Ownership, PostCapitalism and Co-ops…….

Ed Mayo has put together a fascinating slide show on the concept of ownership and how it can be changed by co-operatives and commons. He suggests that the development of our society into one based on information will reduce scarcity. That, in turn, should cause ideas of ownership to evolve again towards sharing of one kind or another such as the commons and worker co-operatives. It’s important, as Ed says, to remember that neo-liberal capitalism and investor ownership are just a particular historical anomaly.

Aspects of that argument echo the views of Paul Mason on the future of capitalism and the implications of  the emergence of the information society. In his book “PostCapitalism, A Guide to Our Future” Mason suggests we should:

  • clamp down on monopolies such as Google and Apple so as to

  • let information and other products find the lower price levels that should come from the end of scarcity

  • increase automation of services as well as production,

  • encourage co-ops, time banks, collaboration through commons and de-link work from wages,

  • and thus create Postcapitalism to replace our failing neo-liberal system.

Some critics, such as Gillian Tett in the FT and Liam Halligan in the Daily Telegraph, point out that Mason’s optimistic analysis ignores the use of the new technology to create the profit making Uber, many of whose drivers join the precariat and Airbnb which is privately owned and profitably exploits “sharing”. With most social networks, such as Twitter and Facebook, also run by investor owned corporations, it’s easy to get depressed and Mason’s case for a state provided basic income for all looks utopian as we see UK Welfare system dismantled piece by piece.

Surely that all means that it’s up to us. We must push things in the direction Mason suggests by campaigning for a different State approach while organising our own work and lives to promote a PostCapitalist economy. Mason’s challenge to the Left is to understand the effects of the new technology and the limits of state power. Policy must unleash the potential of co-operatives and other sharing ownership initiatives, like open source, commons and the gift economy. That’s the alternative to pointlessly re-creating top-down hierarchical nationalised industry bureaucracies or caving in to globalised neo-liberal capitalism.

Co-operative Opportunities

The Co-operative Advantage a new book edited by Ed Mayo (reviewed and summarised by Anthony Murray in the Co-op News) identifies new opportunities for co-operatives to expand and develop new approaches. It’s worth looking at Anthony’s article to see the imaginative  range of ideas spanning agriculture and community food, energy, retail and giving consumers control of data, supporter owned sports clubs, insurance, banking, tourism, transport, criminal justice, creative industries, housing, social care and health.

The book itself assesses the relative opportunities, ease of entry to markets, existing co-operative presence, size, growth prospects, and international exemplars for each idea. It’s great that 55 potential projects and improvements have been put out there by a range of experienced UK expert co-operators.

So it’s time for the co-operative and sharing sectors to get busy……

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