This text is a first draft, trying to identify key topics for an inquiry into the new organisation of labour. It starts with a historic analysis and then explores the notion of Post-Fordism.Specific sections are devoted to cognitive capitalism, the creative industries, informational capitalism and the split between manual and mental labour. It ends with a modest proposal for an alternative path of development.
It is not often that left-wing politics is associated with attributes such as humour and wit. Stevphen Shukaitis' book Imaginal Machines (2009) is not only abundant with it but shows that certain strands of imaginative revolutionary politics in the 20th century were also endowed with those precious qualities. This journey through the radical imagination of the left, written in a compelling and entertaining style, is definitely worth a read for everybody interested in radical and antagonistic politics.
The most influential discourse on media art up to and around 1995 uncritically based itself on techno-science and the techno-imaginary which it creates. It offers a technologically deterministic interpretation of the relationship between societies and social change. This discourse was successful in institution building and is still very influential today, even though its foundations can shown to be problematic. This is the essence of my 2005 MA thesis on "Technological Determinism in Media Art" which I republish here due to difficulties with my old site.
This excellent book by Harry Braverman revolves around the main thesis, that labour in the 20th century has become 'degraded'. The combined effects of mechanization, scientific management and other control techniques allowed management to wrest control from workers and enforce, under ever changing circumstances, alienating practices onto workers across all industries, including office and service jobs.
Following on to Brian's listserv post, I would like to add a few more points on periodisation. Although Kondratieff cycles or long waves do play a role here, the intention is not an in-depth discussion of the long wave theory. The intention is rather to create a foundation for a narrative that describes the second half of the 20th century as an interplay of economic, political, technological and cultural forces, seeking out turning points that allow to identify specific characteristics of techno-economic changes as an explanatory framework for specific cultural or artistic phenomena, such as participatory media and / or media art and technology practices.
This text riffs on the theme of revolutions thereby referring less to the political act of one class wrestling power from another one but rather to cycical motions caused by the interplay of industrial, scientific, cultural and political motive forces. This approach challenges the prevailing viewpoint according to which class struggle has been replaced by media technologies as the subject of history in technologically advanced free-market democracies. Instead, it tries to develop a more complex understanding of the forces that shape history by working out the dialectical relationship between technological rationality as a means of power and domination and as a means of human emancipation at the same time.
New comment: As I have noted somewhere in these discussions, I propose that as a a starting point economic 'cycles' should have a strong role in periodisation, because without those, we are moving outside the Kondratieff framework. Periods would then be simply named after perceived leading technologies, they would represent 'paradigms' but what drives the transition from one to the other would be difficult to argue.
About four years ago, after the disastrous US elections in 2004, a group of us meeting at 16 Beaver Street in New York launched the idea of Continental Drift. The hypothesis: a coming "tectonic" shift in the geopolitical system, precipitated by the mismanagement of neoliberal globalization under the Bush-Blair regime. What we saw on the horizon was some kind of collapse of dollar hegemony -- "hegemoney," as Arrighi puts it -- and the rise of a multipolar order, with new possibilities and challenges for grassroots egalitarian movements around the world.
The Postmodern Condition, A Report on Knowledge, by Francois Lyotard, first published in French in 1979, was not the first book to carry the word postmodern in its title, but probably one of the most influential ones in the long term, with both its warnings and sometimes its overly optimistic assumptions about the future of knowledge in a computerised society. Reading it now what is perplexing is the rather one-sided reception it has got. While Lyotard's critique of meta-narratives and the proposed switch to language games has characterised the postmodern debate, his ambiguity about the development of science and the university under the condition of neoliberalism appears to have been given much less consideration by his followers.