The Politics of Postcapitalism: Labour and Our Digital Futures

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This article introduces the Special Issue on the Politics of Postcapitalism. Considering the theoretical foundations, empirical perspectives and political ramifications of claims made about a coming ‘post-work’ or ‘post-capitalist’ society, it maps existing debates through a discussion of two key recent texts, Paul Mason’s Clear Bright Future and Aaron Bastani’s Fully Automated Luxury Communism. It first surveys how the relationship between labour market trends, technological change and wider political-economic shifts is articulated in the postcapitalist literature. It then explores how concepts from Marx are deployed to depict social relations as a constraint on technological development and its utopian potentialities, leading to political demands for new class actors and electoral blocs centring on the new forms of economic and political activity associated with digital networks. It also considers the role of the state and how this theoretical and political approach envisions historical change, situating utopian visions of an incipient postcapitalist alternative to capitalism within the contemporary political context of authoritarian populism and and challenges to liberal democracy. Finally, it explores the continuing relevance of humanism as a critical counterpoint to the social and philosophical agenda of present-day ‘posthumanism’. It is concluded that, in unfavourable political conditions, it would be strategically unwise to stake too much on an overoptimistic approach to the unfolding future. This outlook, it is suggested, carries considerable risks and consequences for a contemporary left in search of a viable electoral coalition and route back to power.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)275-286
Number of pages12
JournalPolitical Quarterly
Issue number2
Early online date23 Apr 2020
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2020

Structured keywords

  • Digital Societies
  • Global Political Economy
  • Perspectives on Work
  • MGMT Work Organisation and Public Policy
  • MGMT theme Global Political Economy
  • MGMT theme Innovation and Digitalisation
  • MGMT theme Work Futures


  • Postcapitalism
  • Post-Work
  • Posthumanism
  • Marxism
  • Labour
  • Politics


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