File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0103, message 75

Date: Mon, 19 Mar 2001 22:52:43 -0600
Subject: I'd rather be a Cyborg than a Goddess


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

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

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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