Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Wikipedia And The End Of Capitalism

It looks like us old Marxists will get our wish after all. Capitalism is in its last days.

Yep, it's on its way out, and what will bring it down is Wikipedia. Such is the topic of a Guardian column by Paul Mason, a British journalist who writes about economics. He uses the predictive power of history to show how the changes now taking place in the economy, that are being ushered in by the information age, are similar to other great economic transformations -- feudalism to mercantile capitalism and that to industrial capitalism -- and will propel the world economy into a kind that's already evident here and there in what is sometimes called the sharing economy. People trading goods and service, basically.

New currencies, new institutions, are already springing up to make manifest the changes being forced by the information economy. It's a rather dense essay in places, but two points caught my attention. One is that despite the fear of many progressives like myself that the government might sell off or put controls on the internet, like they do indeed have in places like China, and subvert its democratizing potential, the internet is such an integral part of the economy already that they don't dare mess with it.

And he mentions in passing the example of Wikipedia, which is being constructed by and is run by volunteers, and has no ads, and has destroyed the encyclopedia business. Corporations like Encyclopedia Britannica no longer own the information they used to sell to us, and it's an indication that the efforts of corporations to control and capitalize on data is going to end up being futile. Most of the data available on the internet belongs to all of us already. It's a hopeful article. It's honest, too, about the failures of the Left, but if we can get beyond Capitalism I don't really care.






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