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<nettime> re: holmes, henson and snelson and stalder on labor and capita
McKenzie Wark on Wed, 11 Dec 2002 10:38:47 +0100 (CET)


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<nettime> re: holmes, henson and snelson and stalder on labor and capital


Many thanks to Brian, Doug Felix and Kermit for thoughtful posts
and a spirit of free and multiple inquiry.

As Brian notes, I haven't said much about the money-form, largely
because I think that what significant about money is not the
abstraction of the general equivalent but the materialities of the
vectors that carry it. I made a similar argument to Felix about the
emergence of a space of flows being a result of the development
of vectoralized money in Virtual Geography (Indiana 1994). I
think there's a tendency in discussions of 'finance capital' to
treat it as a reified abstraction, and not look closely enough at
its technical and legal conditions of expansion.

I have never argued that the emergence of a new phase of
commodification, and a new class struggle -- between the
vectoralist and hacker interest -- supercedes previous dimensions
to the development of the mode of production and the class
struggle. I argue that a third dimension is *added* to the previous
two -- the struggle between pastoralist and farmer, and
capitalist and worker. This language is very schematic, but
it is meant to be a modest tool for grasping a big transformation.

Hence i take Doug's point that the 'vectoral economy' rests on
the labors of manufacturing workers, and we might add farmers
and others in primary production as well. I have never argued
that these aspects of the commodity economy have gone away
or are diminished in significance. I am not making a 'weightless
economy' argument at all. However, the question is to discover
how the new dimension overdetermines or transforms the
previous historical 'layers' to commodification as abstraction.

Nor am i arguing, as Brian suggests, that the hacker class is *the*
revolutionary class -- although i see how the rhetoric adopted at
the start of A Hacker Manifesto may give that impression.. I argue
for three dispossessed classes, hackers, workers and farmers,
to find ways of articulating their struggles together, for they overlap
in many ways. Numerically, the dispossessed farmers of the world
are biggest exploited class.

Kermit would counter my proposal "that we focus our political
efforts on working with the practical impossibility of imposing
artificial scarcities on information, not *against* the practical
impossibility of organizing a 'hacker' class." To me, organizing
a hacker class would mean precisely working with the
impossibility of imposing scarcity on information. That is
its historic task, and perhaps its only task.

Readers familiar with the sorry history of intellectuals and the
worker's movement might appreciate that my solution is to
assign a specific and limited task to them (us). What Foucault
called for -- the specific intellectual -- might be what is at stake
here. We are to neither subsume ourselves in some else's
movement or presume to lead it -- the two great mistakes of
the past.

I very much agree with Kermit about materialism, with one
proviso. As Marx used to say, capital and the wage relation
are abstractions *made concrete*. Materialism has to grasp
the abstraction set to work in the world. The concept of vector
is specifically designed for this task.

I don't see anything idealist in seeing intellectual property as
the product of a particular kind of labor under particular
historical conditions. On the contrary, that seems to me the
required basis for an historical and materialist approach to
information. Perhaps I'm just not getting Kermit's objection
here.

In all three phases of the commodity economy, power
accrues to those able to control the vector. This applies as
much to the role of the navy in the 18th century, the railway
and telegraph in the 19th and telesthesia in general in
the 20th. Only there are a lot more micro-struggles around
the vector now -- control of standards, protocols, proprietary
platforms and so on. There are fantasic returns to be had
if one can shove information into a pipeline one can own
and police by means both legal and illegal, as we have
seen from the recent history of the communication and
computing industries.



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