Postcapitalism: yes, but which one?

Today no-one can in good conscience doubt that we are heading for a postcapitalist future. The question is what form this future will take. The old market-driven dream of competitive private individual entrepreneurialism is dead in the water, but the new tendency has not been towards socialisation but towards massive monopolistic rentism.

The rentier economy favours an authoritarian political system and absolute, immobile division of the social field — recall that its first iteration was the feudal aristocracy. There is in this sense a danger of postcapitalist society resembling precapitalist feudalism. The decisive factor here is ownership pure and simple: private versus common. A revolution to oust the new digital landlords and place not just production but control and ownership of digital space into common hands is the only solution if we are to avoid becoming serfs in a cyber-restitutionist future.

Microsoft, Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook: it has been said that companies of this kind have made so much money that even if they stopped making profit today, they could still sustain themselves for at least ten years into the future. In other words, they have broken capitalism all by themselves — they no longer operate according to the extraction of surplus value from the exchange and consumption of their commodities but according to a financialised logic in which surplus itself generates more surplus: a hypersurplus if you will, akin to aristocratic divine right insofar as its rentist power completely undercuts market exchange. The owners and shareholders of these companies are, in a sense, getting revenue on the very possibility of their getting revenue: they exist as digital monarchs, possessing an untouchable sublimity that exists outside of all the logic of exchange. This is not surprising, since what these companies are increasingly selling (to advertisers) as their main product is ‘virtuality’ itself: time-space within the cybersphere. The end-user of their technologies being continually sold to the advertisers as markets means a virtual, apparently potentially limitless sale of supplementarity: the capacity to tag adverts onto literally anything produced in a digital space. Meanwhile stakeholders, which includes everyone who uses their services, see none of this profit in real terms, and next to nothing in tax returns.

Ownership ‘for the many, not the few’ is something that must now be considered, especially since the unpaid labour of normal social work and the tasks of daily existence are increasingly dependent on, and integrated into, the use of these technologies.

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