June 4 2016

Evgeny Morozov uncut

Evgeny Morozov is a busy guy, he had to take off right after his talk about “The Geopolitical Unconscious of Luxury Communism”. We grabbed him, ran from the National Thater to the Elephant Hotel in Weimar, hit the “record” button and asked him a few questions. For all who weren’t (and were) there, here’s a short, uncut Q&A.

Evgeny, could you recap what your talk was about?

Sure. Basically you have a giant political, financial and economic crisis in Europe and all over the world. Capitalism can no longer use its option of saving itself (the banks and finance) like it used to. So, it is going into the technology sector to do that. That’s the salvation option for the neoliberal elites. You have a challenge here to that project which is right wing conservatives, based on restoration of national sovereignty and based on limiting the powers of banks. The left is missing from the picture but it must develop a coherent strategy which could development a lot of this infrastructure for a proper communist future.

What’s the state of the political left nowadays? Is it able to develop such strategies at all?

In some countries the social democratic left is more to be situated in the center or in the right political spectrum. They no longer defend the things that the left traditionally defended. The radical left quite often is in a pathetic state. You have new parties emerging like Podemos in Spain and also the Five Star Movement in Italy which have an agenda that somewhat resembles the left. Yet, their approach of questioning of globalisation and trade also resembles the right. For them, to properly qualify as left, they have to rethink the productive industrial economy and rethink the ways in which new forms of ownership might go beyond private ownership.

Are there examples of such models that actually work?

There is a lot of talk about the commons paradigm, the notion that the citizens actually own things, not just nation states and corporations. In Italy there are lots of institutions that use commons as their model. Yet, we need to think through what that specific commons-based model means for intangible things like data.

You mentioned that capitalism is in crisis. Is it really doing so badly?

There are many symptoms of crisis that we see: You have huge unemployment in many European countries up to 40-45% among young people; you have people who are increasingly charged for services that used to be public; you have lots of turmoil in the streets; protests against privatization of infrastructure; the state’s services like health care, education and transportation are declining. So, symptoms of the crisis are not hard to find. Further, there is this continuous agenda of shrinking even more of what is left of the welfare state.

What do you think about luxury communism?

We don’t have the luxury to think about luxury communism. That’s the shortest answer to the question.

Do those terms even go together for you?

As a normative idea of having a regime where people who have produced values that allows the system to function – for example data -are entitled to harvest the  fruits of their labour, to relax and chill… I’m all behind it. The problem is, that you can’t just get there through experiments and design. You get there through clever political strategies. At this point they will involve political parties and not just design interventions.

Evgeny Morozov, Photo: Thomas Mueller
Evgeny Morozov, Photo: Thomas Mueller

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