I am a part of a new economic form which still lacks a fixed name. I shall call it the knowledge economy. It’s an economy not based primarily on money and it’s non-capitalist. Not anti-capitalist note, non-capitalist. Or as Paul Mason calls ‘Post capitalism’ in his recently published book of that title. His work is subtitled ‘A guide to our future’ and so it was with interest that I read it.
Now Mason is a journalist and while he shows an interesting working knowledge of Shakespeare, he’s not primarily (as far as I know) interested in fiction or in its contribution to the economy, knowledge or otherwise. And so even though his book might be seen as ‘predictive’ it’s not a work of fiction.
For anyone who wants to read it, the ability to consume economic history and theory is a bit of a given, but its appeal to most who can stomach either or both of those things might well be as an offer of hope for the future. If this paradigm sounds like you, I’d suggest you do what I thought of doing but didn’t. Start by reading Part Three. I had waded through the history and theory of parts one and two and while they were passing interesting and more than passing informative, I was getting very restless about what was to come. At the beginning of Part Three I got my pay-off.
Here’s how it starts: ‘If you believe there is a better system than capitalism then the past twenty five years have felt like being - as Alexander Bogdanov put in in Red Star – ‘a Martian stranded on Earth.’ You have a clear idea of what society should be like, but no means of getting there.
That more or less sums me up, and it summed up the reason I picked up the book in the first place. I should have gone with my gut – read Part Three first then gone back and found out how and why we got to where we are now. If you are reading this book from within the establishment mindset then I’m sure the parts work perfectly in their order, but if, like me, you’ve felt increasingly alienated from the world (and society) you live in, you might like a bit of hope before being given all the explanations (and reminders) of the actions and theories that have brought us to this pass. There’s a number of points of entry to the book I suggest and if you’re a desperate man as I was, start with Part Three, then tackle Parts One and Two and revisit Part Three at which point in time you may be emotionally less desperate and economically better informed.
Utopias of course are the stuff of fiction. And so if I tell you that Mason suggests that the only way for life to get better is for us to stop working for money and basically destroy the entire capitalist economic model, then even ‘old school’ Labour supporters – if they are of the ‘realist’ camp- may worry. Mason may seem to be offering a utopia. Or he may be offering something both viable and/or necessary if we are to stand any chance of a future worth looking forward to. I’m sure there are some holes in his argument – I haven’t ‘studied’ it closely enough yet, I’ve just read it the once and if you are going to buy into post-capitalism you’ll see that you can’t just pay lip service and get on with your life. You’ll have to question some very deeply entrenched beliefs and then do something about them. He’s blowing capitalism and socialism out of the water and looking at something quite new (although of course there are ‘alternative’ olds involved in his theory.) For me this was significant as one of my current projects involves looking back at the ‘failed’ theories of the early or pre-socialists to see where we all went wrong. And why.
So why am I going on about this to McRenegades? I started out by saying I was part of the knowledge economy. And so, to a huge degree are McRenegades by self-definition. We are people who may be considered slightly unhinged by many ‘mainstream’ or ‘conventional’ style writers, authors and publishers. We are not doing this primarily for the money. We are doing it to share. What are we sharing? Information. Knowledge. Our thoughts. And we are doing it in a specific cultural form – fiction. I’m sure I’m not the only one who is constantly asked why would I write for no money? It’s irritating isn’t it? Especially if you don’t fundamentally believe a) that you have something to say so vitally important that the world should sit up or listen to you or b) that you write because you ‘have to’ – for love or to keep you sane. Without these ‘good’ or ‘pat’ answers or reasons you just look like some kind of a crazy. We do, after all, live in a world where no one does anything except for money. Voluntary work and ‘community service’ are all too often seen as coterminous. What does that say about our society? Why would you communicate through writing unless you were after making a profit or a ‘name’ for yourself. Why would you? It’s a question others ask of us even if we don’t ask it of ourselves. And sadly, one we find all too hard to answer.
With Mason’s theory of post-capitalism one can see a place in the knowledge/information economy for people such as me (and maybe you). We’re all fed up with hearing about the digital revolution, I’m sure but if you become part of the post-capitalist economic model in the making, you really are a revolutionary. If you start to understand that 'free' has a great power attached to its price label and that work really is a four letter word then you may just find something to believe in in this cynical old world. Of course I’m teasing you a bit here, but it’s because this is really something you don’t want to take on trust or without a bit of personal exploration. I’m just your spring-board here. I'm encouraging you to open your mind and go to places which may be uncomfortable, utopian and/or perfectly possible and possibly perfect.
If you’re looking for direction, well I think McStorytellers is a key example of a player in the new post-capitalist knowledge economy. It is valuable not only in the stories (information) it disseminates, allowing people to engage with grassroots culture for free and to connect with wee voices who otherwise might never be heard and yet who might be very similar to their readers, it is valuable in issuing a challenge to writers, asking them to reconsider the very reason why they write. This people, is revolutionary in form and content.
Beyond all that, viewing creativity as part of the knowledge/ information/ understanding ‘platform’ is exciting to me. Because I believe that in creativity lies the heart of freedom. For me, when creativity is monetised it becomes a straight-jacket and McStorytellers combines theory with practice in allowing people to be creative and keep their heads held high. And in the process it challenges both readers and writers about the very nature of culture itself. This has to be a good thing especially for those of us who believe that culture is a fundamental part of our identity. Immanent even.
I’ve said it before and I’ll doubtless say it again – setting up New Writing Scotland’s yearly anthology against the concept (and output) of McStorytellers is like looking back at dinosaurs. Ah, the dinosaurs are with us, and they are big, scary and powerful. They’ll frighten us off if they can and eat us up if we don’t run, but from a post-capitalist viewpoint it’s possible to imagine that their days in the sunny land of global capitalism are limited. It’s time to realise that we McRenegades may be part of the meteor that is about to blow capitalism off the face of the planet. Maybe not in our lifetime… but maybe… it may just be time to wake up and commit to making the revolution as you smell the coffee futures market. Fiction is a creative way to influence fact my friends. You heard it here first. McRenegades have taken the means of production into their own hands and in a world which prides itself on creating infinite money, we are offering an alternative – infinite creativity – infinite access to information – free networking. I hope at least Tim Berners-Lee might be proud of us.
Anyway, I’d thoroughly recommend Paul Mason’s book as something to read (even though of course you’ll have to pay for it – unless you can get your library to buy it!) You don’t have to agree with it. You don’t have to believe in it. But ignoring it keeps you in the world of ‘it’s the economy stupid.’ And in a world which might soon come down to a battle between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, I think it’s time for us to leave stupidity and apathy behind and find ways to be economically revolting. It’s certainly given me some food for thought, as well as helping me raise my head a little bit higher and realise that some of the actions I thought I’ve been undertaking foolishly or naïvely may just be the acts of a revolutionary in the making. I signed myself up to the pursuit of the knowledge economy over the conventional one a couple of years ago and now I understand why. My big projects are still a way off ‘birth’ but during this final gestation period I’m redoubling my efforts, with a new-found hope that what I’m doing isn’t just so much crying in the wilderness, but may indeed be part of a whole new way of seeing and being in the world. It’s hope over fear in action.
If you can get Mason’s book for free, do so, but if not, I’d suggest it’s worth £10-£15 of nearly anyone’s money in the developed world at this particular point in history. My future contributions will, of course, remain free for all. I don’t write for money. The link between money and creativity are firmly broken for me and if I have a dream it’s that one day we will all have the freedom to privilege creativity over cash. Paul Mason offers the first glimpse of an insight into this potential reality. It’s up to us to create – as another great social economist once said ‘be the change you want to see.’ And it’s up to you whether you see Ernesto Guevara de la Serna or Willam H. Clinton as the better economist of course – or indeed the better proponent of social justice. Me, I’m backing Che every time. As you will find out soon enough in Project Infinite Jigsaw.