Above all, the move­ments of the six­ties allowed for the mass revival of free mar­ket doc­trines that had large­ly been aban­doned since the nine­teenth cen­tu­ry. It’s no coin­ci­dence that the same gen­er­a­tion who, as teenagers, made the Cul­tur­al Rev­o­lu­tion in Chi­na was the one who, as forty-year-olds, presided over the intro­duc­tion of cap­i­tal­ism. Since the eight­ies, “free­dom” has come to mean “the mar­ket,” and “the mar­ket” has come to be seen as iden­ti­cal with capitalism—even, iron­i­cal­ly, in places like Chi­na, which had known sophis­ti­cat­ed mar­kets for thou­sands of years, but rarely any­thing that could be described as cap­i­tal­ism. […] What hap­pens when the cre­ation of that sense of fail­ure, of the com­plete inef­fec­tive­ness of polit­i­cal action against the sys­tem, becomes the chief objec­tive of those in pow­er? […] The politi­cians, CEOs, trade bureau­crats, and so forth who reg­u­lar­ly meet at sum­mits like Davos or the G20 may have done a mis­er­able job in cre­at­ing a world cap­i­tal­ist econ­o­my that meets the needs of a major­i­ty of the world’s inhab­i­tants (let alone pro­duces hope, hap­pi­ness, secu­ri­ty, or mean­ing), but they have suc­ceed­ed mag­nif­i­cent­ly in con­vinc­ing the world that capitalism—and not just cap­i­tal­ism, but exact­ly the finan­cial­ized, semi­feu­dal cap­i­tal­ism we hap­pen to have right now—is the only viable eco­nom­ic sys­tem. If you think about it, this is a remark­able accom­plish­ment. […] Myself, I am less inter­est­ed in decid­ing what sort of eco­nom­ic sys­tem we should have in a free soci­ety than in cre­at­ing the means by which peo­ple can make such deci­sions for them­selves. […] Labor, sim­i­lar­ly, should be rene­go­ti­at­ed. Sub­mit­ting one­self to labor discipline—supervision, con­trol, even the self-con­trol of the ambi­tious self-employed—does not make one a bet­ter per­son. In most real­ly impor­tant ways, it prob­a­bly makes one worse. To under­go it is a mis­for­tune that at best is some­times nec­es­sary. Yet it’s only when we reject the idea that such labor is vir­tu­ous in itself that we can start to ask what is vir­tu­ous about labor. To which the answer is obvi­ous. Labor is vir­tu­ous if it helps oth­ers. A rene­go­ti­at­ed def­i­n­i­tion of pro­duc­tiv­i­ty should make it eas­i­er to reimag­ine the very nature of what work is, since, among oth­er things, it will mean that tech­no­log­i­cal devel­op­ment will be redi­rect­ed less toward cre­at­ing ever more con­sumer prod­ucts and ever more dis­ci­plined labor, and more toward elim­i­nat­ing those forms of labor entire­ly. […] Why not a plan­e­tary debt can­cel­la­tion, as broad as prac­ti­cal­ly pos­si­ble, fol­lowed by a mass reduc­tion in work­ing hours: a four-hour day, per­haps, or a guar­an­teed five-month vaca­tion? This might not only save the plan­et but also (since it’s not like every­one would just be sit­ting around in their new­found hours of free­dom) begin to change our basic con­cep­tions of what val­ue-cre­at­ing labor might actu­al­ly be.

A Prac­ti­cal Utopian’s Guide to the Com­ing Col­lapse | David Grae­ber | The Baffler

Strate­gies for change that do not pre­scribe the out­come but are main­ly focused on increas­ing society’s pos­si­bil­i­ty space (as described by Grae­ber here) make a lot of sense to the game design­er in me.

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Kars Alfrink

Kars is a designer, researcher and educator focused on emerging technologies, social progress and the built environment.