Paul Mason at Manchester Literature Festival

Journalist and author of PostCapitalism: A Guide to Our Future, Paul Mason advocates the emergence of a new, sharing economy at an event as part of Manchester Literature Festival

Review by Holly Rimmer-Tagoe | 09 Nov 2015
  • Paul Mason at Manchester Literature Festival

The thunderous slogan of the French Revolution – ‘liberty, equality, fraternity’ – is etched onto the minds of those of us who studied the life of Maximilien Robespierre during a stuffy history class, or happened to spot it adorning French institutions while strolling around gay Paree.

The struggle for leftist critiques of capitalism has always been what's united the various elements of these ideas – for instance, how do you enforce complete equality in the corners of the workplace and the confines of the home without creating an all-encompassing state, watching every individual, and, thus, compromising liberty?

It’s the third idea of this refrain, however, that forms the basis of Paul Mason’s thesis about the overthrow of capitalism, or, as he terms it, ‘postcapitalism.’

The Sharing economy

Mason – economics editor at Channel 4 News – argues that capitalism has reached the end of its useful life: debt continues to pile up, climate change is quickening, capital is failing to adapt to technological change, and inequality is growing. We can see the evidence of his prognosis all around us; UK growth is simply fuelled by property prices and credit card liability, and the gap between recessions is shortening.

Instead, Mason proposes the idea of a fraternal, sharing economy where people are connected and educated through the information ‘network.’ Mason gives the example of Wikipedia to illuminate his idea of collaborative production: knowledge is liberally shared, free to use, and created by thousands of volunteers across the world, making competition impossible.

Even 15 years ago, it would have been inconceivable that an economist would sell out the Royal Northern College of Music, but the march of anti-capitalist sentiment means that interest in economics has rocketed. Among the crowd of campaigners, academics and people wearing ‘Jez We Did’ badges, it’s clear that a few of Mason’s ideas need fleshing out, but his work seems important, if only to disrupt the groupthink between politicians, business people and thinktanks who all live, work and think in the same circles.

Mason’s attempt to grapple for an alternative system in the unimaginable future is a vital one.

Paul Mason was in conversation with Katy Shaw at Manchester Literature Festival on 22 Oct 2015.

Manchester Literature Festival took place 12-25 Oct.