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Post-capitalism includes a number of proposals for a new economic system to replace capitalism, examine more advanced forms, or otherwise speculate on the fate of the current form of the social order. According to some Classical Marxist and some social evolutionary theories, post-capitalist societies may come about as a result of spontaneous evolution as capitalism becomes obsolete. Others propose models to intentionally replace capitalism. The most notable among them are socialism and anarchism.

Transition forces

In 1993, Peter Drucker outlined a possible evolution of capitalistic society in his book Post-Capitalist Society.[1] The book stated that knowledge, rather than capital, land, or labor, is the new basis of wealth. The classes of a fully post-capitalist society are expected to be divided into knowledge workers or service workers, in contrast to the capitalists and proletarians of a capitalist society. In the book, Drucker estimated the transformation to post-capitalism would be completed in 2010–2020.

Drucker also argued for rethinking the concept of intellectual property by creating a universal licensing system.[2] Consumers would subscribe, for a cost, and producers would assume that everything is reproduced and freely distributed through social networks.

In 2015, according to Paul Mason, the rise of income inequality, repeating cycles of unemployment and inflation, and capitalism’s contributions to global warming had led both economists and philosophers to begin seriously considering post-capitalistic societies. Post-capitalism is expected to arise with further advances in automation and information sharing – both of which cause production costs to approach zero.[3]

Technological drivers of post-capitalism

The emergence of post-capitalist dynamics were made possible through three major changes that were brought by the evolution and increasing sophistication of information technology. A first driver is a new dynamic that information technology brought to the workplace. Through increased connectivity the reachability of employees was improved and the lines between working hours and free time became blurred.[4] In addition to that, the technological era led to an abundance of information that is easily retainable for everyone. While some industries only continued to exist due to information scarcity and secrecy, the market became disrupted by the emergence of new competitors that were able to enter the market and benefit from large sources of publicly-available information. A result of this was the increase in acquisition activities since the early 2000s which tried to counter decreasing margins through consolidation and monopoly building. A third dynamic that emerged from new technology was crowd-funding and crowd-sourcing. Crowd-funding led to a new option for corporate finance, which was often achieved for socially-accepted innovations. Crowd-sourcing on the other hand challenged the traditional employee-employer relationship under capitalism as people started to voluntarily contribute to product developments with a distinctive skill, such as programming or designing. A major reward for people engaged in crowd-sourcing is not monetary compensation but the intrinsic reward of having a stake in an active development.[5]


Socialism often implies public ownership of companies and a planned economy, though it is argued[by whom?] whether either are essential features. In his book PostCapitalism: A Guide to our Future, Paul Mason argues that centralized planning, even with the advanced technology of today, is unachievable.[3] Alternatively, Michael Albert and Robin Hahnel argue that central planning is key to creating a participatory economy.

For post-capitalism to come from a socialist standpoint, a political and cultural transformation would need to occur alongside the economic transformation.[6][7][8]

As Robin Hahnel states:[9]

Our defense strategy—and we will need one—must be centered on organizing for massive resistance and non-compliance since no elite, no matter how well armed, can rule unless we, the people, carry out their orders.

Helpful definitions involving socialism:

  • Socialism, an economic system based on public or cooperative ownership of the means of production where production is carried out to directly produce use-value, that includes a moneyless form of accounting such as physical resource accounting or labor-time, and based on the direct production of utility rather than on the capitalist laws of accumulation and value. Some models of socialism imply economic planning for the allocation of the factors of production in place of capital markets, while other models of socialism retain market-based allocation of capital goods. Some Marxists believe Socialism would eventually in turn evolve into Communism.
  • Planned socialism, a type of socialism where some form of economic planning substitutes markets for allocating the factors of production and for coordinating the economy. There are various types of planning, including central planning and decentralized planning; material balance planning, input-output planning and computerized planning.
  • Market socialism, a type of socialism based on socialization and public or cooperative ownership of the means of production, but retains monetary calculation and market competition and utilizes markets as the primary way of allocating the factors of production.
  • Communalism, a political theory based on the writings of Murray Bookchin. Bookchin developed Communalism after he broke with anarchism believing it to be individualist and lifestylist. It is based on libertarian municipalism, confederalism, and social ecology.

Participatory economy

In his book Of the People, By the People: The Case for a Participatory Economy, Robin Hahnel describes a post-capitalist economy called the participatory economy.[10] The book ends with the proposal of the Green New Deal, a package of policies that address climate change and financial crises.

The participatory economy focuses on the participation of all citizens through the creation of worker councils and consumer councils. Hahnel emphasizes the direct participation of worker and consumers, rather than appointing representatives. The councils are concerned with large-scale issues of production and consumption, and are broken into various bodies tasked with researching future development projects.

In a participatory economy economic rewards would be offered according to need, the amount of which would be determined democratically by the workers council. Hahnel also calls for “economic justice” by rewarding people for their effort and diligence rather than accomplishments or prior ownership. A worker’s effort is to be determined by their co-workers. Consumption rights are then rewarded according to the effort ratings. The worker has the choice to decide what they consume using their consumption rights. Hahnel does not address the idea of money, currency, or how consumption rights would be tracked.

Planning in a participatory economy is done through the councils. The process is horizontal across the committees, as opposed to vertical. All council members, the workers and consumers, participate directly in planning, unlike in Soviet-type economies and other democratic planning proposals in which planning is done by representatives. Planning is an iterative procedure, always being changed and improved upon, that is accomplished at the level of either work or consumption. All information and proposals are freely available to everyone, those inside and outside of the council, so that the social cost of each proposal can be determined and voted on. Long-term plans such as structuring public transportation, residential zones, and recreational areas, are to be proposed by delegates and approved by direct democracy (i.e. voting by the population).

Hahnel argues that a participatory economy will return empathy to our purchasing choices. Capitalism removes the knowledge of how and by whom a product was made: “When we eat a salad the market systematically deletes information about the migrant workers who picked it.”[11] By removing the human element from goods, consumers only consider their own satisfaction and need when consuming products. Introducing worker and consumer councils would reintroduce the knowledge of where, how, and by whom products were manufactured. A participatory economy is expected to also introduce more socially oriented goods, such as parks, clean air, and public health care, through the interaction of the two councils.

For those that call the participatory economy utopian, Albert and Hahnel counter:[11]

Are we being utopian? It is utopian to expect more from a system than it can possibly deliver. To expect equality and justice—or even rationality—from capitalism is utopian. To expect social solidarity from markets, or self-management from central planning, is equally utopian. To argue that competition can yield empathy or that authoritarianism can promote initiative or that keeping most people from decision making can employ human potential most fully: these are utopian fantasies without question. But to recognize human potentials and to seek to embody their development into a set of economic institutions and then to expect those institutions to encourage desirable outcomes is no more than reasonable theorizing. What is utopian is not planting new seeds but expecting flowers from dying weeds.



  • Economic democracy, a socioeconomic philosophy that establishes democratic control of firms by their workers, and social control of investment by a network of public banks.[12]
  • Heritage Check System, a socioeconomic plan that retains a market economy, but removes fractional reserve lending power from banks, and limits government printing of money to offset deflation with money printed being used to buy materials to back the currency, pay for government programs in lieu of taxes, with the remainder to be split evenly among all citizens to stimulate the economy (termed a "heritage check" for which the system is named). As presented by the original author of the idea, Robert Heinlein, in his book For Us, The Living: A Comedy of Customs, the system would be self-reinforcing, and eventually result in a regular heritage checks able to provide a modest living for most citizens.[13]

See also


  1. ^ Drucker, Peter F. (1993). Post-Capitalist Society. HarperInformation. ISBN 978-0-7506-0921-0. 
  2. ^ Schwartz, Peter (1 March 1993). "Post-Capitalist". WIRED. Retrieved 17 March 2016. 
  3. ^ a b Mason, Paul (2015). PostCapitalism: A Guide to our Future. Allen Lane. ISBN 9781846147388. 
  4. ^ N. Korody. "Architecture after capitalism, in a world without work". Retrieved 25 Jun 2017. 
  5. ^ P. Mason. "Three dynamics leading to post-capitalism". Retrieved 25 Jun 2017. 
  6. ^ Albert, Michael; Hahnel, Robin (1978). Unorthodox Marxism: An Essay on Capitalism, Socialism, and Revolution. South End Press. ISBN 0896080048. 
  7. ^ Albert, Michael; Hahnel, Robin (1981). Socialism Today and Tomorrow. South End Press. ISBN 0896080773. 
  8. ^ Albert, Michael; Hahnel, Robin (1981). Marxism and Socialist Theory: Socialism in Theory and Practice. South End Press. ISBN 0896080765. 
  9. ^ Hahnel, Robin. "What Is To Be Done?". Retrieved 17 March 2016. 
  10. ^ Hahnel, Robert (2012). Of the People, By the People: The Case for a Participatory Economy. AK Press Distribution. ISBN 0983059764. 
  11. ^ a b Albert, Michael; Hahnel, Robin. "Participatory Planning" (PDF). Retrieved 17 March 2016. 
  12. ^ Schweickart, David (2002). After Capitalism. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. pp. 22–23. ISBN 0-7425-1299-1. 
  13. ^ Heinlein, Robert (2003). For Us, The Living. Scribner. p. 233. ISBN 0-7432-5998-X. 

Further reading

  • Albert, Michael. Parecon: Life After Capitalism. London: Verso, 2003.
  • Ankerl, Guy C. Beyond Monopoly Capitalism and Monopoly Socialism: Distributive Justice in a Competitive Society. Cambridge MA: Schenkman, 1978
  • The Associative Economy: Insights beyond the Welfare System and into Post-Capitalism
  • Mason, Paul (2015). PostCapitalism: A Guide to our Future, London: Allen Lane. ISBN 9781846147388.
  • Shutt, Harry (2010). Beyond the Profits System: Possibilities for the Post-Capitalist Era. Zed Books. ISBN 978-1848134171
  • Srnicek, Nick and Alex Williams. Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work. London: Verso, 2015. ISBN 1784780960
  • Steele, Ramsay Steele (1999). From Marx to Mises: Post-Capitalist Society and the Challenge of Economic Calculation. Open Court. ISBN 978-0875484495
  • Wright, Erik O. Envisioning Real Utopias. London: Verso, 2010.
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