Noel Ignatiev's Blog

The End of Capitalism

By Noel Ignatiev

A former student sent me a link to an article in The Guardian (U.S. Edition) of July 17 by Paul Mason called “The End of Capitalism Has Begun.” (

The student asked me for my response. I went through the article and picked out key quotes:

“The coming wave of automation, currently stalled because our social infrastructure cannot bear the consequences, will hugely diminish the amount of work needed – not just to subsist but to provide a decent life for all.

“We’re seeing the spontaneous rise of collaborative production: goods, services and organisations are appearing that no longer respond to the dictates of the market and the managerial hierarchy.

“Parallel currencies, time banks, cooperatives and self-managed spaces have proliferated, barely noticed by the economics profession, and often as a direct result of the shattering of the old structures in the post-2008 crisis.

“They exist because they trade, however haltingly and inefficiently, in the currency of postcapitalism: free time, networked activity and free stuff.

“New forms of ownership, new forms of lending, new legal contracts: a whole business subculture has emerged over the past 10 years, which the media has dubbed the “sharing economy”. Buzzwords such as the “commons” and “peer-production” are thrown around, but few have bothered to ask what this development means for capitalism itself.

“I believe it offers an escape route – but only if these micro-level projects are nurtured, promoted and protected by a fundamental change in what governments do.”

Then I gave my response:

“What governments do…” Ah, there’s the rub.

Let’s try it. I’ll fix dinner tonight, you bring the wine. What’s that, you have no wine? Oh well, I was going to serve chicken, but I had no chicken and no money for one. Why didn’t I help myself to one from the store? I tried, but the guard there wouldn’t let me. I offered to come in and sweep the floor in return for a chicken, but they told me they had a machine, one of those robot vacuums, that does that. How about you, why no wine? Ah, the wine store also wanted money, and you had none. I see. Well, then, I guess we will do without dinner tonight. How about tomorrow?

Karl Marx had a good idea, and he laid it out in “The Fragment on Machines” referred to by the writer. Sounds like communism to me. I was trying to explain to a fellow worker how it would work. He said communism sounded like a good idea, but he didn’t see how we could ever have that under capitalism.

The student liked what I said.

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