Discussing the critique of “the new communism” in the Guardian recently, Stuart Jeffries wrote that the fear is that “nasty old left farts” such as Jacques Rancière “will corrupt the minds of the innocent youth.” In conversation with Jeffries, however, Rancière himself defends the relevance of his and his contemporaries’ thinking in 2012, explaining:
“The gravediggers are still here, in the form of workers in precarious conditions like the over exploited workers of factories in the far east. And today’s popular movements – Greece or elsewhere – also indicate that there’s a new will not to let our governments and our bankers inflict their crisis on the people.”
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A young generation of digital natives are "revolting against...the processing of information", according to Paul Mason in a recent interview with New Scientist, and it is having global repercussions, shaking both tyrants and the world economy.
In his recent address to LSE, available now as a video and podcast, Paul Mason delves into the complex behavioural mechanics and social and economic phenoma that, for him, suggest the uprisings that began in 2011 may be something very unusual: not a normal business cycle, or a "50-year Kondratiev Wave", but an epoch-changing convergence of economic collapse, technological revolution and new networked subjectivities.
First outlining the collapse of North African regimes throughout the Arab Spring through the analogy of a Shakespearean history plays, Mason goes on to look at the shifting change in peoples' relationship with power structures, and how the development of new communication technologies have opened up public discourse about those power structures.
Unable to maintain a narrative of dignity and respect, the old authoritarians who maintained social order at the price of justice saw their ideological foundations slip away in the face of public derision. Like those very Shakespeare plays, Mason says, "the innkeepers and gravediggers sound like philosophers", whilst the strong-men and their courtiers look increasingly like fools, holding on to the certainties of old dogmas that are being washed away.
In a thought-provoking video interview with Oliver Laughland for the Guardian, Paul Mason elaborates on how technological development and the banking crisis have "nullified" the ideological impasse of the past 30 years, and how the decodified, radicalised youth springing up in its wake are beginning to tear up decades of stagnation with a new, networked form of activism.
"It is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism" – so wrote Fredric Jameson in Archeologies of the Future, and this, for Mason, best sums up the "Roveian Reality" which shaped the popular imagination since the 1970s:
The social theorist Mark Fisher calls this "capitalist realism"... There is no alternative to the reality you can't escape from- the reality of marketisation, neoliberalism, the individualisation of people's lives, the retreat of a generation in between the two earbuds of the iPod, into a cocoon... I think Fisher, in that concept, really succinctly put his finger on what the intellectual zeitgeist of, broadly speaking, the Left, had been for 20 years.
Is Paul Mason "an old testament, doom-laden prophet"? That was the impression Sir David Frost got from Mason's new book, Why It's Kicking Off Everywhere, but the BBC economics editor begs to differ. Rather, he has been inspired by seeing a young generation "unplug the earbuds of the iPod and listen to what's going on", taking to the streets in the cause of social, political and economic change. In an interview with Sir David for Frost over the World on Al-Jazeera, Mason said that "a loss of fear and a loss of apathy" amongst protestors—particularly a core of educated, networked young graduates—who have "had their future cancelled" was what has stimulated anti-authoritarian and anti-capitalist political protests across the world.