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NEW BOOK: Four Futures by Jacobin’s Peter Frase

Jacobin editor Peter Frase has published a new book, Four Futures: Life After Capitalism, in which he envisions the collapse of capitalism due to growing scarcity (owing to climate change) and increasing automation of labor.

22551901-_uy400_ss400_Frase describes and analyzes four possible post-capitalist futures (as the name might suggest): communism, rentism, socialism and exterminism.

While many problems and potential solutions are discussed in the book, universal basic income is among them (the potential solutions, that is, not the problems). As a reviewer notes, “[UBI] is rapidly becoming a core plank of contemporary progressive thought and is another key point of the book: Frase hammers the point in relentlessly. A universal basic income offers a solution, or at least a useful aid, to many of the problems his future worlds might face, and it emerges in some form in all of his futuristic scenarios” [1].

Frase has previously written about UBI in Jacobin. His “Curious Utopias” (May 2013) surveys the issue of whether a UBI is properly described as “utopian”. In “Ours to Master” (March 2015), he maintains that a UBI could protect workers against a loss of income due to automation while allowing us to “realize the potential of a highly developed, post-scarcity economy” and “break the false choice between well-paid workers or labor-saving machines”. Four Futures delves further into these topic — and many others.

One of the most popular left-wing political journals in the US, Jacobin is distributed to an audience of about 400,000 per month online and 6,000 per quarter through its printed magazines. Four Futures is published by Verso Books — “the largest independent, radical publishing house in the English-speaking world” — as part of its Jacobin series.

Peter Frase (2016) Four Futures: Life After Capitalism, Verso.

[1] Hans Rollman (October 21, 2016) “Pondering Life Post-Capitalism in ‘Four Futures‘” Pop Matters.


Reviewed by Genevieve Shanahan

Image: “escaping the dome” CC BY 2.0 yumikrum

About Kate McFarland

Kate McFarland has written 512 articles.

Former lead writer and editor of Basic Income News.

The views expressed in this Op-Ed piece are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the view of Basic Income News or BIEN. BIEN and Basic Income News do not endorse any particular policy, but Basic Income News welcomes discussion from all points of view in its Op-Ed section.

One comment

  • Steve Godenich

    Ah, Jacobinism is reminiscent of Robespierre, the Reign of Terror, Victor Hugo’s fictional “Friends of the ABC(abased)”, his description of the mob as a headless snake winding through the streets of Paris and manning the Barricades with the occasional street urchin tagging along. More recent Jacobinism might be ascribed to Bill Ayers of the The Weather Underground or Patty Hearst of the Symbionese Liberation Army, both born with silver spoons who got off with a little help from their prominent lawyers who I’m sure were well received by their parents. Bill Clinton pardoned Patty Hearst and I believe Bill Ayers is a friend of Barack Obama. There is, of course, the 5th column approach, espoused by André Gorz in the reference to “Curious Utopias”. The cited literature does appear to point to a political goal that uses an inferior poverty-relief plank to support a platform for changing government structure. These images do not form a lovely humanitarian picture.

    Regarding an humanitarian proposition of poverty elimination without thought of political change, an alternative and more palatable populist demonstration for an individualized poverty-level tapering income for adult citizens is expressed in:

    “Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr – The Power of Non-violent Action” by| Mary King published in | 1999

    I believe something similar to Edgar Feige’s APT tax reform is being contemplated in India[1,2], although suggestions regarding cash may have unintended consequences. Along with Thoreau and Tolstoy mentioned elsewhere in the work, here is a tie-in quote for Gandhi and King to “The Politics of Obedience: The Discourse on Voluntary Servitude”:

    “This illuminating insight into power may be attributable to the sixteenth-century French writer Éstienne de la Boétie. To Gandhi and King, his wisdom seemed obvious: you can refuse to be governed by those who dominate you even if you are in bondage or servitude.”

    [1] ArthKranti of demonetisation fame wants a strike on income tax | The Sunday Guardian | 2016
    [2] What is Arthakranti? | Quora

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