Novara Media hosted a session called “Technology and Post Capitalism” at #lab17’s The World Transformed, unfortunately it clashed with the CLPD intro and I couldn’t make it, but they video’d it and posted it on YouTube.

I have watched it now, and here are my notes.

It’s not obvious from this, but from Mason’s Post Capitalism, he believes the correct exchange value for software is free. It’s a long argument which I need to re-read but it’s obvious that using classical theory of the firm and marginal utility theory this is the case, but Mason argues under a Labour Theory of Value model it should also be free, as he argues in his book and on the video quoting Marx’s Grundrisse and the fragment on machines, software is social knowledge. (I need to reread the chapter on LTV to better articulate how it sees software as free).

Later in the panel, they raise the question of platforms as business and the ease by which they could be co-operativised. It starts from a rant from Mason about Uber, who have just lost their licence to trade in London. But if the moral , legal, true/optimal economic price for software is free, then Uber could be nationalised with compensation for pennies and the real wealth creators (and in Uber’s case capital stake holders) allowed to own the company and retain the surplus value.

What’s of course interesting is that if there is an overwhelming moral case and even a welfare optimisation case for the public ownership of platform co-ops, then we need to recognise that banks are platform companies. The real stake holders are the savers, its hard to see what stake shareholders have in a modern bank.

They rightly spoke about climate change and the energy industry. Mason repeated his argument that, possibly, only a centrally planned solution of the energy markets will be able to reduce temperature growth to 2%. Alice Bell spoke of the small starts being made at instrumenting and digitalising the power grid and the conversation moved on to smart meters and smart home controllers. The questions were asked about who controls/owns the data. The benefits of automating power distribution are clear in that it’ll help reduce the demand. But who owns the data, in the case of the datenkraken’s home IT controllers, the data will be available to the device vendor. We should recognise that the smart meters, being rolled out today were designed to minimise cost and designed several years ago, they are going to run out of capability and will become insecure.

Bell pointed out the macro governance regime that generators have to sell to the grid and consumers buy from it. She remarked on the difference in the Brighton’s sea horizon view, with its new windmills. This all raises question of democratic control of the energy industry. One feature not explored, which to me is important is that basically energy can’t be stored and its wasteful to transmit it. 30% of power generated is lost in transmission. This it would seem suggests that a decentralised power generation scheme would serve society better; our problem at the moment is that we are commissioning nuclear power stations to reduce carbon consumption which requires large amounts of capital; this implies funding via government bonds or shares. I am definitely of the view that we need to re-engineer the grid and consumer units to reduce the wastage.

Another unmentioned fact is that 7% of the UK power consumption is driving IT. This all converts to heat; experiments on reusing this heat have not proved successful and the concentration of IT into data centres caused by the relatively slow speeds of even the fastest system interconnections are also physical centralising tendencies. Mason even argued that data is a public good and should be centrally stored. I don’t think this is going to happen; it completely ignores the gravitational attributes of data (and its volume).

The issue of data ownership and even market efficiency raised the issue of ownership models. Labour’s white papers on new co-operative models were briefly noted but as above, we need to review ownership models and capital funding models.

In a world where finance capital is no longer scarce, we no longer need the joint stock company, limited liability and fiduciary duty. The time for consumer/worker co-ops has come.


The presenters are introduced at the beginning of the video, David Harvey, Paul Mason, Alice Bell and James Medway.


2 thoughts on “Post-Capitalism

  1. Dave says:

    I have published part two, not only information age economics, but energy age economics are pushing us towards new forms of ownership.

  2. Dave says:

    They also plug Prof. David Harvey’s new book, Marx, Capital and the Madness of Economic Reason. I hope about the continued relevance of Marx’s economics.

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