Detailed info about Samuel Alexander’s latest book

Steven Welzer
17 min readAug 17, 2022

Samuel Alexander’s growing corpus is significant in regard to what might conceivably be the most important movement “project” of our time: transitioning the ideology and praxis of the Left “from Red to Green.” This is based on lessons learned over the last century and a half suggesting that transcending capitalism won’t involve revolution or the chimerical idea of “the working class owning and democratically controlling” the industrial-state polity and economy. The transformation of our society necessitates evolution of our vision.

Alexander, et. al. provide that in their compilation: Post-Capitalist Futures: Paradigms, Politics, and Prospects. This book is part of a series: “Alternatives and Futures: Cultures, Practices, Activism and Utopias” edited by Anitra Nelson of the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute (University of Melbourne, Australia). Launched in 2021, the series explores twenty-first-century movements that challenge the economic and political order of global capitalism by developing new cultures and new practices, and campaigning for alternative futures.

Nelson writes:

Post-Capitalist Futures is the second book in our series. It includes a smorgasbord of analyses of where we are now and radical visions of post-capitalist futures where fair and just relationships and ecological sustainability are paramount. Certain contributors have particular foci and address specific questions: What can we elicit about futures from the forces of Right and Left competing to persuade the majority of societal discontents? What are possible futures for Chinese state capitalism? Why is diversity significant, from a community economies perspective? How might we best define the appropriate uses and control of technology to drive more just and sustainable futures? Which ways are optimum to deal with debts caused by falling output due to cuts in carbon emission and extensive investments needed to develop alternative energy supplies?

Other contributors explore deep system change. There are eco-socialist visions, from state-oriented and market-regulating plans for transformation to grassroots community modes of production networked across a pluriverse globe where market, money, and state dissolve into commoning and co-governance. Degrowth, which focuses on humanity living within Earth’s limits in equitable and convivial ways, offers redistributive state policies and community-based economic initiatives that inspire — and are inspired by — cultural acceptance of material sufficiency versus exponential growth. Strong arguments are made for direct provision of universal basic services, incorporating participatory democracy and guaranteed work, rather than a market-oriented universal basic income scheme.

In contrast to a materials- and energy-hungry, technology-driven Green New Deal, a transformation based on core human-oriented and earth-centered infrastructure is proposed. In terms of advances for first peoples and addressing conditions wrought by global warming, there is a call for pluralist, hybrid economies and renewal of cultural diversity, based on a politics and economics of localization and resistance, with decentralization and appropriate technologies supported by international alliances. In short, this collection offers an array of insights for those seeking inspiration in dark times, for reading and discussion groups, for undergraduates and academics in a range of fields. As Malcolm X said in 1962, “The future belongs to those who prepare for it today.”

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Synopsis of: Post-Capitalist Futures: Paradigms, Politics, and Prospects

Editors: Samuel Alexander, Sangeetha Chandrashekeran, Brendan Gleeson

CONTENTS

1. Introduction
By Samuel Alexander, Sangeetha Chandrashekeran, and Brendan Gleeson

Part I: Alternative Paradigms for Post-Capitalist Futures

2. The Race to Replace a Dying Neoliberalism
By Walden Bello
The swift spread, persistence, and massive economic impact of the novel coronavirus have stunned the globe and left people seriously pondering what the future will bring. This chapter argues that while the 2008 global financial crisis did not result in a fundamental challenge to the hegemony of neoliberalism, COVID-19’s coming upon a world that still had not fully recovered economically is likely to deepen neoliberalism’s ideological crisis, leaving the arena mainly to a struggle between progressive alternatives and the far right. While progressives are rich in ideas for a post-neoliberal organization of economic life, these have not achieved a critical mass when it comes to political organizing. The far right, on the other hand, partly by cherry-picking some progressive ideas but situating them within a right-wing gestalt, have had more success in this area. These ideas are explored with sensitivity to developments in both the global North and South.

3. Ecosocialism from a Post-Development Perspective
By Anitra Nelson
Historically, the dominant current in anti-capitalist critiques has been socialism. It has been revived in the twenty-first century in ecosocialist thought and practice, which recently has been challenged to embrace post-development perspectives and novel post-capitalist futures. A comparison of three works — the 2001 Ecosocialist Manifesto, the 2008 Belem Ecosocialist Declaration, and the 2017 Combined Strategy and Plan of Action of the First Ecosocialist International — shows that ecosocialism embraces diverse visions, from state-oriented and market-regulating plans for transformation to grassroots community-based modes of production.

4. Post-Capitalism Now: A Community Economies Approach
By Jenny Cameron
Community economies scholars and activists focus their attention on the economic diversity that already exists but which is marginalized each time the world is referred to as capitalist. For community economies proponents, diverse economic activities and relationships are the raw materials from which more ethical economies are already being wrought. Using examples from various urban contexts and ecovillages, this chapter provides examples of post-capitalist practices and highlights strategies that activists use to help strengthen them.

5. Collective Sufficiency: Degrowth as a Political Project
By Samuel Alexander and Brendan Gleeson
The degrowth movement calls for planned economic contraction of overdeveloped economies on the path to a steady-state or zero-growth economy. The deep decarbonization and resource reductions required for sustainable and equitable contraction would clearly require transformative shifts in the way economies are structured and resources distributed. This transition would also mean a cultural recognition that high consumption lifestyles are unsustainable and that only lifestyles of conservation, moderation, and “living lightly” are consistent with social justice and ecological limits. This vision of a post-capitalist political economy and culture challenges us to lay the seeds for an economics of material sufficiency. Social movements will be needed to help create the support for these structural and cultural shifts. This chapter examines degrowth as a post-capitalist political project, focusing on questions of transition.

6. China: Capitalism and Change?
By Michael Webber
After describing how capitalist production fits within China’s social and political system, Webber identifies three principal threats that are outside the control of capitalists. One is expanded control over production by the Communist Party of China (CCP), Xi Jinping’s current trajectory. Secondly, ecological limits threaten to impose the costs of pollution and climate change, against which the government offers the techno-market solution of modernization. Third is the peril of armed or cyber conflict with other countries. There are thus several possible paths for China: soft authoritarian capitalism, perhaps with market-led pro-environment policies; state-dominated organization of large-scale production, perhaps with state-led ecological modernization; and a dystopian future that involves geopolitical crises and/or internal unrest.

Part II: Governing for Post-Capitalist Futures

7. From Technological Utopianism to Universal Basic Services
By Boris Frankel
Proposals for post-capitalism can be divided into various forms. This chapter focuses on two of those: firstly, technological-utopian imaginaries based on developments within capitalist societies which theoretically can be applied to social change goals such as creating a “fully automated” commonwealth of abundance with networks of zero-marginal-cost products and services; secondly, those proposals which reject the idea of techno-fixes and conceive alternative socio-economic policies geared to social justice based on eco-socialism and degrowth in material production and consumption. This chapter outlines the strengths of universal basic services (UBS) and argues that UBS programs are more beneficial and realizable than universal basic income schemes as both a means of advancing the transition to post-capitalist societies and ensuring that any socially just alternative becomes environmentally sustainable.

8. Ecofeminist Political Economy: Critical Reflections on the Green New Deal
By Christine Bauhardt
Can the Green New Deal (GND) point the way to a post-capitalist future? Ecofeminist political economy maintains that this is only possible if social reproduction is considered. The unpaid work of women in the private sphere and women’s undervalued work in the labor market must be taken into account in a GND that strives for gender justice as well as ecological justice. The design of public infrastructures is an essential basis for this. Not only technical, but also social infrastructures must be included in the GND. It is important to understand infrastructures as “commons” and to orient their planning and financing towards the needs of social reproduction. But this also means abandoning the postulate of economic growth, which is a primary goal of typical state infrastructure policy. The policy of a post-capitalist GND is one that places human well-being needs at the center of its deliberations.

9. The Macroeconomics of Degrowth: Can Planned Economic Contraction Be Stable?
By Steve Keen
The growth paradigm of capitalism has energy-centric foundations, exemplified by the close correlation between GDP growth and energy use globally. Furthermore, the current magnitude of debt suggests that, for economic stability, growth must continue in order for that debt to be repaid. But various ecological pressures imply that the foundations of ongoing growth may not be available if societies decarbonize deeply and swiftly. Substantial contraction of human energy and resource use may be forced upon us, especially in the most developed regions of the world. It is both too late and also not feasible to achieve this by carbon taxes or pricing alone. A dual-price mechanism whereby every transaction requires both money and tradeable Universal Carbon Credits could ensure that the burden of income reduction falls on the rich rather than the poor. At the same time, we need to avoid having past private sector financial commitments cripple the post-carbon economy, via a Modern Debt Jubilee.

10. Post-Capitalist Techno-Futures: Beyond Instrumental Utopianism
By Sangeetha Chandrashekeran and Jathan Sadowski
The technology sector is at the forefront of capitalist accumulation today and should be a prime focus of post-capitalist visions. Progressive politics can do much to counter the self-interested techno-utopian visions of Silicon Valley elites by conjuring radical futures based on principles of social, economic, and racial justice and attuned to questions of class. We show how these visions must be engaged with the current struggles and conditions of exploitation. We advocate for radical futures that unsettle the balance of power, but rather than prescribe a vision we outline key principles that ought to guide such: Democratic Governance, Worker Power, Socially Beneficial Production, and Meaningful Labor.

11. Crises, COVID, and the Climate State
By Peter Christof
Capitalism in its present form cannot survive the continuing use of fossil fuels. Unmitigated, climate change will overwhelm many nation-states and radically alter the interrelationship of those that remain. Yet even if we exit fossil capitalism rapidly, the future of the existing international political order will be uncertain and the internal workings of many states radically altered by global warming and our responses to it.

Part III: Post-Capitalist Geographies and Resistances

12. Localization: The World Beyond Capitalism
By Helena Norberg-Hodge
Post-capitalist futures need to be localized, moving beyond the staggering waste and destruction of corporate globalization and profiteering. This will require a two-pronged approach of resistance and renewal. We need to both oppose the political forces driving further corporate domination, and actively create — or protect — a multiplicity of living, localized alternatives that can provide genuine material needs and social well-being while respecting and enhancing ecological diversity. The chapter discusses key structural changes towards localization in the following areas: land and farming, post-global business, finance and money, post-consumerism, reducing energy consumption, and reigning in tech.

13. Indigenous Australians and Their Lands: Post-Capitalist Development Alternatives
By Jon Altman
This chapter explores development alternatives that are emerging in remote Australia for Indigenous peoples who have repossessed their ancestral lands. Altman’s exploration is based on over 40 years of research as an economic anthropologist/comparative economist. He deploys a grounded model of actually-existing economies termed “the hybrid economy” to illustrate how, through their agency, Indigenous landowners are creatively reconfiguring and recombining elements of capitalist and non-capitalist forms of production. Customs and traditions that need to be legally demonstrated to secure landownership are being activated in pursuit of diverse livelihoods that include self-provisioning, the controlled commodification of culture, and the production of environmental services, including carbon emissions avoidance/sequestration and renewable energy mega-projects. The hybrid economy theorization challenges the envisioning of capitalism as the singular dominant mode of economy and could prove a harbinger of post-capitalist futures essential for Indigenous and non-Indigenous survival.

14. Environmental Justice Movements as Mediums of Post-Capitalist Futures: Perspectives from India
By Brototi Roy
Environmental justice movements provide resistances against and alternatives to projects of resource extraction that embody pre-existing inequalities. The latter tend to be envisioned in the name of “development,” yet deleteriously affect marginalized communities. Hence, those communities are often the frontline environmental defenders. For India, the Indigenous population called the Adivasis have faced the brunt of this capitalist growth model. In this chapter, Roy discusses how Adivasis have been resisting and providing alternate visions for post-capitalist futures, first by looking at a brief history of Adivasi mobilizations within the environmental justice movement in India, and then analyzing a case study from Kerala in South India. He also highlights what an Adivasi understanding of post-capitalist utopia entails. He concludes that future-oriented visions of universal well-being should include a decolonizing approach of learning from and with Adivasis.

15. Careful Thinking: Pensar Cuidando — Henvupen Yaconso
By Camila Marambio, Hema’ny Molina, and Bárbara Saavedra
Three authors and activists write collaboratively about the Patagonian peatbogs. The peatbogs have been degraded and continue to be endangered by numerous practices related to capitalist irresponsibility. The authors link the threat of exploitation of the Fuegian peatbog to the colonization of the First Nations’ Selk’nam peoples through state-sanctioned extermination policies. Repudiating the narrative of extinction, the authors compose a multi-vocal score that imagines futures of conservation, self-determination, and care.

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The book’s index can be viewed at:
https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/bbm%3A978-981-16-6530-1%2F1

NOTES ON CONTRIBUTORS

Samuel Alexander is a lecturer and researcher at the University of Melbourne, Australia, teaching a course called “Consumerism and the Growth Economy: Critical Interdisciplinary Perspectives” as part of the Master of Environment. He is also a research fellow at the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute and co-director of the Simplicity Institute. Alexander’s interdisciplinary research focuses on degrowth, permaculture, voluntary simplicity, “grassroots” theories of transition, and the relationship between culture and political economy. His recent books (co-authored with Brendan Gleeson) include Degrowth in the Suburbs (2019) and Urban Awakenings (2020).

Jon Altman initially trained as a development economist then as an anthropologist. He has undertaken field-based research on Indigenous development alternatives in remote Australia for over four decades. His approach deploys the theoretical lenses of economic hybridity emphasizing the resilience of non-capitalist production relations based on kinship and custom. He is currently an emeritus professor at the School of Regulation and Global Governance, the Australian National University, and a director of several not-for-profit organizations that support alternate development thinking, activism, and practice.

Christine Bauhardt is professor at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin where she heads the division of Gender and Globalization. She holds a PhD in political science and wrote her second book on the theory and politics of spatial and environmental planning. Her latest publication is the edited volume Feminist Political Ecology and the Economics of Care (with Wendy Harcourt), published in the Routledge Studies in Ecological Economics series. Her work focuses on feminist economics, eco-feminism, queer ecologies, and environmental politics with a special interest in technical infrastructures.

Walden Bello is the co-founder of and current senior analyst at the Bangkok-based Focus on the Global South and is International Adjunct Professor of Sociology at the State University of New York at Binghamton. He received the Right Livelihood Award, also known as the Alternative Nobel Prize, in 2003, and was named Outstanding Public Scholar of the International Studies Association in 2008. He is the author or co-author of 25 books, the latest of which is Counterrevolution: The Global Rise of the Far Right (2019). He served in the Philippines’ House of Representatives from 2009 to 2015, during which time he was the chairman of that body’s Committee on Overseas Workers’ Affairs.

Jenny Cameron is a Conjoint Associate Professor in the Discipline of Geography and Environmental Studies at the University of Newcastle, Australia. She is currently Deputy Chair and Secretary of the Community Economies Institute and was a founding member of the Community Economies Research Network. As an activist and academic she has been involved in community, research, and teaching activities that shed light on the economic diversity that already exists in the world and that forms the basis for building post-capitalist worlds now.

Sangeetha Chandrashekeran is a geographer at the University of Melbourne. She is Deputy Director of the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute and senior research fellow at the Center of Excellence for Children and Families over the Life Course. Sangeetha’s research examines issues of equity and justice in environmental change. She has focused on the energy transition in Australia and the role of the state in marketization of the sector.

Peter Christof is Senior Research Fellow with the Melbourne Climate Futures initiative and Associate Professor with the School of Geography at the University of Melbourne. His research focuses on Australian and international climate and environmental policy, and his books include Globalization and the Environment (with Robyn Eckersley, 2013) and Four Degrees of Global Warming: Australia in a Hot World (2013).

Boris Frankel is Honorary Principal Fellow, Melbourne Institute of Sustainable Society, University of Melbourne. He is a long-established author, teacher, and media commentator. His most recent books are the trilogy Fictions of Sustainability: The Politics of Growth and Post-Capitalist Futures (2018), Capitalism Versus Democracy? Rethinking Politics in the Age of Environmental Crisis (2020), and Democracy Versus Sustainability (2021).

Brendan Gleeson is Professor of Urban Policy Studies and Director of the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute at the University of Melbourne. He researches urban and social issues. His recent books, Degrowth in the Suburbs (2019) and Urban Awakenings (2020) were written with Samuel Alexander.

Steve Keen is Professor of Economics and Distinguished Research Fellow at the Institute for Strategy, Resilience and Security at University College London. A specialist in complex systems modeling in economics, he has publications on non-equilibrium macroeconomics, environmental economics, the role of energy in production, critiques of Neoclassical and Marxian economics, monetary dynamics, empirical data on causes of financial crises, and economic methodology. He is author of Debunking Economics (2001, 2011), Can We Avoid Another Financial Crisis? (2017), and The New Economics: A Manifesto (2021). He is also winner of the Revere Award for being the economist “who first and most clearly anticipated and gave public warning of the Global Financial Collapse and whose work is most likely to prevent another GFC in the future.”

Camila Marambio (Papudo, Chile) is a curator and founded Ensayos in 2010 motivated by the strong sentiment that Tierra del Fuego is the center of the world. Marambio holds a PhD in Curatorial Practice from Monash University, Naarm/Melbourne; an MA in Modern Art: Curatorial Studies from Columbia University, NYC; and a Master of Experiments in Art and Politics, Sciences Po, Paris. She is postdoctoral fellow at The Seedbox: A Mistra-Formas Environmental Humanities Collaboratory, Linkoping University, Sweden. She is co-author of the books Slow Down Fast, A Toda Raja with Cecilia Vicuña (2019) and Sandcastles: Cancer as Dangerous Talent with Nina Lykke (forthcoming, 2022).

Hema’ny Molina (Santiago, Chile) is a Selk’nam writer, activist, craftswoman, and grandmother. Molina is president of the Selk’nam Corporation Chile, formed in 2015, which aims to dislodge the indigenous community from the stigma of “extinction.” She is also a founding member of Hach Saye, a family-run Selk’nam cultural organization.

Anitra Nelson is an activist scholar affiliated with the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute, University of Melbourne. She is author of Beyond Money: A Postcapitalist Strategy (2022) and Small is Necessary: Shared Living on a Shared Planet (2018), co-author of Exploring Degrowth: A Critical Guide (2020), and co-editor of Food for Degrowth: Perspectives and Practices (2021) and Housing for Degrowth: Principles, Models, Challenges and Opportunities (2018).

Helena Norberg-Hodge is a pioneer of the new economy movement, and has been promoting an economics of personal, social, and ecological well-being for more than 40 years. She is a recipient of the Alternative Nobel Prize, the Arthur Morgan Award, and the Goi Peace Prize. Author of the inspirational classic Ancient Futures, she is also producer of the award-winning documentary The Economics of Happiness. Helena is the founder and director of Local Futures and The International Alliance for Localization.

Brototi Roy researches environmental justice movements, with a focus on India, using the lens of ecological economics and political ecology. She has a PhD from the Institute de Ciencia i Tecnologia Ambientals, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (ICTA-UAB). She is the co-founder of Degrowth India Initiative and the current President-Elect of Research & Degrowth, the Barcelona-based collective on research and activism on degrowth.

Bárbara Saavedra (Santiago, Chile) is a biologist specializing in ecology and conservation and has been the director of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) for Chile since 2005. Since then, she has led the implementation of a new science-based, multiple-scale, locally integrated, globally relevant conservation model at WCS Karukinka Natural Park. She received her PhD in Evolutionary Biology from the University of Chile. She is director of the Ecological Society of Chile and member of the Civil Society Council of Institute of Human Rights of Chile, where she connects her vision of justice with biodiversity conservation. As a member of the eco-feminist collective Ensayos, she raises the voice of conservation and ecology beyond NGOs. Her advocacy successes at WCS include the protection of 70,000 hectares of peatlands through the Chilean Ministry of Mining and the declaration of the Admiralty Sound as a Marine Protected Area.

Jathan Sadowski is a research fellow in the Emerging Technologies Research Lab in the Faculty of Information Technology, as well as in the Data Program of the ARC Center of Excellence for Automated Decision-Making and Society, both at Monash University. His work studies the political economy of technology, labor, and capital. He is the author of Too Smart: How Digital Capitalism is Extracting Data, Controlling our Lives, and Taking Over the World (2020).

Michael Webber is Professor Emeritus in the School of Geography, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Melbourne. An economic geographer by training, he has spent the last several decades conducting research in and on China, with a specific focus on environmental management during the emergence of capitalism. His recent books include Making Capitalism in Rural China (2012) and (with Jon Barnett and others) Water Supply in a Mega-City (2018). He is currently the lead investigator on a large research project about Chinese hydropolitics.

Selected References

Bello, Walden. 2021. “The West Has Been Hoarding More Than Vaccines.” New York Times, May 3.

Block, Fred. 2019. “Problems with the Concept of Capitalism in the Social Sciences.” EPA: Economy and Space 51 (5): 1–12.

Eagleton, Terry. 2015. Hope Without Optimism. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Fisher, Mark. 2009. Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative? Winchester: Zero Books.

Gálvez, Sarita. 2019. A Quipu of the Chilean Chair in Post-Pinochet Chile: Propositions Towards South-South Pedagogical Possibilities. PhD Monash, Melbourne.

Gibson-Graham, J.K. 2006. Post-Capitalist Politics. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Haraway, Donna. 2016. Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene. Durham: Duke University Press.

Harvey, David. 2014. Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism. Oxford University Press.

Hesse, Herman. 1972. The Glass Bead Game. London: Penguin Books.

Hickel, Jason. 2017. The Divide: A Brief Guide to Global Inequality and its Solutions. Cornerstone: William Heinemann.

Kamenka, Eugene, ed. 1983. The Portable Marx. London: Penguin.

Kapferer, Bruce, and Dimitrios Theodossopoulos, eds. 2019. Democracy’s Paradox: Populism and its Contemporary Crisis. New York: Berghahn.

Klein, Elise, and Carlos Eduardo Morreo, eds. 2019. Postdevelopment in Practice: Alternatives, Economies, Ontologies. London: Routledge.

Kolinjivadi, Vijay, Diana Vela Almeida, and Jonathan Martineau. 2019. “Can the Planet Really be Saved in Time? On the Temporalities of Socionature, the Clock and the Limits Debate.” Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space.

Kothari, Ashish, Ariel Salleh, Arturo Escobar, Federico Demaria, and Alberto Acosta, eds. 2019. Pluriverse: A Post-Development Dictionary. New York: Columbia University Press.

Mamdani, Mahmood. 2020. Neither Settler nor Native: The Making and Unmaking of Permanent Minorities. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Peck, Jamie. 2019. “Problematizing Capitalism(s): Big Differences?” EPA: Economy and Space 51 (5): 1–7.

Piketty, Thomas. 2014. Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Salleh, Ariel. 2020. “Re-worlding — with a Pluriversal New Deal.” Arena Quarterly №4, December 2020. Accessed 10 Feb 2021.

Streeck, Wolfgang. 2014a. “How Will Capitalism End?” New Left Review 87: 35–64.

— — — — . 2014b. Buying Time: The Delayed Crisis of Democratic Capitalism. London: Verso.

Williams, Raymond. 1983. Capitalism. In Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society. Revised ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Wright, Erik Olen. 2010. Envisioning Real Utopias. London: Verso.

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Steven Welzer

The editor of Green Horizon Magazine, Steve has been a movement activist for many years (he was an original co-editor of DSA’s “Ecosocialist Review”).