“Is it utopian to believe we’re on the verge of an evolution beyond capitalism? Illustration by Joe Magee”
I was reminded of a social media phenomenon the other day while attending the Career Speakers Event for BCS students. Marty Klinkenberg, a sports reporter for Globe and Mail, was reminiscing about how the world of sports reporting — that he knew when he first entered the business — was all but gone. I think that this is a common thought, that social media has drastically changed not only the print world, but the way we communicate and form relationships with people and businesses in general.
While I agree that our society is evolving in this way, I do not think that it is anything that we haven’t seen before. Paul Mason wrote an article in The Guardian outlining his “post-capitalism” utopia that we have entered into with the introduction of new technology:
“Capitalism, it turns out, will not be abolished by forced-march techniques. It will be abolished by creating something more dynamic that exists, at first, almost unseen within the old system, but which will break through, reshaping the economy around new values and behaviours. I call this postcapitalism.”
I don’t know whether all of his claims can be anticipated, but you can certainly see the effects of technology on capitalism today. In the 20th century big businesses and the corporate world shut out the “little guy” and monopolized the market. With the introduction of new media and technology we’re seeing a shift from this cold cut corporate world to a new technologically driven one. Like Klinkenberg said, things are changing and the world that he knew is no longer going to be a reality anymore. However, through this technological shift we’re seeing a rise of independent newspapers, zines, YouTube stars, Etsy small businesses, Instagram models and the like. This alternative “rise to fame” certainly would never have come about in the old capitalist model, nonetheless this has increasingly become the norm. People want to see the more human side of business again. They want to see the behind the scenes of their favourite brand on snapchat; they want to get their order packaged in the mail with a handwritten note from the owner; they want all of this and it’s become that much easier to get and do for yourself.
Maybe it’s ironic that the more we move away from human interaction with our technology, the more we want to experience the more human side of things, but maybe it’s predictable. As I discussed these ideas with my dad he said he was reminded of Francis Fukuyama’s “End of History?” article that sparked controversy in 1989 stating that the last great idea has been expressed and the future will be the same, only more so. While Fukuyama’s last great idea was liberal democracy and its economy of laissez faire capitalism, perhaps he was right in some respects. Maybe unlike this new-information-postcapitalism-utopia Mason outlined as evolving, this shift is going back to something closer to what we used to know. We don’t live in a world where the major sports reporters are sitting around chomping on cigars in the press room, or where they can be easily flown around on their bosses dime like Klinkenberg experienced in his early career and so it is changing, but perhaps only changing as he knew it — not the world.
- Photo’s and quote from Paul Mason’s “The end of capitalism has begun” in The Guardian
- Francis Fukuyama’s “End of History?” article.