Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams’s Inventing the Future argues that the contemporary left must revive its historically central mission of imaginative engagement with futurity. It must refuse the all-too-easy trap of dismissing visions of technological and social progress as neoliberal fantasies. It must seize the contemporary moment of increasing technological sophistication to demand a post-scarcity future where people are no longer obliged to be workers; where production and distribution are democratically delegated to a largely automated infrastructure; where people are free to fish in the afternoon and criticize after dinner. It must combine a utopian imagination with the patient organizational work necessary to wrest the future from the clutches of hegemonic neoliberalism.
Despite its political density I found ItF to be thoroughly readable. It’s also an exciting and motivating read. On the left, you might feel a bit downtrodden of late, and lamenting why the world the way it is. The ItF analysis of this is that the hegemony of neoliberalism was very cleverly instituted over several decades, weedling its premises into the background consciousness through thinktanks, placements in political institutions, etc, such that when the Keynesian economic era began to flounder in the 1970s, it simply seemed like there was only one answer to the question of what to do next – neoliberalism.
Where the left has failed in recent history is to do the same. Despite chronic recessions since the turn of the century, highlighting the paucity of neoliberalism as a valid system, the left simply hasn’t been in a position to offer an alternative. We should have been building up a body of evidence and opinion and mindshare over the last decades, such that our most progressive ideas were already pitched as the only alternative.
Srnicek and Williams make some bold demands in the book (and have elsewhere indicated that these are deliberately provocative, and perhaps not ever entirely attainable.) These are: full automation; reduction of the working week; and a universal basic income. Concomitant to that is a general diminishment of work ethic.