Date: Thu, 08 Mar 2001 22:09:59 -0600 Subject: Pomo Marx? steve: Good to hear from you again. I hope we can keep this discussion moving along as I certainly want to hear more of your insights. Let me focus on just a few points here. The first question you asked is how does the artist survive without property rights? I agree art has always been difficult undertaking. So-called serious art, with a few important exceptions, has seldom been viable from a market standpoint. It has usually relied upon patronage, support from government or religion, careers in academia (this is now rapidly changing as the university goes corporate) or it was simply done on one's free time. (William Carlos Williams was a doctor, Wallace Stevens was a VP with an insurance company, and TS Eliot worked in a bank until he become famous, to give just a few random examples.) Under the present circumstances I can understand why you would want to see the artist's work defended by law so they are not exploited. The artist would be a subcategory of general worker's rights. The reality is, however, that most of the intellectual property rights in practice tend to serve the corporation far more than they do the individual artist. Think about songwriters in Motown, for example. They often had to list the record producer as a co-writer and share with them the royalties of their own music. Similar practice such as these today continue unabated. If we must have intellectual property rights, I think we need to find ways to make them much more fair than they presently are. The basic problem is that this thinking, however, only works in a very narrow, short term sense. You also raised the spectre of Marx and I also want to explore with you some of the various longer range-virtual potentials. I think you would agree there are basically two positions that Marxists have had on the subject of work (in a very broad and general sense.) The first is to see labor as alienated because of surplus value whereby the worker is separated from the fruits of labor by the processes of capital. Here, the solution is seen as one of worker's management. The factories should be controlled directly by the workers themselves. The other approach is to see work itself as being degrading because it is time which is dominated and managed in which the worker becomes a means to an end and thereby loses autonomy. From this perspective, the goal is simply to eliminate the work relation entirely, what some have called the refusal of work. This latter strategy takes place on a number of levels. One is concerned with achieving a Guaranteed Annual Income (above proverty level), based on progressive taxation, a national dividend or a number of other proposed mechinisms. Another is concerned with assigning pay for work that previously has gone unpaid under capitialism, such as being a student, mother or housewife. A third approach is to to reduce the work week and limit the total amount of time that must be spent working. OK, I recognise that in the current climate, all of this sounds hopelessly utopian. (Even though France is currently experimenting with the 35 work week.) However, I think these alternatives will become much more viable once the full impact of automation is realized from the new internet restructuring that is rapidly allowing for direct selfservice to consumers and the attendent growth of intelligent systems. If this is coupled with a greater militancy with regard to worker's struggles (which would include, besides the obvious exploited groups like temps and service workers, even the more privileged knowledge workers who are already negotiating for more time off.) then there is a chance that some signifiant movement in this direction would actually begin to take place. (The alternatives are too dystopian to contemplate here.) In such a world, the elimination or minimalization of intellectual property rights would make perfect sense, for then art would be freely shared and distributed in the virtual agoric spaces that have already been created. One might as well ask how a shaman in a tribal society is rewarded for his or her artistic endeavors. This free sharing of information would also permit sociey to achieve a true democracy, not the top-down managed democracy that currently functions so hegemonically for the power elites, but one that would permit an active and participating citizenry to take direct actions. Utopian? Of course it is, but if we continue to give in and compromise, allowing the old systems of domination to continue, even though they are hopelessly outdated and ultimately counterproductive, what else can we expect? For my part, I think we should obey the old adage from May 68 to "Be Realistic-Demand the Impossible". I see this as a general strategy that grows and develops gradually over time - not a metanarrative of revolution through armed combat. I also think it needs to be developed globally in a way that extends basic standards to everyone as a fundamental right. What is that old quote from the Balinese? "We have no art. We do everything the best we can."
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