Date: Mon, 19 Mar 2001 22:52:43 -0600 Subject: I'd rather be a Cyborg than a Goddess Steve Thanks for your provocative comments. In the history of labor that still remains to be written, the libidinous relationship of workers with technology would certainly merit a number of chapters. Simplifying to the extreme, one might distinguish the three distinct periods of labor as follows: 1. Craft Workers 2. Industrial Workers 3. Cyborgs With regard to the mobility of the work force, its increased deterritorialization, one might also argue that today the global economy does not reduce itself to the cyborg alone, but on the contrary, simultaneously contains all three, with varying rates of speed and movement. The Cyborgs are more conventionally described as Knowledge Workers. They display mobility in a number of contexts. Through the agency of cyberspace, their worlds become hyperdimensional, boundless and fluid. The Cyborgs travel from city to city, realizing a global lifestyle. At the same time, however, their work day never ends, they live as vassals of a deterritorialized corporate feudal estate, with pagers, cell phones and modems on their home/portable computers. They function literally in terms of Deleuze's society of control. Others, acting as consultants, belong to vast deterritorialized corporate armies that resemble Deleuze's and Guttarri's concept of the war machine. The traditional industrial workers have not vanished, however. They have simply become invisibles, the underground moles that burrow under the information economy, providing the material base that allows it to function in the banal "real" world. Today, these workers are also identified as service workers in a shadow economy - janitors, cafeteria workers, landscapers, maintenance crews and microchip assemblers. They tend to become mobile in new ways, as nomadic temps in a work force with extremely limited benefits and low pay. The craft workers are often third worlders producing trash and trinkets for highly mobile global consumers. Otherwise, these workers recapitulate the nineteenth century as they deterritorialize rain forests, extended families and rural agrarian structures. They form the sweatshops, child labor, and brutal savage conditions that must be met because, we are told, they would otherwise remain poor and precapitalist. They must be treated poorly by us in order for them to overcome their poverty. Otherwise, we are simply being elitist. It is the total and the disparate movement of these heterogeneous workers that define postmodern politics in their scattered lines of flight. Certainly, this movement is global in the same way the multinationals are global. But even more than this, these developments go beyond globalism to the extent the new information economy that makes this very globalism possible is a self-organizing complex system which no single group or individual can totally understand or regulate. This is what gives expression to Lyotard's famous incredulity towards metanarratives as defining the postmodern. The struggles these Cyborgs and other workers must wage in this brave new complex structure amounts to a renewal of the social contract. The new terms do not concern property as much as they do access to information and this in turn raises the question whether or not this access will be equalitarian and democratic or managed by multinational elites who will then function as the gatekeepers, operating the toll booths of the information highway. Here is where postmodern Marxism becomes possible, as Cyborgs and other workers complexify to create not merely revolution, but a singularity that goes beyond these attempts to intervene and regulate the spontaneous order of information. The stakes are over whether or not to continue a "winner take all" unstable economy or drift towards cooperative coevolutionary decentralized structures. Ones that support more ephemeral and sustainable pleasures, as the job economy moves from work to play and our Calvin ghosts take on ecstatic flesh to arise in a profane resurrection of joy, a virtual pagan Easter where information breeds like bunnies.
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