The key lesson of Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams’ Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work (Verso, 2015) is summed up in an epigram from Jodi Dean: “Goldman Sachs doesn’t care if you raise chickens.” (26) This new book encouragse us to think big, to organize around ideas that scale. As such its useful corrective to those flavors of political thought and action that want to privilege the local and the ethical.
“The ambition here is to take the future back from capitalism.” (127) Which would be all well and good if there still was a future. The encounter that never arrives in Srnicek and Williams (hereafter S+W) is with, say, the work of John Bellamy Foster or Jason Moore, which would seriously question whether one can still think of a social or political future without thinking about the Anthropocene. The accumulated molecular waste products of modernity now cycle through the whole earth system, undermining its relative stability. The gritty facticity of the world rather puts a damper on dreaming of accelerating through the rough on into the smooth.
It does indeed appear, as S+W say, that the commodity form has colonized the future. Here in the over-developed world, we can have a shiny new tech, but always bound by obsolete social relations. Organized labor has had its power diminished to the point where cannot even demand social democratic alternatives.