An excerpt follows, visit Futuress.org to read the published article:
We struggle to imagine a world without police, prisons, or capitalism, myself included. We’re beholden to a crisis of imagination which is, in many ways, symptomatic of the “disaster capitalism” of which Naomi Klein writes: Catastrophic (often humanmade) moments in which “we are hurled further apart, when we lurch into a radically segregated future where some of us will fall off the map and others ascend to a parallel privatized state.”
Detroit, Michigan—where I live—is a city defined by manufactured disasters and disasters of manufacturing: The abandonment by the auto industry and the subsequent mismanagement by the apparatus of the City itself decades later have unmistakably shaped life in Detroit. The fallout of these crises left behind thousands of stranded workers, literal industrial and residential ruin, structural decay, streets in disrepair, gutted houses and gutted homes and gutted neighborhoods, disinvestment in people and place, a tragedy and a “beautiful wasteland” as described by Rebecca Kinney in Beautiful Wasteland: The Rise of Detroit as a Post-Industrial Frontier. The “New Detroit”—the shiny, saccharine, “revitalized” downtown—is the parallel privatized state that Klein referenced. It is the prize of catastrophe awarded those who stand to benefit from this radically segregated future.
We are convinced en masse that the capacity to “speculate,” to construct futures, is the exclusive domain of those who’ve mastered speculation in a neoliberal sense. Only through the specialized techniques of contrived calculations, computational sciences, and statistics can we model and predict the future. In The Future as Cultural Fact, Arjun Appadurai writes that the future has “been more or less completely handed over to economics.” Speculation has become the purview, exclusively, of those who command enough capital to make new worlds appear out of ruins or thin air. “To most ordinary people—and certainly to those who lead lives in conditions of poverty, exclusion, displacement, violence, and repression—the future often presents itself as a luxury, a nightmare, a doubt, or a shrinking possibility.”
To borrow from Appadurai, what’s needed, in a space where the capacity to speculate is denied, is a politics of hope which depends on our capacity to “convert uncertainty into risk” by—in my estimation—collaborating to imagine a world that the calculations of neoliberal financial speculation tells us is impossible.
What if we could imagine a world without police and prisons and capitalism? Not just think, talk, or write about it, but truly see, feel, hold, and sit in it?