21 April 2015

'We're not meat for the economy': debating the future of British politics

Posted by the Bookshop

'What do we want the future to look like?'

This is the question Zoe Williams poses at the beginning of her latest book Get it Together: Why We Deserve Better Politics. She'll be joining us at the Bookshop on Monday 27 April, along with Jeremy Gilbert, Aaron Bastani and Paul Myerscough to discuss what's going to happen to British politics after the May General Election.

For Jeremy Gilbert, any answer to that question must start by acknowledging the failings of neoliberalism. 'Commerce is not the same thing as capitalism,' he writes at opendemocracy.net. 'There is no contradiction between supporting the innovative, productive, and creative networks of small and medium-sized businesses[...] and stating categorically that those institutions committed to the overriding goal of unlimited capital accumulation (banks, hedge funds, global corporations, etc.) should and could be abolished as soon as possible.'

And it's not just excessive profit-seeking that could and should be abolished, according to Aaron Bastani. In a video for novaramedia, he puts forth a speculative vision of a future in which machine labour will replace human labour. 'This is the thing that every politician and journalist wants to talk about – they say: 'Automation changes everything; we've got to create jobs!'.' Rather than struggle against the increasing redundancy of human workers, Bastani suggest we embrace the potential that this creates for a post-work society – or at least a drastic reduction in working hours.

Are these suggestions utopian? Unrealistic? Unfeasible? Perhaps. But, as Zoe Williams points out, there is nothing inevitable about our current system. 'The economy is here to serve us, we're not meat for the economy. The idea that you might find some political system that created growth, but resulted in a huge amount of hardship, for people who couldn't afford education, who had to be badly paid, who had to live in squalor, and yet that was somehow a good outcome because growth had been achieved: that idea is nuts. Not even the most red-blooded capitalists ever conceived of growth as a good thing for its own sake. The only point of anything – any economic policy, any social endeavour – is to create the conditions in which people can flourish.'

Join the debate on Monday 27 April – book tickets here.