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BOOK REVIEW: "Four Futures" by Peter Frase

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BOOK REVIEW: Four Futures: Life After Capitalism by Peter Frase (Verso Books) 2016

For anyone despairing over last autumn’s presidential election outcome – and the toxic circus that led up to it – I will gently push you toward the bookshelf and encourage you to grab that book there, the one with the blue cover – Four Futures: Life After Capitalism by Peter Frase, which actually was published approximately one month before Trump was elected to the highest office in the land.

You know, the one that has only stroked his ego. The one where he can send our young people to war. Where he can piss off a nuclear power and it’s curtains …

So, actually, I urgently hope you will pick up Frase’s book, primarily because we can’t let another fascist like Trump into office – ever again. So, what comes next? Well, it depends on whether our future is one of abundance or scarcity.

Rosa Luxemburg, the great early twentieth-century socialist theorist and organizer, popularized a slogan: ‘Bourgeois society stands at the crossroads, either transition to socialism or regression into barbarism,’” writes Frase. “That’s truer today than it has ever been.”

And with two socialist paths and two barbaric paths examined in Four Futures – communism, socialism, rentism and exterminism – meaning that if there is equality and abundance, we get communism.

As Frase’s two-by-two grid explains, if we have equality and scarcity, socialism is more likely the outcome. And with hierarchy and abundance, rentism (as explained a few years ago in Thomas Piketty’s book Capital in the Twenty-First Century, reviewed here) is likely. And at the end of the “Mad Max” chart is exterminism, where hierarchy and scarcity are combined to make a veritable hell on earth for those living under it.

Or, as Frase writes of the exterminism endgame: “So what happens if the masses are dangerous but are no longer a working class, and hence of no value to the rulers? Someone will eventually get the idea that it would be better to get rid of them.

That is the worst-case scenario, it would seem. And yet there are those who think that even if it came to that, there wouldn't be a genocide. Folks would simply do more with less as our robot overlords took control and made sure we didn't rise up against them.

Frase goes through our four most likely, post-capitalism options. Oh, and if you think capitalism, as it is experienced today, is sustainable, well, Frase is very convincing that it is certainly not. So, it will be up to our future leaders - if they have humanity's best interest at heart - to go forward towards that egalitarian, money-free, Star Trek society that many futurists say the world needs to aim for.

Sure, it's a utopian notion, but at our current rate, with downward trends across the board in economic growth, social equality and financial stability for all, those who hope to lead us to a brighter day better start planning for the future, whatever future that may be.

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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