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Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  1,579 ratings  ·  160 reviews
A major new manifesto for a high-tech future free from work

Neoliberalism isn’t working. Austerity is forcing millions into poverty and many more into precarious work, while the left remains trapped in stagnant political practices that offer no respite.

Inventing the Future is a bold new manifesto for life after capitalism. Against the confused understanding of our high-tec
Paperback, 245 pages
Published September 22nd 2015 by Verso
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Jul 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is particularly useful for its comprehensive history of neoliberalism and especially how it went from an ideology that at one time was very much on the fringe and understood as belonging only to the loony right to becoming central to our society and virtually ‘common-sense’. The authors here say the left needs to similarly have a long term plan to change the paradigm our society takes for granted and therefore to change what is considered to be common sense. Given the abject failures o ...more
Michael Chance
May 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
The first half is a convincing and much-needed critique of left wing localism/horizontalism, holding up the left's inadequacy in contrast to the success of the neoliberal project.
I enjoyed the macroeconomic approach, looking at the bigger picture from pre-industrialism into the future, and found that the concept of surplus in the labour market provided a very simple and useful way to explain the dire need to move beyond the industrial work ethic, into a new kind of common sense.
In taking this
Feb 03, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: theory
> sums up my own thoughts on what they call 'folk political' tendencies in the current popularity of anarchist and anarchist-like radical formations like The Invisible COmmitte and Tiqqun, the popularity of locally-produced goods, etc. However, it focused on its limitations while not looking at its potentials for organizing and establishing counter-hegemony

>demand automation? demand more free time? the book's insistence to go beyond the 'old' demands of labor to accommodate new realities is fine
Wendy Liu
So I'm someone with a technology background who recently got into leftist politics, and I feel like this book was written for me. It's a short book (less than 200 pages before endnotes) and so it's obviously not meant to be a comprehensive guide to how to get to a post-work world, but rather an outline of what we'd need to consider in order to make one (a marathon not a sprint, etc). I found it very inspiring and I think it would resonate even with those who haven't read any other Verso books be ...more
Alex Sarll
When did 'modernisation' become a euphemism for life getting worse in the interests of the rich? Why do 'Conservatives' now advocate change, while the left is too often reduced to mere resistance or a desire to turn the clock back? What happened to bold visions of a better future for everyone?

This is a brave and necessary book, which makes a powerful case for a serious rethink. Disdaining the current trend for 'folk politics', though sympathetic to the urges behind it, they sensibly note that "
Kevin Carson
I approached it eagerly because it belongs to a broader genre -- postcapitalism, postscarcity, cyberutopianism, autonomism, etc -- that's the main focus of my current research. It was well worth reading for their positive agenda, but required some suppression of the gag reflex for all the disingenuous strawmanning of horizontalism and prefigurative politics. To the extent this is the showcase manifesto of left-accelerationism, it definitely illustrates some problems with that milieu.
Aung Sett Kyaw Min
Jan 07, 2019 rated it it was ok
In order to regain our ground as Leftists, we must recognize the limitation of folk politics.
Folk politics (politics of immediacy) fetishizes activism for activism's sake without regards for long terms strategy and goals and is insufficient to challenge neoliberal capitalism's global hegemony. Hegemony necessarily requires long term, strategic planning across the board, traversing not only institutions both inside and outside the state but also infrastructure as well.
With the aim of constructi
Feb 10, 2016 rated it liked it
i liked the critique of folk politics

i didnt like the critique of actually existing socialism which seems historically ignorant

verdict: pretty fly for a trot guy
Peter Harrison
Dec 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: economics
This is a superb book, precisely the sort of analysis that the left is lacking at the moment.

Srnicek and Williams start with a critique of the modern left. After the collapse of communism and the manifest failure of social democracy in the face of the neoliberal assault of the last 30-40 years Srnicek and Williams show how the left has retreated into defensive tactics that lack any sense of overarching strategy. The term they use for this approach is "folk politics", meaning a defensive withdraw
Sep 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sf2016
The gist is: rather than embracing 'folk politics' like crunchy Occupy make-no-demands bullshit, the left should be embracing a modern vision of the future: work should not be mandatory to survive and most human labor should be automated. Capitalism is absolutely not going to get us there so we need a post-capitalism system in place in order to progress to the next mode of being human.

Worth reading if you work in tech.
Jordan Peacock
Nov 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
While it's not perfect by any stretch, it gets more than enough right to be an excellent primer on why we need a politics reconfigured around work. More importantly, it structures its demands to be mutually reinforcing. And their insistence upon developing an organizational ecology (akin to that built by the neoliberals after the 50s) is spot on. It's an easy read suitable for a general audience, and the assumed familiarity with leftist tropes is kept to a minimum.
Bryan Alexander
Inventing the Future offers a vision for a new radical politics. It begins with a critique of current left-wing thought and practice, then launches into a call for new thinking that accounts for likely future developments, especially automation.

I should really begin this review with some throat-clearing. I came to Inventing the Future with an uneven background. In some ways, I'm well prepared; in one, I'm not.

Since 1980 or so I've read widely and, occasionally, deeply in the left wing political
Kevin McDonagh
Sep 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: politics, philosophy
My heart felt thanks to the books authors for stretching to such enormous lengths of research and giving me enough reading material for the next few years! I expect they felt that such in-depth citations were required before being so refreshingly optimistic and utopian.

This is an engrossing dissection of modern politics offering a rarely readable academic clarity on Neoliberalism’s rise post WWII and an incredibly illuminating view on the role of the Mont Pelerin Society(MPS) https://www.montpe
Jan 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: political
I really enjoyed "Inventing the Future" as it provided an insightful look at the potentials for the left to transform from a "folk" political structure into the hegemonic entity that would be necessary to overcome neoliberal practice which, up until recently, has dominated Western political discourse. They argue that neoliberalism will not last forever, and the left must use its creative abilities to determine what will come next. Given the rise of right wing populism (culminating in the electio ...more
Eric Dirnbach
Jan 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
A really interesting book that tries to lay out a strategy for a post-capitalist future. It criticizes the current state of much of the Left as practicing what they call "folk politics" which is kind of a wishful thinking mix of Occupy style encampments, direct action protests, horizontalism, and small scale prefigurative projects. Basically they don't like the Anarchist approach as a full strategy though they think these things are useful as part of a broader movement. They list some broad aspi ...more
Kari Barclay
Jul 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book essentially told me that most of my community organizing work is misguided. And I think it's right. Srnicek laments the tendency toward "folk politics," a kind of localized, short-term organizing that only advocates resistance to global capitalism. Srnicek's solution of organizing for a post-work future is inspiring, and the book presents a compelling case of how the present has the seeds for such a move.
Apr 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned
this book contains both an extremely important critique of the left and the framework for a post-capitalist world. inventing the future argues that the left today must abandon the fetishization of folk politics and immediate, small scale results; must reclaim modernity and create a long-term counter-hegemonic movement in order to challenge neoliberal capitalism. essential reading for leftists.
Mar 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
A world without work is a nice thought but i doubt the Left as it is can rally to abolish capitalism and the culture of neoliberalism without shedding a lot blood. But one can dream. Reading this book helps in that dreaming department. Hah.
Clare Siobhan
Oct 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Not entirely perfect, but brilliant and still worthy of 5 stars.

I particularly enjoyed the analysis of the left's failures over recent decades and the tendency to folk politics. Spot on.

Looking forward to reading more from these authors.
Adrian Hon
Feb 26, 2018 rated it liked it
It's a nice idea for the left to rally around a hopeful vision of the future without work, but this book was too light on specific recommendations. And despite the fact they decry impenetrable academic language, I suspect this too will be needlessly inaccessible for many readers.
Jul 29, 2017 rated it liked it
We need to think big. The natural habitat of the left has always been the future, and this terrain must be reclaimed.

Argues the Left needs to go beyond shortsighted 'folk politics' and start thinking big again. Instead of full employment, the Left needs to start thinking about automation and full unemployment. The author's prescription:
A twenty-first-century left must seek to combat the centrality of work to contemporary life. In the end, our choice is between glorifying work and the working cl
Darran Mclaughlin
Dec 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
A book that has kick-started a lot of discussion and thinking on the Left. Originally published in 2015, as I was reading it I had a sense of recognizing actions and strategies recommended in this book as things I was witnessing or engaging in today. They have added an afterword for the paperback edition released in 2016 in which they point towards the surprising and positive development of the rise of Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders. The authors open with a critique of what they call 'folk pol ...more
Feb 13, 2019 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: post-lefties, post-workers, jacob readers, DSA-ers
Shelves: economics, politics
Compared to most other post-work theories this book sets out to form a systematic approach to the technological abolishment of capitalism through what they call 'ecology of organizations' (I.e just a bunch of different political groupings). As much as its a quite the pleasant read, especially after reading a bunch of quite shitty post-work theories for my Uni course, this book is both insightful into the usage of a Universal Basic Income aswell as automation without loosing track of its limitati ...more
Mikael  Hall
Mar 24, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: pockets
An interesting attempt at presenting an alternative path for the contemporary left. Sadly it fails to ground it arguments in anything else than empty posturing and metaphysical normative claims. The understanding of technology and limitations thereof are astounding and makes the arguments hard to sell. Other than a interesting albeit quite superficial critique of "folk-politics" it has little to come with. The lack of what we could call an immanent critique and inability to ground their argument ...more
Oct 11, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, change
Everyone not happy with the current state of the world should take a look at these ideas. The current left is ineffectual, wage labor continues to take more from people and being disheartened with the future is commonplace.

The authors point out that a useful left should group around a plan to progress ourselves into an utopia instead of clinging to outdated, simpler socialist ideas and isolated ephemeral actions. It is refreshing to see possible solutions to our current problems framed in such a
Oliver Mann
Feb 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Ever read a book that sums up and explains your thoughts and feels more simply and excellently than you ever could?
Erik Carter
Mar 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Some good ideas and analysis on our current crises. The language used a little too many assumed definitionS for my taste, caused me to put it down for a month.
Jan 12, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: abandoned
Read half of it for a reading group. The stuff on 'folk politics' was half decent, but really just boiled down to critiques of anarchist organisation which have been made better elsewhere. You'd be better off reading Engels' On Authority, or Marx, or pretty much any big communist thinker on the topic. They're often more concise and cutting too.

The rest was incomprehensible idealistic drivel that even the rest of the reading group (who were generally positive about the book) thought was crap.

May 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book. The premise is that the neoliberal status quo fails on a number of levels and that the work of the left is to regain mantle of "common sense" - that we can can eliminate poverty, improve healthcare and education, and remove suffering in work. The book lays out why this is needed, the benefits of a postcapitalist society powered by automation, and some suggestions for how ideas can change over time. The book is dense but very interesting - would highly recommend.
Aug 03, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A post-work proposal that must be read by anyone. Reading Inventing the Future reminds me to have a dream. Like how Nikolai Fedorov dreamed his proposal of 'Common Task'—a total reconstruction of social relations, economy and politics for a single goal of achieving immortality for humankind—Inventing the Future aims to develop a total society where post-work is plausible by deconstructing social relations, economy and politics of our neoliberal driven world. Half of this book is an engaging crit ...more
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Nick Srnicek is an American writer and academic. He is currently a lecturer in Digital Economy at King's College London.

Born in 1982, Srnicek took a double major in Psychology and Philosophy before completing an MA at the University of Western Ontario in 2007. He proceeded to a PhD at the London School of Economics, completing his thesis in 2013 on "Representing complexity: the material construct

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“As we have seen, neoliberalism propagated its ideology through a division of labour – academics shaping education, think tanks influencing policy, and popularisers manipulating the media. The inculcation of neoliberalism involved a full-spectrum project of constructing a hegemonic worldview. A new common sense was built that came to co-opt and eventually dominate the terminology of ‘modernity’ and ‘freedom’ – terminology that fifty years ago would have had very different connotations. Today, it is nearly impossible to speak these words without immediately invoking the precepts of neoliberal capitalism. We all know today that ‘modernisation’ translates into job cuts, the slashing of welfare and the privatisation of government services. To modernise, today, simply means to neoliberalise. The term ‘freedom’ has suffered a similar fate, reduced to individual freedom, freedom from the state, and the freedom to choose between consumer goods.” 2 likes
“Direct democracy, prefigurative politics and direct action are not, we hasten to add, intrinsically flawed.19 Rather than being denounced in themselves, their utility needs to be judged relative to particular historical situations and particular strategic objectives – in terms of their ability to exert real power to create genuine lasting transformation. The reality of complex, globalised capitalism is that small interventions consisting of relatively non-scalable actions are highly unlikely to ever be able to reorganise our socioeconomic system. As we suggest in the second half of this book, the tactical repertoire of horizontalism can have some use, but only when coupled with other more mediated forms of political organisation and action.” 2 likes
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