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Cory Doctorow: “I am skeptical that capitalism has a future”


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Jacobin interviews noted sci-fi author Cory Doctorow about the surveillance state, Edward Snowden, and utopia. Check out an excerpt below, or the full text here.

Do you think all of the encroaching infringements on our privacy can be defeated at the ballot box?

I’m an instrumentalist. I believe that when you’re confronted with a wicked problem if you can find an intervention that will make a significant difference, then that intervention is worthwhile on its own because it may suggest new interventions along the way.

The first casualty of any battle is the plan of attack. The Hari Seldon or Karl Marx view of political change — where you plot a fifteen-year program — is a useful fictional exercise to get everyone’s vision aligned, but don’t mistake it for a set of instructions or a roadmap because you don’t get from A to B that way.

Instead, you should just take your first step on the way to B, and you’ll discover entirely novel things along the way. I have learned this doing start-ups, parenting, and doing politics. Anything big and complicated that is subject to exogenous shocks is never going to be a thing you can plot.

For example, I feel like getting more people to vote is useful in and of itself. Maybe you can defeat a bad law. Maybe CISA [Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act], which just passed, wouldn’t have passed if our voter turnout had been 15 percent higher. In the world of CISA, it’s going to be harder to get other stuff done, whether through direct action or working within the system, so with every step we take, in and out of the system, we need to work together.

I am skeptical that capitalism has a future. I am less skeptical that bourgeois democracy has a future, although I don’t think it’s a slam dunk.

Image of Cory Doctorow via Jacobin.