This article is about the concept in economic thought. For the book by Paul Mason, see PostCapitalism: A Guide to our Future.

Post-capitalism includes a number of proposals for a new economic system to replace capitalism. According to some Classical Marxist and some social evolutionary theories, post-capitalist society 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

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.[1]

In 1993, Peter Drucker outlined a possible evolution of capitalistic society in his book Post-Capitalist Society.[2] 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 in 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.[3] Consumers would subscribe, for a cost, and producers would assume that everything is reproduced and freely distributed through social networks.


Socialism often implies public ownership of companies and centralized planning of the economy. For anti-socialists, this sounds like totalitarianism where the government controls every aspect of a citizen’s life. For pro-socialists, socialism holds the hope of eliminating class divisions, economic exploitation, and the ceaseless drive for profit. The failure of the Soviet Union to successfully manage production, the economy, or social issues has led many to be, at least, cautious or, at most, outright opposed to socialism.

It is argued whether both public ownership and centralized planning are needed for a successful post-capitalist economy. In his book PostCapitalism: A Guide to our Future, Paul Mason argues that centralized planning, even with the advanced technology of today, is unachievable.[1] 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.[4][5][6]

As Robin Hahnel states:[7]

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:

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.[8] 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.”[9] 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:[9]

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.



See also


  1. 1 2 Mason, Paul (2015). PostCapitalism: A Guide to our Future. Allen Lane. ISBN 9781846147388.
  2. Drucker, Peter F. (1993). Post-Capitalist Society. HarperInformation. ISBN 978-0-7506-0921-0.
  3. Schwartz, Peter (1 March 1993). "Post-Capitalist". WIRED. Retrieved 17 March 2016.
  4. Albert, Michael; Hahnel, Robin (1978). Unorthodox Marxism: An Essay on Capitalism, Socialism, and Revolution. South End Press. ISBN 0896080048.
  5. Albert, Michael; Hahnel, Robin (1981). Socialism Today and Tomorrow. South End Press. ISBN 0896080773.
  6. Albert, Michael; Hahnel, Robin (1981). Marxism and Socialist Theory: Socialism in Theory and Practice. South End Press. ISBN 0896080765.
  7. Hahnel, Robin. "What Is To Be Done?". Retrieved 17 March 2016.
  8. Hahnel, Robert (2012). Of the People, By the People: The Case for a Participatory Economy. AK Press Distribution. ISBN 0983059764.
  9. 1 2 Albert, Michael; Hahnel, Robin. "Participatory Planning" (PDF). Retrieved 17 March 2016.
  10. Schweickart, David (2002). After Capitalism. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. pp. 22–23. ISBN 0-7425-1299-1.
  11. Heinlein, Robert (2003). For Us, The Living. Scribner. p. 233. ISBN 0-7432-5998-X.

Further reading

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