Inventing the Future by Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams

This updated text answers some of the criticisms made of an earlier version of the work. While an optimistic argument for a universal basic income takes centre stage, the book is based on disillusionment. It is in part driven by a desire to theorise the perceived failure of the Occupy movement. Hence it arguably underestimates the positive legacy of this activism in influencing mindsets.

The account is informed by a profound dissatisfaction with existing neoliberalism. However, it overstates the hegemony of neoliberal values in Western societies. The international financial crisis did not usher in a new world of progressive ethics, but it did trigger several state responses to market failure. Neither fiscal stimulus nor bank nationalisation are policies associated with neoliberal orthodoxy. Unemployment has also been limited by innovative monetary policies.

The effect of exaggerating the contemporary dominance of neoliberal thought is to distort the picture of the real challenges facing communities. A universal basic income might alleviate poverty, but it may not help deal with the ecological crises to come. If it was applied clumsily it could even exacerbate climate change. Nevertheless, the ambition of the thinking in the text is praiseworthy in that it has the capacity to prompt necessary debate:

“Occupations were purported to prefigure a new world; but even if that new world has yet to emerge, the movements certainly showed participants what was possible with political solidarity.”

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