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Marx, Capitalism, and the Sharing Economy

Are AirBnB and Zipcar leading us into communism?

Or, less sensationalistically: Does the rise of the Sharing Economy represent the beginning of late capitalism’s final evolution into communism, as predicted and advocated by Karl Marx over a century ago?

To explore this issue, I had a great conversation with Mark S. Byrnes, Associate Professor of History at Wofford College; and William Carleton, startup lawyer, columnist, and blogger at Counselor @ Law, America’s #1 most popular Securities Law blog.

Our conversation also ranged over public utilities and monopolies, the rise of the railroads, The Circle and 1984, Theodore Roosevelt and the Progressive Era, 3-D printing, the Federal Reserve, the NSA, the Affordable Care Act, and the Surveillance-Social Network Complex. It was a lot of fun, I learned a lot, and the conversation changed my mind– which is always the best recommendation.

Evgeny Morozov recently wrote a critique in The New Yorker that compares today’s Maker movement to the Arts and Crafts movement of the early 20th century, and argues that it is likewise doomed if it continues ignoring the fight for justice, and fails to discuss institutional and political change. As an activist and former MAKE editor, I agree. Morozov’s essay reminds me of this conversation with Byrnes and Carleton, which focuses on different aspects of the same historical era, and comes to similar conclusions.

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