File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0106, message 21

Date: Mon, 04 Jun 2001 22:13:05 +0100
Subject: Re: [Fwd: Weeping in a Rolls-Royce]


In order the answering of your questions:

No – manual labor wears out the body.
Wrong question – the differend is that both may be true.
Yes – but once she would have had to have been at the workplace rather than skiving off
to the Mall and pretending to be working from home… (Only the technically naïve can’t
hide from the horrors of ubiquitous computing)
Yes – same answer as above – is the worker going to the ‘Billing conference in Nice’ on
the Rivera really working or just having a three day holiday paid for by the company.
Yes – see William Burroughs ‘The Job’ or Foucault on discipline…


These are a few of the strange answers that exist in the post-modern world of work…
However to slice the information in Eric’s information through a differend…

In 1929, or thereabouts Capital reinvented itself into the proto-consumptive capitalism
that we have known, loved and hated throughout our lives. The scientific and
technological developments that took place in the 20s and 30s began in the post-war
years to be turned into pure consumption. From the mid 1950s onwards the automation
which was first initiated during that period transformed the western economies from
systems based on manufacturing towards service based structures. It was in the mid-50s
that there was a net shrinkage in the numbers of jobs in manufacturing it continues to
fall whilst output rises. This caused no noticeable change in the western economy
because the service economy continued to grow. However in the mid 1970s, 1976 according
to the OECD statistics, automation began to remove jobs from in the service economy as
information technology began to eradicate office labor.  (For example typing pools
disappeared during the 70s and 80s, secretaries in the 90s).

Of course we should also acknowledge the exporting of manufacturing jobs to parts of the
world that have cheaper labour costs – but this is a difficult argument to sustain
unless you bring into the equation such complex notions as the symbolic, language, race,
gender, colonialism, the side of the road you drive on and the attraction of islands….
(I won’t go into this unless somebody requests it – but think of the strange
relationship between Japan, Britain and the car…).

National legislation  against Unions and the workers right to unionise/organise was
brought into being by the Thatcher governments of the early 1980s. Prior to this a
consensus existed between official organised labour, the state and employers which had
maintained an ‘uneasy peace’ between the various parties, which was constantly being
tested by all three parties (left wing workers, right wing governments and employers
obeying the basic drivers of capital). The neo-liberal economic and social policies
brought into being by Thatcherism in the 1980s destroyed the consensus and placed in a
temporary dominance the state and the employers. I include the transnationals within the
group identified as ‘employers’… However this is not sustainable, anymore than the
tripartite consensus  was, given that it is under constant threat from all sides of the
socio-economic structures. The evidence for this is quite clear – nobody likes the
neo-liberal politics – look at what is happening in the UK to the conservative party,
unelectable until they shift back to the middle ground which for them is understood
broadly as being a shift to the left known as ‘one-nation toryism’. I am not suggesting
that a return to the politics, dreams and desires or the social consensus of the period
1940 to 1978, is at all achievable or even desirable for it is not. My own political
development is founded on the social-revolutionary thought of 1968 (as Luce Irigary
would say and I agree with her). What is required is something different…

Twenty years is a very short time in historical and political terms.

Welfare State and Education - In the post-modern economy education like all the elements
of what was known as the welfare systems, the welfare state has of necessity, for the
continuation of capital, become an area of the economy for the generation of surplus
value.  In truth, given the probability that a huge section of the work force is
redundant in terms of their being necessary for the continuation of the state and
Transnational corporations (25% to 50% according to Andre Gorz) this may not be a bad
thing. The generation of surplus value from an education system means that even the
lumpen proletariat may gain an education… However the social imaginary within Europe
continues to haunt the neo-liberal desire for a set of systems founded on the necessity
to generate surplus value as a result the constraints on the post-modern economy are
probably growing and not collapsing as has been suggested by some commentators. The
‘private consumption’ issue is not the same in Europe as in the USA, nor in Africa
consider the South African Aids crisis…

1970s – USA - What of the Vietnam war?

Regarding the militaristic and policing aspects…as Althussar said the ISAs and the RSAs
are always with us. Been there since the invention of the city state – Mumford’s
mega-machine 10000 years and counting…

The reading I’d make of the last four paragraphs is that you are proposing the dominant
left perception of the post-modern global economy – but it’s less than 20 years old – I
suggest that it cannot survive in the state that is suggested and that capital as the
most revolutionary economic system ever invented by human beings (apart from Socialism)
is so unstable that almost anything can be suggested with equal validity – except
stability. Change results from resistance and struggle and there are plenty of signs of
both in the world I exist in.

I like and approve of the reference to Serres – (I’d like to be one of his angels but
don’t enjoy airports anymore…)  The social contract discussed seems an eloquent topic
for discussion what would constitute its boundaries… Sans religion and the spiritual
though, (thinking as usual). Serres suggests, if I remember correctly,  the necessity
for a ‘new natural contract to be established between Earth and its others/subjects’
which also brings us to the work of Singer and the animal liberation groups…

Optimism of the will, pessimism of the intellect doesn’t cover it… Good Brechtian joke



Written to sounds of (Eric Dolphy and Mal Waldron)

Mary Murphy&Salstrand wrote:

> Steve and all
>         I'd rather be driving in a stolen Rolls Royce
>         Powered by untaxed liquor from Satan's still
>         On the lam from the interplanetary work machine
> ____________________________________________________________________________________
> Are we working more today and enjoying it less?
> Have things gotten better or worse?
> Is a women beeped from work at a mall on the job or not?
> Is a man shopping at a mall on the job because he is being a good,
> dutiful consumer?
> Are children in kindergarten on the job?
> These are only a few of the questions the subject of work raises.
> These questions are difficult to answer because they cannot be answered
> in empirical ways for the simple reason that work is no longer simply
> measured by the clock, but has become more seamless and pervasive
> throughout the culture?  There are also the implicit questions of who,
> what, where and when. So, rather than directly answer your question, I
> merely want to provide some very generalized historical context.
> I am struck by a reading of history for the period of the last fifty
> years (and Steve, I apologize in advance for its American slant) that
> sees it as composed of (very loosely speaking) two social contracts.
> The first emerged during the Post-World War II era, as a response to the
> crisis that had been brought about by economic failure and the rise of
> Fascism and Nazism in Europe which was in turn a response to this crisis
> and which the war itself had merely put on hold, but not fully resolved.
> In America, national legislation was passed that tended to constrain the
> right of labor to organize itself in more radical ways, but, in
> exchange, management acceded to certain demands of labor for higher
> wages, more vacation time, shorter work weeks and greater benefits such
> as insurance and pension.
> There was also recognition of the value of education in promoting the
> new society and social investments were made in education, such as the
> GI loan and funding for colleges that made their tuition more
> affordable.
> This led in the fifties to the emergence to a more expansive
> middle-class.  Social critics of the time talked of a diamond shaped
> society as opposed to the more traditional social pyramid.
> However, this contract came at a price.  Women were seen by and large as
> unpaid workers; housewives who needed to maintain workers by providing
> them with a home as well as being given the task of reproducing future
> workers.  African-Americans and Hispanics by and large were not included
> in the contract.  They continued to work in the underbelly of the
> American dream.  Youth were forced to remain in school for a longer
> period and faced the paradox of being biologically adults who were now
> dominated by the passive roles of an extended and enforced childhood.
> Thus, the sixties brought the rupture of the contract as those who were
> excluded began the assert their autonomy - the civil rights movement,
> black power movement, free speech movement, student rights movement, the
> protest over Vietnam and the rise of feminism and the women's movement.
> Their demands for inclusion and refusal of authority tested the limits
> of capital's hegemony.  Unchecked, their forces threatened social,
> political and economic revolution.
> Thus, in the early seventies the foundations for a new social contract
> were laid. A number of factors emerged to make it possible.  First, the
> oil crisis created upheaval and the rise of "stagflation".  Next,
> animosities emerged between men and women, whites and black, workers and
> students etc. that allowed these groups to be co-opted against one
> another.  Finally, space-time compression made a global market fueled by
> cheap labor a realistic possibility.
> This led in the eighties and nineties to a new social contract, one that
> has been termed Neo-Liberalism, the New Enclosures and various other
> names.
> Here, the role of the state is strengthened in its militaristic and
> policing aspects in order to become more effective at social and
> economic domination.  Social programs such as those in education,
> health, welfare and the environment are greatly curtailed and now seen
> increasingly as matters of private consumption.  Through the IMF and
> other financial institutions, these standards have been imposed in turn
> upon developing nations in order to receive loans and economic
> assistance.
> The curious paradox of this emerging situation is that many people do
> extremely well, (knowledge workers, senior management, celebrities, the
> ruling class of small nations and the assorted pimps and whores who have
> pandered themselves around these economic elites) but at the cost of
> moving the world towards greater division and greater hardship for those
> others who cannot crash the party.
> The specter that emerges from this is that of a new social contract in
> which a certain standard is maintained so that politically enforced
> poverty is no longer perpetuated in order to maintain elite privilege.
> The job economy as the pious and sacred means of economic legitimization
> would then be eliminated.  Instead work could be radically reduced and
> concrete freedom could become an actuality.  The demands of a job need
> no longer define one's existence. The fetishism of commodification
> (which perversely mirrors the job economy) would also be undone as a
> result of the same process.
> That seems to be the real question.  Not whether I work less today than
> my dad, but whether enough people can join together to resist this
> imposition of work as a form of social and economic domination and
> create a social and political movement that will make manifest what in
> the sixties was only a vague promise, an opium pipe dream.
> In order to accomplish this feat, the Protestant work ethic would need
> to be replaced by a new ethic, a new social contract, one for which
> Michel Serres among others has eloquently argued.  Perhaps, it would
> also require a new religious understanding such as that provided by the
> Epicurean ideal of ataraxia. (but that is a topic for another time.)


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