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Thinking About Fully Automated Luxury Communism

Another world is possible and it is coherently presented in Aaron Bastani’s new book entitled Fully Automated Luxury Communism: a Manifesto (Verso).

The revolution is here and its main protagonist is technology.

Bastani writes with almost messianic verve on how capital is about to transform itself into labor.

It’s all about humanity accelerating the possible practices and uses of the information age which will/is revolutionizing everything from energy production to food consumption.

And he has a point. After all, humanity has been changing itself and its environment through technology for well over a million years.

As Bastani describes it, we have gone through three Great Disruptions: the first was Agriculture, the second the Industrial Revolution and the third which is just getting started is the Age of Information.

The third age will be one where supply vastly overwhelms demand. A world where energy, material resources, and information of all kinds will be cheap and abundant. In short, a world where communism, as Marx intended it, will be possible.

As Bastani says, if it isn’t luxurious it can’t be communism.

Here, Bastani develops the thesis that technology is a necessary but not sufficient catalyst for ushering in the necessary material conditions for communism. The other condition is a fundamental change of social system which replaces capitalism’s ideological focus on scarcity and a society motivated and structured by the profit motive.

In short, without revolutionary technological advance there cannot be satisfactory and sustainable material abundance which is the prerequisite for communism. A world where work is akin to play and man’s fundamental physical needs are met. In this case through a combination of robotic automation, AI, genetic engineering, and, yes, even asteroid mining.

While some of Bastani’s futurist visions may seem over the top, much of it is well within the realm of possibility within a few decades time if not earlier. Even if prophecy is often a doomed and dismal business, Bastani’s central premise that man is able to utilize the laws of physics to extend, deepen, and enrich his quality of life has been proven time and again since at least the Age of Enlightenment.

At a moment in time where negativity seems to be all around us, it is refreshing that someone young and from the left (Bastani is an ardent supporter and media spokesman for Jeremy Corbyn) has the courage to bring forth a political manifesto that is vibrantly optimistic. And as he often reminds us, links himself securely to communism’s founder in his understanding of the importance of technology for revolutionary societal change

 

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Dan Corjescu teaches Political Philosophy at Zeppelin University in Friedrichshafen, Germany.

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