January 16, 2017
Working out the time-scale of the Anthropocene epoch can not be left to natural scientists, a group of researchers argued in Nature journal last month. Historians, anthropologists and others who study human society need to be brought in to the discussion, they said.
“The Anthropocene” is a now widely-used term, signifying that human activity is changing the natural environment so profoundly that it has brought a new geological era into existence.
Among scientists, it is accepted that any precise definition would best be
rubber-stamped by the International Commission on Stratigraphy, an organisation of geologists that has overseen definitions of all geological eras.
It has an Anthropocene Working Group that has since 2009 coordinated discussions of the issue among scientists. In August last year, the group reported to the 35th International Geological Congress that it collectively Read the rest of this entry »
October 24, 2016
A debate on “technology and the future of work” will be held this coming Saturday, 29 October, at 4.0 pm, at the Anarchist Bookfair in North London. The discussion will be started off by Nick Srnicek (author, with Alex Williams, of Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work (2015)) and Gabriel Levy (who writes this blog).
What role does technology play in our ideas about a better world? How could it affect the nature of work in the coming decades? With mass automation looming, is anti-work politics the best solution? The discussion will examine these and other questions around technology and communism, attempting to think through what a future society could look like.
Here are a couple of articles I wrote in response to Inventing the Future, mentioning some of the points that we will talk about on Saturday: ■ Technological utopias: the nuts and bolts. ■ Networked socialism: back to the future.
And here are some more articles discussing Inventing the Future, on the Communism in Situ and Mute sites.
The Bookfair is being held at Park View School, West Green Road, London, N15 3QR. There are plenty of other important discussions on Syria, Brexit, communist and anarchist ideas, and so on. Hope to see you there!
Robots at the Kia car assembly plant in Slovakia
September 23, 2016
Germany, 1888. Karl Steinmetz, a precociously smart twenty-year old student, quit the university town of Breslau with the police on his heels. Steinmetz had been caught up in the crackdown on the Social Democrats, then Europe’s largest socialist movement by far.
Soon after starting university, Steinmetz joined the socialist club, which was banned after affiliating with the Social Democrats. A
previous round of arrests had hit a party newspaper, The People’s Voice, and he took over as editor. Soon afterwards, he wrote an article that was deemed inflammatory, and he had to flee arrest.
Steinmetz emigrated to the US, travelling steerage class (i.e. sleeping in the hold). He anglicised his first name to Charles, and soon found work at a small electrical firm in New York. He became an electrical engineer and by 1893, aged 28, had made a key contribution Read the rest of this entry »
April 4, 2016
What can be learned from the history of the Soviet Union, and its failure to break free from capitalism, about a future transition to a post-capitalist society? In Paul Mason’s book Postcapitalism: a guide to our future, the places he starts looking
Red Star by Aleksandr Bogdanov: the cover of an early edition
are (i) Aleksandr Bogdanov’s utopian novel Red Star (downloadable here), and (ii) the Trotskyist opposition’s critique of Stalinist planning. I think he presents answers that are too easy. The histories of Russian socialism and Stalinist tyranny give us lessons that are richer, but also more difficult to access, than he suggests. Here are some thoughts provoked by chapter 8 of Postcapitalism, “On Transitions”.
■ Aleksandr Bogdanov’s utopian vision – set out in his 1909 novel Red Star, about a Russian communist who is invited to Mars, where a human-like race of people live in a socialist society – was not at odds with the mainstream of communist thought in the way that Paul suggests.
By portraying the communist future, Bogdanov, a member of the Bolshevik party led by Lenin, was “defying the conventions of his time”, Mason writes. “All wings of socialism were opposed to discussing castles in the air.” Bogdanov believed Read the rest of this entry »