We find ourselves in the midst of an economy constantly at odds with itself. The world is also still recovering from one of the greatest economic crisis, occurring in 2008. Income inequality is actually increasing. Research by economists across the globe have found support for the old phrase the rich get richer, while the poor get poorer. The rise of “super managers” or highly paid executives have contributed to this increase in the inequality gap. The global response of austerity has only driven wages lower and increased spending cuts in the public sector. Student debt is at an all-time high. Living standards are decreasing. The political economy is not working.
If we accept that capitalism is in constant crisis, fighting against itself, that the gap between those who hold all the wealth and those that don’t in evermore increasing, what then is the future?
Marx argues in “Fragment” that technology in a capitalist society would lay the foundation for a communist society where free time is increased and becomes the measurement of wealth. Capital, he states, is “instrumental in creating the means of social disposable time, … to free everyone’s time for their own development”. In other words, disposable time and not labor time becomes the measurement of social wealth. This would then allow for the abolition of class society, Marx says.
Fuchs articulates this in our current moment, stating “the general intellect that circulates on the Internet and via digital media requires a collective digital worker that is also a global worker” which then have the potential “to resist their own exploitation if digital workers” unite. Capitalism, technology, and information have linked the world in a way that distinctly marks our time in history. The technology and information that have diminished labor offer the means for the “global worker” to defy his/her own manipulation.
Mason highlights the revolutionary potential in an “economy based on the full utilization of information, [it] cannot tolerate the free market or absolute intellectual property rights”. Today’s largest corporations attempt to contain information, the world’s most dynamic force as Mason terms it. For Mason, the future is just on the horizon in post-capitalism. “Collaborative production, using network technology to produce goods and services that only work when they are free, or shared, defines the route beyond the market system”, all of which will require the government getting on board. Drawing on Marx’s prediction about the general intellect, Mason provocatively states, “by creating millions of networked people, financially exploited but with the whole of human intelligence one thumb-swipe away, info-capitalism has created a new agent of change in history: the educated and connected human being”. Once again, the means of exploitation become the resources for autonomy.
Whatever the future looks like, change is immanent. It may not be as revolutionary as Marx imagined or as Mason hopes, but the consequences of an economy in constant crisis are far reaching.