From Scarcity to Emancipation: Renewing the Promise of Post-Industrial Liberation

    • 1407246785225
    • Presentation speakers
      • James E. Block, DePaul University, Chicago, USA
    Keynote Presentaton: From Scarcity to Emancipation: Renewing the Promise of Post-Industrial Liberation


    Herbert Marcuse announced in 1969 that for the first time ‘utopian possibilities are inherent in the technical and technological forces of advanced capitalism and socialism’. Decades later, we experience not transformation but regression to the enforced scarcities (and contradictions) of neoliberalism: an illusory ‘productivity crisis’ reinforcing workaholism, savage inequality, and rigid routinization beside addictive hyper-consumption, bloated elites, and unregulated corporate expansionism. Not only avoiding transformation, we have – even worse – ceased to recall its possibility. While neoliberalism has skillfully obscured the post-industrial future, its opponents acquiesce in the retreat. Why? Locked in traditional assumptions ourselves, fearing the magnitude of emerging shifts, we have resisted exploring and advancing the prospect of this full and emancipated humanity. To move beyond critique and fantasies of instantaneous transformation (obscuring the complexities of change), the looming question is to identify the evolving psychosocial values, priorities, and incentives animating mobilization for individual and collective liberation.

    I will first trace how post-industrialism overturned long-standing assumptions: the psychology of scarcity, requiring the sacrifice of individual dreams to unremitting work and productivity; expectations of greater abundance and individual fulfillment in turn eroded classic authority hierarchies and controls in politics and the workplace, religion and social institutions, schools and families. The theoretical challenge then is to identify the novel dimensions of a psychology embracing fulfillment and self-actualization along with specific social priorities and institutional processes for achieving non-hierarchical collective empowerment. I will, building upon Rousseau, the Frankfurt School, the American 1960s, and my own work, suggest how we might comprehend, access, nurture, integrate, and build upon this emerging humanity to create communities of creativity and expression, mutuality and democracy, play and engagement. After millennia of quiescent compliance and substitute gratification, advancing beyond the neoliberal cage is the call of our time.