Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Previewing Post-Capitalism

How many books are there (in anthropology and elsewhere) describing/advocating/conjuring up "post-socialism"? I'm looking at one right now entitled, appropriately enough, "Post-Socialism" by Maruska Svasek (Berghahn Books, 2006). But, as lay-offs continue and plans to nationalize industries multiply, where are the texts on "post-capitalism"? I don't know about you, but it's sent me scurrying to my bookshelf to re-read my Kim Stanley Robinson! For most, "post-capitalism" refers to a miscellaneous theories for either "next" stages (a la Drucker), or alternatives to corporate capitalism (like various tracts on "participatory" economies). But perhaps the more anthropological take on this would be an economy of "shreds and patches" (to commit unspeakable violence to Robert Lowie) made up of the residue of dominant capitalism together with a thousand heterogeneous practices that make up the barely sublimated unconscious of economic life--in short, just the sort of bricolage that anthroplogists explicate every day in the lives of actual people who find themselves on the receiving end of IMF structural adjustments and other forms of economic violence.

This is the kind of post-capitalism I'd like to see elaborated, and, despite Robinson's own penchant for utopian system-building, not far off from what he does in the Mars triology, which--in a kind of Baconian way--takes the kinds of reciprocities and exchanges common to scientific communities as a starting point for a Martian economy.