Yanis Varoufakis’ Another Now is an economics book with a twist; it’s also a sci-fi novel. 

Written months into the pandemic, this timely book challenges us as to how, or even if, we will make the necessary changes coming out of this crisis to avoid the same fate again.

In the year 2025, three friends confront the existence of an alternate universe with a shared history up until the 2008 financial crash. Suspending their disbelief, they each approach this new reality from their own standpoint; Eva, a libertarian and ex-banker; Iris, a Marxist-Feminist and Costa, a techno-futurist.

In this Other Now, capitalism has been phased out, our workplaces have been democratised, universal basic income has been implemented, and the stock market has completely disappeared.

The thought experiment that Varoufakis presents us with seeks to shatter those words so famously uttered by Margaret Thatcher: ‘there is no alternative.’

Making the same mistakes

There is much talk presently of a ‘new normal’. That when we come out of this pandemic we will learn from the mistakes that made so many of us vulnerable during this crisis.

Varoufakis uses the 2008 financial crash as a warning of our past mistakes. Namely, how quickly we tend to go back to our old ways once the dust settles.

Costa says this in the book:

‘[the 2008 crisis] could have been used to transform society radically. Instead, we not only rebuilt the world as it has been before but, by bailing out the banks and making the working people pay off the debt, we had doubled down on it’.

It’s painful how relevant that passage is right now. The UK Conservative government has already put out feelers that they may impose another regime of austerity to pay for the costs of the pandemic.

Yet again, though it is the working people who have lost the most whilst the richest have seen their money swell, it seems the economic burden will fall hardest on those least able to afford it.

As we’ve now discovered, austerity as a solution is economically illiterate. We also know, thanks to multiple studies, that it made us more vulnerable to the present crisis. The prospect of having to return to the very regime that led us to have one of the highest Covid-19 mortality rates in the developed world may seem farcical, but we should never underestimate the status quos’ ability to maintain itself.

The GameStop prophecy

One of the many prophetic parts of Another Now is how it seems to have willed into existence the idea of working people organising some form of financial engineering to threaten stock markets through a ‘digital rebellion’.

In the book, Varoufakis called them the ‘Crowdshorters’; those who in the alternative reality played a central role in a more successful version of the Occupy Wallstreet movement. 

These last couple of weeks we’ve seen a mass of anonymous Reddit users come together to dramatically raise the stock prices of GameStop, causing hedge funds which bet against it to lose in the billions.

Another Now makes the point that ‘by privatising everything, capitalism had made itself supremely vulnerable to financial guerrilla attacks’. In other words, capitalism’s and the hedge funds’ greed-driven desire to privatise and deregulate, has made them vulnerable to the very system they usually enjoy sole exploitation of.

In a recent interview with Channel 4, Varoufakis readily admitted that what we’ve been seeing with the GameStop story isn’t exactly what he envisioned, nor is it an ultimate attack on capitalism. But he did point out that it, ‘contains elements of a popular movement … a 21st [Century] version of collective action’.

Covid and Capitalism

Just as the UK’s experience of this pandemic wasn’t inevitable, neither is the economic system that underpins our society. This second point is central to Another Now, and also Varoufakis’ previous bestseller, Talking to My Daughter About the Economy.

What is undeniably true is that our economic system has been a huge determinant in our experience of the pandemic.

In the book’s Other Now world, it’s hard to imagine people in their democratised, ‘flat-management’ workplaces being left as vulnerable during a pandemic as they have been in Our Now.

Final thoughts

It is important that unlike 2008, we use this crisis as a turning point. Change doesn’t automatically follow big events, despite how much they might highlight certain vulnerabilities. Change needs to be fought for.

That being said, although a crisis presents the perfect opportunity for change, it is not something that we should solely rely on. As Iris passionately says:

‘[T]he truth is we face a fork in the road every day of our lives. Every single day we fail to take advantage of opportunities to change the course of history’.

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