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Four Futures: Life After Capitalism

An exhilarating exploration into the utopias and dystopias that could develop from present society
Peter Frase argues that increasing automation and a growing scarcity of resources, thanks to climate change, will bring it all tumbling down. In Four Futures, Frase imagines how this post-capitalist world might look, deploying the tools of both social science and speculative fiction to explore what communism, rentism, socialism and exterminism might actually entail.

Could the current rise of real-life robocops usher in a world that resembles Ender’s Game? And sure, communism will bring an end to material scarcities and inequalities of wealth—but there’s no guarantee that social hierarchies, governed by an economy of “likes,” wouldn’t rise to take their place. A whirlwind tour through science fiction, social theory and the new technologies already shaping our lives, Four Futures is a balance sheet of the socialisms we may reach if a resurgent Left is successful, and the barbarisms we may be consigned to if those movements fail.

Reviews

  • “This book is an exercise in public thinking as a political act, charting courses for movement-builders and citizens. In a project of that sort, a somewhat hysterical dystopia is worth the time of day.”
  • “Frase injects a sorely needed dose of reality to the conversation, and the result is invigorating ... I lost sleep over it.”
  • “Are the robots eating our jobs? Will technology set us free? These questions aren’t new, but Frase’s approach to answering them is refreshingly inventive. Four Futures is a thought-provoking work of political speculation. This incisive little book offers the vital reminder that nothing is set in stone—or silicon—and that in order to fight for a better world we first need to be able to imagine it.”
  • “An engaging thought experiment on the intersection of technology and the environment. Indeed, as we ponder the interplay between digital abundance and physical scarcity, the digital industrialist solutions of most thinkers in this space pale in comparison to Frase’s more open-minded, less deterministic understanding of the future unfolding before us.”
  • “A remarkably clear-eyed view of the futures we’re facing, bringing humor and intelligence to the lab of speculative fiction to create four smart and sharply lit early warning signals.”
  • “Brexit looms. Trump leers. Populism shouts. Reactionary politics casts long shadows. The right and left tear at themselves and stretch outwards. International tensions simmer. This seems like an appropriate moment for re-envisioning, and contributions to this process are arriving at some pace. Peter Frase's engaging short book Four Futures: Life After capitalism is another addition to this collective reimagining.”

Blog

  • What can Star Wars and Star Trek really tell us about the future?

    In an excerpt from his new book Four Futures: Life After Capitalism, Peter Frase discusses how science fiction can help us understand the future.

    One way of differentiating social science from science fiction is that the first is about describing the world that is, while the second speculates about a world that might be. But really, both are a mixture of imagination and empirical investigation, put together in different ways. Both attempt to understand empirical facts and lived experience as something that is shaped by abstract—and not directly perceptible—structural forces.



    Certain types of speculative fiction are more attuned than others to the particularities of social structure and political economy. In Star Wars, you don’t really care about the details of the galactic political economy. And when the author tries to flesh them out, as George Lucas did in his widely derided Star Wars prequel movies, it only gums up the story. In a world like Star Trek, on the other hand, these details actually matter. Even though Star Wars and Star Trek might superficially look like similar tales of space travel and swashbuckling, they are fundamentally different types of fiction. The former exists only for its characters and its mythic narrative, while the latter wants to root its characters in a richly and logically structured social world.

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  • Verso's Philosophy and Theory Bookshelf


    A reading list of selected books from our Philosophy and Theory shelves, including two of our biggest books this year - Grand Hotel Abyss and Reading Capital - now back in stock!

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  • Emerging Futures: A Bookshelf



    In this moment of wide-scale rejection of establishment politics and the global rise of a right wing populist movement, we need utopian and radical visions of society more than ever.

    This is not escapist wishful thinking but a reimagining of society as one that values people over profits, that rules democratically and collectively, that provides for the needs of all citizens. In this calamitous time, utopian thinking can inform our social movements and our strategies for building a better future.

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