File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0103, message 33

Date: Thu, 08 Mar 2001 22:09:59 -0600
Subject: Pomo Marx?


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

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

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

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

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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