Post-capitalist reading in a time of pandemic
This is less of a blog post and more of a collection of essential readings at this time. I’ll be adding to it (especially if you send me links, hint hint). There are books in here: please consider ordering them from your local bricks & mortar bookstore.
[Update March 21st, 2020: adding new contributions, but this is obviously going to get a bit long, so starting to categorize. Also it occurs to me that this collection is VERY male-centric, and mostly white. This is because dudes are socialized to be overconfident and women are socialized to be overcautious. Contributions by women & Black/PoC/indigenous/disabled etc gratefully accepted.
Latest update: May 18th 2020. Please leave suggestions in replies?]
Building back better: proposals for post-COVID transformation
- Ten principles for building back better to create wellbeing economies post-covid by Milena Buchs & team showcases examples of inspiring actions around the world that are moving us towards a wellbeing economy.
- After the pandemic: a ten-point plan for the collective provision of basic needs by the Foundational Economy Collective. The coronavirus has made the foundational economy highly visible. Policy makers need to focus on these essential goods and services.
- Degrowth: new roots for the economy. As long as our economy is dependent on growth, a recession will be devastating. Instead we need a planned, sustainable, and equitable downscaling of the economy.
Connecting the pandemic and social/economic change
- How to fix the world by Laura Basu, editor of Our Economy at Open Democracy. A fantastically comprehensive piece, covering economics, globalization, feminism, democracy, communication/tech, social movements. Read it!
- In times of climate breakdown, how do we value what matters? by Ian Gough. The coronavirus has shown us who the key workers are. We need a new theory of value if we are to face an even bigger threat.
- The Tragedy of Growth by David Barmes of Positive Money. To protect human wellbeing and avoid environmental disaster, we must escape the growth paradigm once and for all.
- Building Back Better Depends on Addressing the New Divides in our Economy by Katherine Trebeck. The spread of covid-19 shines a light on our economy — its inequalities, power structures and absurdities. The opportunity is to address some of the cleavages between parts of our society by building a wellbeing economy …
- Green jobs are the answer to the coronavirus recession by Kate Aronoff. The climate case for making the government the employer of last resort.
- The Unexpected Reckoning: Coronavirus and Capitalism by Radhika Desai. The coronavirus pandemic has provoked a severe economic and social crisis, and a reckoning with capitalism’s unmanageability.
- We can waste another crisis, or we can transform the economy by Kate Aronoff, Alyssa Battistoni, Daniel Aldana Cohen and Thea Riofrancos. It’s a perfect time to pour massive amounts of money into green public investment, both to shore up the economy and to put us on a path toward a low-carbon future.
- The Covid-19 crisis is a chance to do capitalism differently. By Mariana Mazzucato. Government has the upper hand for the first time in a generation. It must seize the moment.
- Johnson says this is war. But his response to Covid-19 is laughably inadequate. By Aditya Chakrabortty. We are facing a depression unless governments go big and fast. But Britain is charging into battle armed only with a peashooter.
- We can’t let this economic crisis go to waste by Thomass Hanna and Carlos Santos Skandier. As the coronavirus threatens financial markets, any government intervention must be in close alignment with a green industrial strategy.
- Pandemic Insolvency: Why This Economic Crisis Will Be Different by Bue Rübner Hansen. Essential read on the differences between the coronavirus crisis and the financial crisis, and the crucial role of social/political movements and labour.
- Should we be scared of the coronavirus debt mountain? by Adam Tooze. The pandemic has necessitated huge borrowing — but post-crisis austerity would be the very worst way to deal with it.
- Pandemonics, a story of life versus growth by Julia Steinberger (me). Economic growth prevents us from acting on either climate or coronavirus, for three distinct reasons, each worth understanding and overcoming: growth as the goal, growth as governance, and growth as distraction.
- The Great Pause by Amanda Janoo and Gemma Bone Dodds. The coronavirus has brought our economy to a standstill. But instead of rebuilding a broken system, we must explore how we can build back better.
- Feminist degrowth reflections on COVID-19 and the politics of social reproduction by Feminisms and Degrowth Alliance (FaDA). The crises provoked by the COVID-19 pandemic have revealed for all what many have long known: the foundations of the wealth and well-being of the world rest upon the sphere of social reproduction and the labor of care.
- After the pandemic: designing a just and resilient economy for all (video below). Conversation between Jon Erickson, Juliet Schor, Nate Hagens and Dale Willman: with crisis comes opportunity; perhaps this time it’s a chance to shape a new economic story to address both the current global health crisis and the growing climate emergency.
Coronavirus, systems thinking and social change
- Coronavirus, synchronous failure and the global phase-shift by Nafeez Ahmed. A systems analysis uncovering the light at the end of the tunnel.
- What will the world be like after coronavirus? Four possible futures by Simon Mair. “From an economic perspective, there are four possible futures: a descent into barbarism, a robust state capitalism, a radical state socialism, and a transformation into a big society built on mutual aid.”
- 10 steps for rebalancing our world in times of crisis by Donnie Maclurcan. The coronavirus outbreak makes one thing abundantly clear: we’re interconnected and in this together. Yet our greatest vulnerability comes from a system in which money, resources, and power have accumulated for far too long.
- Coronavirus: we’re in a real-time laboratory of a more sustainable urban future by Paul Chatterton. The lockdown has thrown us all into a real-time laboratory full of living examples of what a more sustainable future might look like. We have a perfect opportunity to study and explore which of these could be locked in to build sustainable, and safer, cities.
Connections between climate, environment and coronavirus
- The 6-episode Heated podcast series by Emily Atkin on the connections between COVID19 and climate is unmissable. Send her & team some $.
- It Took A Pandemic To Prove Individual Actions Alone Won’t Solve The Climate Crisis by Amy Westervelt. The coronavirus reveals in stark terms the limits of our personal choices to affect climate change.
- Ecological Reflections on the corona virus. By Dr Vandana Shiva. One Planet, One Health — Connected through Biodiversity: From the forests, to our farms, to our gut microbiome.
- COVID-19 Can Help Wealthier Nations Prepare for a Sustainability Transition. By Maurie Cohen, Joseph Sarkis, Patrick Schröder, Magnus Bengtsson, Steven McGreevy, and Paul Dewick. The coronavirus situation provides, challenging though they may be, several leverage points for opening pathways to a sustainability transition.
- Coronavirus: The lacklustre UK measures are a repeat of our failures on climate change by James Dyke. We can only conceive of incremental change, even when disaster is staring us in the face.
- Bringing climate justice thinking to the COVID-19 pandemic, by Teresa Anderson & Niclas Hällström. Like the climate crisis, coronavirus and its spiralling impacts will hit women, the poor and marginalised the hardest — that is not an acceptable trade-off for reducing emissions
Political change, political movements and coronavirus
- Coronavirus is a historic trigger event — and it needs a movement to respond by Paul Engler. Even in times of social distancing, building a collective, social response to the pandemic is our only salvation.
- Declaration of African Intellectuals Concerning COVID-19 Crisis signed by hundreds of African intellectuals in Africa and in the diaspora. “We must instead be seized by the real urgency, which is to reform public policy, to make them work in favor of African populations and according to African priorities. In short, it is imperative to put forth the value of every human being regardless of status, over and beyond any logic of profit-making, domination or power capture.”
- Screen New Deal by Naomi Klein. It has taken some time to gel, but something resembling a coherent Pandemic Shock Doctrine is beginning to emerge.
- It might take a while before history starts again by Anton Jäger. COVID capitalism will be the bastard child of the ‘populist explosion.’
- Planning for the World After the Coronavirus Pandemic. By David Steven & Alex Evans. In just a few months, the tightly connected systems of a globalized world have transformed the novel coronavirus from a handful of cases in China to a global pandemic. But we have yet to see an international response that matches the scale of the threat.
- Inequities in COVID-19 are tragic but preventable. By Elaine Hernandez, Courtney Boen and Richard M. Carpiano. We must address the social and economic conditions that put people at risk of health risks.
On crisis and social change (for better or worse)
- Naomi Klein: The Shock Doctrine and The Battle for Paradise.
- Paul and Mark Engler: This Is An Uprising! [This book is required reading. You must read it. Now.]
Economic transformation for society and environment
- Jason Hickel’s recent piece in the Correspondent Outgrowing growth: why quality of life, not GDP, should be our measure of success . See also his book The Great Divide.
- A whole bunch of alternative economic proposals curated by The Next System project can be found here: New Systems, possibilities and proposals.
- Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Economics obviously underpins a lot of this thinking,
- As does Tim Jackson’s excellent and updated Prosperity Without Growth (2nd edition).
- Degrowth’s foremost intellectual Giorgos Kallis has been writing about the necessity of moving away from growth for environmental and social reasons. An in depth book review of his book Degrowth written by Dustin Mulvaney can be found here.
- The Climate Mobilization’s Ezra Silk’s Victoria Plan probably deserves revisiting, since it’s wartime-scale mobilization proposal for economic transformation.
General books on environment and socio-economic transformation
- George Monbiot — Out of the Wreckage.
- Arturo Escobar — Designs for the Pluriverse.
- Rob Hopkins — From What Is to What If.
- Benedict MacDonald — Rebirding.
- The mushroom at the end of the world: on the possibility of life in capitalist ruins, by Anna Lowenhaupt-Tsing.