believe strongly that “the transition is not just about economics. It will have to be a human transition” (Mason 167) This quote really solidified my thoughts that this next stage is so much bigger than a new economic system and will take much more than policy change to bring about. The systematic change of how we as humans interact, what we value, and what drives us is integral to the transition into a new realm.
These readings remind me of the work done by Florian Idenburg (SO-IL) and Benjamin Prado (Knoll) in conjunction with Harvard’s Graduate School of Design –imagining the workplaces of a world without work. Their work illustrates the idea that designers will no longer would have to think of the trappings of an office as solely functional or performative but rather consider more social, atmospheric, and comfort related innovations. These workplaces are conducive to healthy community, leaving behind the often-uninspiring landscape of traditional offices for ones that are more apt for our potential post work environment. This seemingly utopian society where work is a lifestyle choice, and work and leisure are merged would lead to unbelievable amount of development in both innovation –further liberating us from labor, and societal change liberating us from our cultural shackles to neo-liberalism.
Current trends in co-working spaces and the growing amount of “cool” start-up offices with ping pong tables and beer taps are certainly pushing the agenda of a work-leisure combination but are largely missing the point. What would truly make a future “office” great is the freedom to work without ties to establishment and to work on what one is truly interested in rather than what feeds the capitalist machine. This trend is in many ways disguised as pushing the post-work ideals of combining leisure and work, when in reality it is doing quite the opposite. By tricking people into working more and solidifying shallow allegiances with companies, the work week is often further elongated and the machine chugs on.
The induction of a universal basic income, a world of “full” automation, governmental upheaval, societal change, I do believe could change the world –but not until we as the world change. Our future greatly lies in flux as we approach the fall of capitalism and can only be salvaged by a smooth transition into a world without work, a world that does not idolize money, and a world the champions the true potential of humans rather than their value in the form of labor capital.