Edinburgh Book Festival: Paul Mason, "A Fairer Financial Future", Review

Edinburgh Festival review
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Edinburgh International Book Festival
Paul Mason, Douglas Fraser (chair)
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Paul Mason, appearing at the Edinburgh International Book Festival to promote the paperback edition of his book ‘Postcapitalism, a Guide to Our Future’, proved as trenchant as ever in his comments on the way we live now.

Drawing on the work of, among others, Nicolas Kondratiev and Joseph Schumpeter, Mason’s book argues that previous crises of capitalism had less impact on worker’s wages than the most recent one, owing in part to the impact of collective bargaining, which in turn led to capital being forced to innovate as a response.

A combination of new technology, globalisation and neo-liberal thinking has combined to drive down wages and eroded working class solidarities.

Mason goes on to argue that as goods become cheaper to produce, increasingly monopolistic control challenges rather than strengthens the basis of capitalism.

Mason’s is an interesting thesis, although achieving the changes he suggests is predicated on there being radical changes to how we view both capital and labour.

In a wide ranging discussion with the BBC’s Business Editor in Scotland, Douglas Fraser, touching on the EU Referendum vote and other matters, Mason suggested that the 2016 referendum was an attempt to preserve the neo-liberal agenda from the effects of globalisation.

In both his book and in discussion, Mason emphasised control of information, especially in a digital sense of the term as being crucial to control of our futures, yet despite a creative commons and the availability of freeware among the ‘digital community’, Mason offered no real solution to the very obvious and continuing digital divide that exists in many societies.

Mason did, however, acknowledge that control of the narrative is a primary element in changing it, and saw both the rise of Donald Trump and the EU referendum result as reactions to the changes that have taken place since the turn of the century.

Fraser, along with a number of other Chairs at this year’s Festival, seemed unable to resist posing somewhat loaded questions relating to the question of Scottish independence.

Interestingly, Mason said that he himself felt British rather than English, yet affirmed that some form of significant alteration of the current arrangements in these islands was both necessary and probably inevitable.

PostCapitalism: A Guide to Our Future(June 2016, paperback) by Paul Mason is published by Penguin (ISBN 978-01419755290)