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<nettime> Fwd: [CTHEORY] Article 136 - The Digital Death Rattle of the A
J-D marston on Thu, 20 Nov 2003 08:58:37 +0100 (CET)


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<nettime> Fwd: [CTHEORY] Article 136 - The Digital Death Rattle of the American Middle Class


Although predictably plagued with Deleuzean syntax, there is some
exceedingly interesting data here.  This seems to be the hot button on
everyone’s favorites list.  Fortune recently penned an article on
outsourcing of traditionally protected jobs.  Maybe this will be the fire
that finally lights the culpability of America’s consumer class.  Or
perhaps not.

-Jd

On 18 Nov 2003, ctheory {AT} lists.uvic.ca wrote:
> _____________________________________________________________________
>  CTHEORY          THEORY, TECHNOLOGY AND CULTURE       VOL 26, NO 3
>         *** Visit CTHEORY Online: http://www.ctheory.net ***
> 
>  Article 136    03/11/18    Editors: Arthur and Marilouise Kroker
>  _____________________________________________________________________
> 
> 
>  The Digital Death Rattle of the American Middle Class:
>  A Cautionary Tale
>  ==========================================================
> 
> 
>  ~Dion Dennis~
> 
> 
> 
>  Introduction
>  ------------
> 
>  On the WASHTECH website, there's a reposting of a PowerPoint
>  presentation given by Brian Valentine, a senior Microsoft VP.
>  Valentine has a pronounced and unabashed penchant for dressing up his
>  exhortations in banal mixed metaphors. Announcing that he's "Thinking
>  About India ... Touchdown India," he asks microserfs one and all to
>  note that "competitors already have this [outsourcing] religion."
>  Therefore, it's high time for "Microsoft to join the party."
>  Extolling the virtues of "2 heads for the price of 1," he presses
>  middle manager microserfs to "leverage the Indian economy's lower
>  cost structure," and to "pick something to move offshore today," as a
>  tangible sign of their heartfelt personal and institutional fealty.
>  [1]
> 
>  It's a big moving party, indeed. Over the next decade, several
>  million white-collar jobs, from financial services to hardware and
>  software computer design, will be permanently exported to East Asia
>  and other points in the developing world.[2] Inexpensive global
>  communication networks, combined with a younger, talented and
>  low-cost global workforce will reduce the demand for native U.S.
>  intellectual labor. It's a well-documented phenomenon and perhaps the
>  needed irritant for an incipient social movement here in the U.S. But
>  the sheer plethora of young and talented workers (the Philippines
>  alone produces 380,000 college graduates each year) in East Asia,
>  willing to work for a fifth to a tenth of U.S. wages, may well render
>  U.S. intellectual labor not economically viable, on the global stage,
>  over this emergent present and well into the future.  By the end of
>  2003, more than half of the Fortune 500 have shipped a significant
>  fraction of their intellectual labor jobs offshore. And the exodus is
>  accelerating.[3]
> 
>  Concurrently, another trend may well be defining the future of U.S.
>  intellectual labor. As U.S. states suffer from revenue shortfalls,
>  and burgeoning college and university enrollments, large tuition
>  increases are often bundled with escalations in class size, reduced
>  course availability, and shrinking financial and infrastructural
>  resources.[4] Combined with the concurrent neo-liberal political
>  redefinition of higher education as a private rather than a public
>  good, "sticker shock" one-year increases (of up to thirty-nine
>  percent at the three public universities in Arizona, forty percent in
>  the California State System, and thirty-two percent in the University
>  of Texas System) [5] may well signify that elites are no longer
>  willing to subsidize American public higher education, once they have
>  gained global access, via digital communication networks, to cheap
>  and competent intellectual labor. This essay explores the links
>  between these two defining moments of early twenty-first Century
>  America, with an eye on the possibility that affordable public higher
>  education, and its attendant importance as a vehicle of social
>  mobility, may soon be thought of as an artifact of the Twentieth
>  Century.  If so, we are witnessing the digital death rattle of the
>  American middle class, and an escalating and intensive
>  restratification of the American class system.
> 
> 
> 
>  "Offshoring/Outsourcing" the American Dream, Redux
>  --------------------------------------------------
> 
>  Between 1979 and 1993, the U.S. economy lost forty-three million
>  jobs. Significant portions of those jobs were casualties of
>  administrative downsizing in the wake of leveraged buyouts and
>  mega-mergers. Concurrently and often in concert with the downsizing
>  ethos, entire classes of jobs were eliminated due to technological
>  innovation (from the rapid deployment of ATMs and voice mail to the
>  investment in robotics on auto assembly lines).  At the end of the
>  Cold War, national defense industries downsized as the East/West arms
>  race slowed to a crawl. And, most significantly, the development in
>  economically viable telecommunications networks, coupled with the
>  rise of neo-liberal market ideology and governance practices in the
>  1980s, accelerated the exodus of millions of manufacturing jobs.  A
>  cheaper, less regulated, less organized, younger, and more pliant
>  workforce (than the unionized and largely male U.S. workforce) became
>  easier to envision and to create, as new technologies enabled
>  increased control of production and distribution processes at a
>  distance. Combined with the revolution in shipping that containers
>  represented, necessary and sufficient conditions for structural
>  economic mobility in both the U.S. and the developing world were in
>  place. The global workforce for manufacturing was feminized as it
>  simultaneously redefined as disposable and poorly paid. Often, this
>  is referred to as a movement from a bureaucratically based Fordist
>  (progressive capitalist) system of production and consumption to a
>  more fluid, contingent and unstable post-Fordist world of capital,
>  labor, and digital information.
> 
>  As the nineties unfolded, the American public was told, by management
>  and economics gurus as diverse as Peter Drucker and former Secretary
>  of Labor Robert Reich, that this "creative destruction" gave U.S.
>  labor an enviable advantage, if it recognized and responded to the
>  situation appropriately. Both Drucker and Reich claimed that, in the
>  emerging age of information as a mode of production, the economic
>  organization of society was producing an employment-generated de
>  facto caste system.[6] On the one hand are nascent digital
>  neo-Brahmins:  the intellectual, cultural and business elite  (mobile
>  and independent knowledge workers that Reich terms "symbolic
>  analysts."). One the other hand, there are the new "untouchables"
>  (the disposable service worker), the postmodern serf.[7]
> 
>  Drucker, Reich and their legions of adherents make the oft-repeated
>  point that they expected an outsourcing of routine production
>  activities. Here's how one disciple, Ian Angell, a libertarian at the
>  London School of Economics, characterized these events in 1995:
> 
>       Routine production services can either be replaced by robots or
>       exported anywhere on the globe.  Wages in this sector are
>       already beginning to converge worldwide to Third World levels.
>       British Polythene Industries is to close its factory at Telford
>       with the loss of 150 jobs, and switch to China.  BPI's payroll
>       bill will be cut by 90%.  Even the Home Office at one time was
>       seriously considering subcontracting a large but straightforward
>       data-entry job to the Philippines...
> 
>       The future is inequality; at the very bottom of the heap,
>       western societies are already witnessing the emergence of a
>       rapidly expanding underclass.
> 
>       Now we can see that knowledge workers are the real generators of
>       wealth.  The income of these owners of intellectual and
>       financial wealth will increase substantially, and they will be
>       made welcome anywhere in the world.[8]
> 
>  Given this characterization of social reality, the common exhortation
>  for avoiding the life of  a postmodern serf  (as a deskilled and
>  disposable service worker) was for young and middle-aged adults to
>  engage in continuous development of their skills. Specifically, they
>  were told to aggressively develop the flexible skill set
>  (abstraction, systemic thinking, experimentation and collaboration)
>  necessary to stake a claim as a symbolic analyst in The New World
>  Order.[9] So, Generation Y has been urged to attend public and
>  private institutions of higher education, in order to fashion
>  themselves as globally attractive "knowledge workers" with these
>  qualities. In an utterance during the midst of the dot.com boom,
>  Drucker claimed that knowledge workers are global society's most
>  significant economic and social grouping.  It was a self-serving and
>  popular conceit that lasted throughout the late 1990s, with a shelf
>  life tied to the fortunes of thousands of bankrupt dot.com's in the
>  first years of the new century.
> 
>  The economic recession that began in 2000-01 ravaged U.S.
>  manufacturing, as more than a two-and-a-half million of those jobs
>  were lost.[10] Facing a steep drop in corporate profits, a
>  relatively strong U.S. dollar, and a young, but maturing
>  technological infrastructure, key "symbolic workers" within these
>  conglomerates were compelled to revisit (by the short-term
>  profitability ethos of the Fortune 500) the bottom line. With recent
>  and dramatic reductions in the cost of telecommunications and
>  computers, it's apparent that key elites have decided to iterate and
>  extend the cost cutting strategies of the 1970s and 80s by moving not
>  only manufacturing jobs, but customer service, software and chip
>  research and development, financial services, back office support,
>  and other "symbolic knowledge worker" positions permanently off
>  shore.  The following chart, adapted from a February 3, 2003 Business
>  Week article, and from a webpage for the PBS current events magazine
>  NOW, draws the contours of this trend: [11]
> 
> 
>       Table One:  Globalization and the Projected Exodus of
>                   White Collar Jobs from the U.S.
> 
>       ________________________________________________________
>       | Field                  |     2005     |      2015    |
>       |________________________|______________|______________|
>       | Architecture           |    32,000    |    184,000   |
>       |________________________|______________|______________|
>       | Art & Design           |     6,000    |     30,000   |
>       |________________________|______________|______________|
>       | Business Operations    |    61,000    |    348,000   |
>       |________________________|______________|______________|
>       | Computer               |   109,000    |    473,000   |
>       |________________________|______________|______________|
>       | Legal                  |    14,000    |     75,000   |
>       |________________________|______________|______________|
>       | Life Sciences          |     3,700    |     37,000   |
>       |________________________|______________|______________|
>       | Management             |    37,000    |    288,000   |
>       |________________________|______________|______________|
>       | Office support/Sales   |   295,000    |  1,700,000   |
>       |________________________|______________|______________|
>       |                        |              |              |
>       | Total                  |   588,000    |  3,300,000   |
>       |________________________|______________|______________|
> 
> 
>  What makes these shifts economically viable is a nexus of factors:
>  First, telecommunications hardware and software now have a global and
>  nearly instantaneous reach. Knowledge work can be done almost
>  anywhere, and immediately sent to most other sites on the planet.
>  Secondly, there's a burgeoning population of college graduates in
>  developing countries. For example, the Philippines turns out nearly
>  400,000 college graduates a year, while India already has more than a
>  half a million information technology engineers entering the local
>  workforce at less than ten thousand U.S. dollars per year.
> 
>  The table below (adapted from Business Week and National Science
>  Foundation data) shows the expanding number of college graduates in
>  engineering and the natural sciences:
> 
> 
>        Table Two: The Number of Natural Science/Engineering
>                   College Graduates
> 
>                      _________________________________________________
>                      |         B.A.           |       M.S./Ph.D      |
>                      |  1989         1999     |   1989        1999   |
>      ________________|___________|____________|___________|__________|
>      | China         | 127,000   |  322,000   |  19,000   |  41,000  |
>      |_______________|___________|____________|___________|__________|
>      | India         | 165,000   |  251,000   |  64,000   |  63,000  |
>      |_______________|___________|____________|___________|__________|
>      | Philippines   |  40,000   |   65,000   |     255   |     937  |
>      |_______________|___________|____________|___________|__________|
>      | Mexico        |  32,000   |   57,000   |     340   |  63,000  |
>      |_______________|___________|____________|___________|__________|
>      | U.S.          | 196,000   |  220,000   |  61,000   |  77,000  |
>      |_______________|___________|____________|___________|__________|
> 
> 
>  Given the increased supply of competent intellectual labor, and the
>  reduced cost of salaries and infrastructure in the developing world,
>  the same work can be done in Bangalore, Budapest, Shanghai or San
>  Jose, Costa Rica, for sixty-to-eighty percent less than similar labor
>  in the U.S. Table Three provides some comparative salaries between
>  the U.S. and India, for similar professional occupations:
> 
> 
>       Table Three: Comparative Salaries
> 
>                                ___________________________
>                                |    U.S.    |   India    |
>       _________________________|____________|____________|
>       | Software Programmer    |  $66,000   | $10,000    |
>       |________________________|            |            |
>       | Mechanical Engineer    |  $55,600   |   $5900    |
>       |                        |            |            |
>       | IT Manager             |  $55,000   |   $8500    |
>       |                        |            |            |
>       | Accountant             |  $41,000   |   $5000    |
>       |                        |            |            |
>       | Financial Operations   |  $37,625   |   $5500    |
>       |________________________|____________|____________|
> 
> 
>  Third, as Robert X. Cringley has noted, this is also a much younger
>  workforce, without the pension or health liabilities that beset an
>  older population of workers in the U.S.  Cringley goes as far as to
>  suggest that the competitiveness argument used for outsourcing is a
>  vocabulary of motive for industry-wide policies of age
>  discrimination.[12] Put the entire configuration together, and it's
>  not too surprising to hear the cost/benefit analyses proffered up by
>  the likes of Tom Lynch, incoming director of employee relations at
>  IBM. A bootleg audio file of a March 2003 internal summit broadcast
>  live over the Internet to IBM's 2000 human resources manager provides
>  the details:
> 
>       From now to 2010 and beyond, we're looking at a trend to move
>       services offshore ... engineering, software development, chip
>       development ... accounting services and financial services,
>       there are companies that realize that there are lots of skills
>       in places like India to do accounting for a fraction of the cost
>       in the U.S. Call centers, and IT support centers similarly, why
>       do have to talk to someone in your own country?         ...
>       Focus group research [centers] on what U.S. customers prefer in
>       terms of [non-U.S] accents ...  Our competitors [Microsoft,
>       Dell, Oracle, HP, NEC] are doing it and we have to do it. [13]
> 
>  Taken as a whole, the message is clear. With the availability of
>  cheap, young, talented global intellectual labor, U.S. intellectual
>  labor is seen by transnational capital as a liability, as not
>  economically viable.  And if U.S.-based "symbolic analysts" are
>  economically less desirable and less viable as employees in a global
>  system of intellectual labor, certainly their training in mass
>  numbers is also economically less viable.
> 
> 
> 
>  Education as a Private Good: Redefining U.S. Public Higher Education
>  --------------------------------------------------------------------
> 
>  The redefinition of college and university education as a mass,
>  rather than an elite, phenomena emerged after World War II. With the
>  fear of a return to Depression-like conditions of mass unemployment
>  after war demobilization, the Truman administration offered returning
>  G.I's incentives (the G.I. Bill of Rights) for pursuing an academic
>  degree. It was partly as a tactic to keep some men off of the labor
>  market for a few years, and partly recognition of how important the
>  cultivation and support of intellectual labor (the Manhattan Project)
>  had been in the successful conduct of the war.  By way of Keynesian
>  economic policy, the U.S. government subsidized, directly and
>  indirectly, the construction of new schools, and the expansion and/or
>  transformation of existing schools (predominantly teachers
>  colleges/normal schools), as well as the cost of tuition and books
>  for G.I's. Additionally, the federal government financed new,
>  Levittown-style residential housing for G.I.'s students, at interest
>  rates at or near zero. Essentially, for millions of returning G.I.'s,
>  education was free and housing was heavily subsidized.
> 
>  The Russian launch of Sputnik, the world's first satellite in October
>  1957, sent the U.S. into a state of collective paranoia over a
>  perceived loss of technological dominance, and the meaning of that
>  perceived loss for national security.  In 1958, the U.S. Congress
>  created NASA and provided universities with funds for basic and
>  applied research. As was the case with the space race, the expansion
>  of the intellectual labor pool was seen as a tool of national
>  security, a fortunate route for social mobility, and a public good
>  produced in defense of the American way of life.  John Kennedy's
>  pledge to win an ideological victory via a technological triumph by
>  landing astronauts on the moon at the end of the decade tightened
>  those associations.  When widespread political protests against the
>  Vietnam War emerged on, and then were anchored by, prominent college
>  and university campuses in the late 1960s, the taken-for-granted
>  relationship between militarization, the Cold War nation-state, and
>  the allegiance of colleges and universities, and their graduates, to
>  the national security agenda came under scrutiny.
> 
>  In the 1970s, when the economic and political conundrums associated
>  with bureaucratic, centralized, mid-20th Century capital and
>  government became fully manifest, the definition of the situation
>  that prevailed was that government was the problem. A fervent belief
>  in an ideology of personal choice and market deregulation became the
>  preferred solution. Neo-liberal discourse promoted a marketplace
>  framework where risk was redistributed from the collective to the
>  individual.  Government was no longer to be the guarantor of
>  security. It was redefined as a partner in individual risk assessment
>  and management. Within this econometric universe, people succeed or
>  fail based solely on their own assessments of risk, and level of
>  personal responsibility and merit. With its atomistic
>  presuppositions, and its denial of large-scale social or structural
>  phenomena, action to influence structural changes in national and
>  global economies was limited to the dispensing of individualistic
>  prescriptions for life-long learning and retraining.  Notions of
>  collective action, in support of the public commons or a public good
>  became stigmatized, and discredited as a dishonest, mystifying set of
>  rhetorical tricks deployed by an anti-American intellectual elite.
>  With its individualistic focus, this is an atomistic ideology with a
>  deep elective affinity for the mass export of jobs, the escalation of
>  CEOs salaries, and the wholesale restratification of the American
>  class system.
> 
>  In the structural and demographic shifts that accompanied this
>  ideological sea change, the orientation around the purpose of higher
>  education shifted as well.  For a period in the early and mid-1980s,
>  the rationale for education was redeployed, in an intermediate move,
>  in service of rhetoric about mounting an economic national
>  counteroffensive against the height of Japanese economic power. As
>  the Japanese economy entered a cycle of contraction and deflation in
>  the early 1990s, that rhetoric disappeared.
> 
>  What displaced it was the idea of education as a private, rather than
>  a public good. Most college recruits today are primarily "sold" on
>  the idea of education as a lifetime income enhancement.  It's an
>  econometric argument with roots in Gary C. Becker's notion of human
>  capital. Aggressively adopted by both Clinton and Bush, the notion of
>  human capital postulates that we are all econometric risk-managers of
>  ourselves. We invest in ourselves (skills/value-added component) as a
>  development of our genetic abilities (raw materials). The
>  taken-for-granted nature of this rationale for higher education finds
>  contemporary expression in routine editorial assessment of the value
>  of higher education. For example, consider an October 17, 2003
>  MSNBC/CNBC web-posted article titled: "Is a degree worth a million
>  bucks? How to determine what piece of paper will really pay off" by
>  Liz Pulliam Weston. With some very specific numbers that compare the
>  income of high school degree holders with those of college graduates,
>  we're told that Associate's and Bachelor's degrees pay off, as "a
>  slam dunk." In discussing "how your mileage may vary," Ms. Weston
>  also informs the econometrically inclined that some M.A. and M.S.
>  degree holders (in the liberal arts and the social sciences) are, in
>  a financial sense, "a step back," and that "Professional degrees
>  rule." The cost/benefit comparison is based on 1996 Census Bureau
>  data, and assumes that a degree will cost between $50,000-$110,000,
>  and that the payback can be measured by recording the lifetime income
>  gap between a high school degree and a college degree, or between a
>  bachelor's degree and an advanced degree.[14]
> 
>  Because Ms. Weston's data and assumptions were taken from the boom
>  years of the late 1990s, they do not reflect structural changes that
>  have taken place since 2000 (such as the dot.com bust, chronic fiscal
>  deficits at the state and federal levels, and the accelerating trend
>  of outsourcing of intellectual labor), her calculations and
>  conclusions are potentially inaccurate. How this is so is discussed
>  below:
> 
> 
> 
>  ELECTIVE AFFINITIES: A. Reducing the Supply of Intellectual Labor,
>  Raising the Cost -- Education, Neoliberalism and the Decline of
>  Social Mobility in the U.S.
>  ----------------------------------------------------------------
> 
>  In the wake of chronic fiscal deficits, a burgeoning population of
>  high school graduates (that will peak in 2009), and the growing
>  political acceptability of the notion that education is a private
>  good, and, as such, is primed for less, rather than more, fiscal
>  support, the majority of U.S. states have adopted the following
>  strategy: Most legislatures have simultaneously reduced funding for
>  higher education while developing mechanisms (including proposals
>  that schools set their own tuitions and/or campus privatizations) to
>  sharply bump up tuition and fees. In effect, students at public
>  colleges and universities will be paying more and getting less (class
>  availability, larger class sizes, more non-tenure track personnel,
>  less infrastructural and service improvements, etc.). What
>  distinguishes this round of cuts (2003-04 and 2004-05) is that the
>  sheer magnitude of the tuition and fee increases will work to reduce
>  demand, precisely at the point that demand is growing (in the form of
>  increasing numbers of high school graduates through the first decade
>  of this century, with no other legitimate path for social mobility).
>  The table below (adapted from the Washington Post and San Antonio
>  Express-News websites and the National Association of State
>  Universities and Land Grant Colleges) illustrates some of how this is
>  so:
> 
> 
>       Table Four: Rising Tuition and Fees -- Mandatory Tuition/Fees
>                   Changes from 2002 to 2003-04 [15]
> 
>  _____________________________________________________________________
>  |                                 | Percent Change | Percent Change |
>  | Name of State/School/System     | In-state       | in State       |
>  |    (4 Year Institutions)        | Tuition/Fees   | Financial Aid  |
>  |                                 | 2003-04        | for Students   |
>  |                                 |                | 2003-04        |
>  |_________________________________|________________|________________|
>  | University of Hawaii at Manoa   |      2.9       |      N/A       |
>  |_________________________________|________________|________________|
>  | Florida State University        |      6.6       |      +19       |
>  |_________________________________|________________|________________|
>  | University of Michigan          |      6.5       |      N/A       |
>  |_________________________________|________________|________________|
>  | New Mexico State University     |      9.0       |      -07       |
>  |_________________________________|________________|________________|
>  | University of Kentucky          |     14.0       |      +27       |
>  |_________________________________|________________|________________|
>  | Ohio State University           |     14.3       |      +08       |
>  |_________________________________|________________|________________|
>  | University of Maryland at       |     21.0       |      +11       |
>  |       College Pk                |                |                |
>  |_________________________________|________________|________________|
>  | Iowa State University           |     22.3       |      -02       |
>  |_________________________________|________________|________________|
>  | Indiana University              |     22.6       |      +15       |
>  |      (new students)             |                |                |
>  |_________________________________|________________|________________|
>  | Texas Tech                      |     22.7       |      +20       |
>  |_________________________________|________________|________________|
>  | University of Oklahoma          |     27.7       |      +11       |
>  |_________________________________|________________|________________|
>  | State University of NY System   |     28.0       |      +06       |
>  |_________________________________|________________|________________|
>  | University of Virginia          |     30.0       |      -08       |
>  |_________________________________|________________|________________|
>  | University of Texas at Austin*  |     31.7       |      +20       |
>  |_________________________________|________________|________________|
>  | University of Arizona, Arizona  |     39.0       |      +75       |
>  |    State, Northern Arizona      |                |                |
>  |_________________________________|________________|________________|
>  | California State System         |     40.0       |      N/A       |
>  |_________________________________|________________|________________|
>  | *projected [16]                 |
>  |_________________________________|
> 
> 
>  Much of the increased financial aid to students is in the form of
>  merit-based, rather than need-based, awards.  Members of the lower
>  middle class, and the middle class, will feel the brunt of higher
>  tuitions and fees. One letter to the editor of the Washington Post,
>  published on October 10, 2003, responded to a University of Maryland
>  Board of Regents' member's desire to double the cost of tuition, as
>  an incentive for students to quickly finish their academic careers:
> 
>       Mr. Hug said that if tuition were increased, students would
>       speed through their academic programs and spend less time in
>       school. The reverse is more likely ... If Maryland imposes
>       barriers to higher education for the middle and lower classes
>       and fails to educate a workforce that can meet the needs of
>       Maryland's employers, those industries will move... [17]
> 
>  As we have seen, hundreds of thousands of routine information
>  processing and higher order intellectual labor jobs are currently in
>  the export pipeline of transnational corporations, never to return.
>  [18] And that may be the unstated fact shaping the inept arguments of
>  the inaptly named Mr. Hug. For if it is already true, as Ann
>  Livermore, head of services at Hewlett-Packard claims, that "now
>  you're going to see the same trends in services that happened in
>  manufacturing," [19] and in doing so, according to General Electric
>  Vice President Dee Miller, "[we will] tap the world's best talent,"
>  [20] without having to pay for their education and training, and with
>  wages a fraction of what it costs to train and retain U.S.
>  intellectual labor, the following questions must be asked: What is
>  the future of American intellectual labor? What is the future of the
>  American institutions that train such labor? How will the U.S. absorb
>  the projected and permanent loss of $136 billion dollars per year in
>  wages among its class of "symbolic workers?" [21] Will downwardly
>  mobile middle-class knowledge workers continue to embrace the dogma
>  of neoliberalism, and accept the blame and  personal responsibility
>  for their own structural and economic obsolescence, and that of their
>  children?
> 
>  The nexus of forces and interests around such structural changes
>  resemble what Max Weber called "an elective affinity." (For Weber, an
>  elective affinity consists of a mutually enabling and active
>  resonance between the tenets of a belief system and the economic
>  interests of a social group). One prong of this affinity is as
>  follows: For a class of young and middle-aged urban professionals in
>  the information industries in the U.S., the neoliberal credo fit well
>  with their economic interests, and the structural changes of the
>  1980s and 1990s. But their time may well be passing. By 2008, when IT
>  work and a variety of service-oriented exports employ four million
>  people, generating fifty-seven billion dollars in yearly revenues,
>  and constitute at least seven percent of their gross domestic product
>  on the Indian subcontinent, upwardly mobile East Indians may have
>  (temporarily) more of an elective affinity for neo-liberalism than
>  permanently displaced U.S. knowledge workers. Ironically, U.S.
>  knowledge workers have been displaced via one their own
>  instrumentalities, the construction of high-speed communication
>  networks.  For them, the global unemployment line is replacing the
>  imagined glories of the global village.
> 
>  Another facet of this elective affinity is the neoliberal
>  redefinition of higher education as a private good precisely at the
>  time when U.S. intellectual laborers are seen as too expensive, as
>  increasingly not economically viable in a transnational corporatist
>  order. The redefinition of education as a private good allows for the
>  future privatization of these institutions,   reducing the role of
>  the state as a redistributor of social goods and opportunities.
>  Along with the elimination of other redistribution functions (such as
>  the estate tax), the overall tendency will be to reduce social
>  mobility, and reconstitute the U.S. in the direction of a closed and
>  more static social system. Restricting access to higher education
>  will simultaneously allow for reduced state expenditures, which will
>  lead to reduced taxes, while shaping reduced expectations of social
>  mobility among the poor and the lower middle classes. And that
>  reduction of expectations and the consequent reductions in the number
>  of U.S. "symbolic workers" will be line with the declining
>  competitiveness of U.S. intellectual labor in a global intellectual
>  labor market.
> 
>  If all this is so, the American digerati have become the vanguard of
>  this round of global restratification, signifying the digital death
>  rattle of the American middle class.
> 
> 
> 
>  A Cautionary Tale:  The Elective Affinity between
>  Market Fundamentalism and Corporate Neo-Colonialism
>  ---------------------------------------------------
> 
>  Providing the underlying ideological beat for the processes of
>  white-collar outsourcing is the motif of market fundamentalism in the
>  service of a corporate neo-colonialism.  Richard Petrella has noted
>  that six tenets of neo-liberalism have been so fervently and
>  frequently articulated and defended that they have become the mantra
>  of market fundamentalism, a corporatist/secular version of the Ten
>  Commandments:
> 
>       Thou shalt globalize.
> 
>       Thou shalt incessantly strive for technological innovation.
> 
>       Thou shalt drive thy competitors out of business, since
>       otherwise they'll do it to you.
> 
>       Thou shalt liberalize thy market.
> 
>       Thou shalt not countenance state intervention in economic life.
> 
>       Thou shalt privatize. [22]
> 
>  Although these commandments are often honored in the breach (the
>  breakdown of the WTO talks in Cancun over U.S. agricultural subsidies
>  is but one example), they remain key ideological lynchpins for market
>  fundamentalism.  Taken as a whole, they prescribe privatizing public
>  goods (such as water systems and education), facilitating corporate
>  concentration of capital and political influence in the making of
>  social policy, disassembling pre-existing public health, social and
>  environmental measures, promoting consumerism and hypergrowth, and
>  removing controls on imports, usually undermining local industrial
>  and agricultural economies.  In effect, this credo and the practices
>  associated with it (such as International Monetary Fund and World
>  Bank loan prescriptions for less developed nations) enabled
>  transnational corporations to enter national markets with impunity,
>  strip and ship resources and then leave, without worrying about pesky
>  "externalities" such as the long-term social, economic and political
>  cost of their activities on the local ecosystem, and the health and
>  well-being of the local population.[23]
> 
>  This corporate activity iterates a traditional colonialist model of
>  domination, where local economies were primarily shaped to service a
>  colonial center and its form of economic organization and mode of
>  production. After independence, neo-colonialism reconstituted these
>  relations via local elites. Arguably, phenomena such as the
>  outsourcing of millions of white collar jobs represent a
>  post-national neo-colonialism.
> 
>  In this phase of techno-corporatism, the colonial center has become,
>  more than ever, an even more distributed and globalized function (of
>  profit extraction and ideology propagation) [24] rather than a
>  concrete referent that is economically co-terminus with any
>  nation-state.[25] For example, while Microsoft, Dell, Lehman
>  Brothers and IBM have historical and cultural roots in the U.S., a
>  commitment to sustaining long-term social values or identity of the
>  commons is irrelevant (to high-level executives such as IBM's Tom
>  Lynch). Or more precisely, these ideas exist exclusively in public
>  relations practices and commencement day speeches to business school
>  graduates. The corollary to this is simple: If, in order to maximize
>  short term profit and gain market share, transnational corporations
>  find it expeditious to hollow-out the U.S. middle class, by
>  exploiting every device from tax abatements to outsourcing the jobs
>  of symbolic analysts, so be it. And if in doing so, the social and
>  biological quality of the environment and lived experience
>  deteriorates, that's the way it goes. For the techno-corporatist
>  center is more-and-more a mobile function, distributed in a global
>  network, and is less-and-less tied to any given particular public
>  spatiality and notion of the common good or common identity (such as
>  a country, culture or a province). Its loyalty is to its own
>  performativity. And for the time being, Budapest and Bangalore (among
>  others) serve the ends of corporate performativity, and
> 
>  In short, our techno-corporations are our contemporary colonial
>  powers, restlessly traversing the rhizomatic arrangement of people
>  and places in search of profit and performative nirvanas. By doing
>  so, they aggressively reshape social routines, values and
>  relationships in the process. As such, they bring more than cut-rate
>  employment opportunities to Indian or Romanian computer programmers.
>  What is imported into these developing countries is an entire social
>  philosophy (neo-liberalism), which effectively sees the developing
>  world exclusively as a new techno-colony, a means to its performative
>  and profitability ends. [26] If culture, history or boundaries do not
>  serve these short term ends, then the tendency is to undermine or
>  discard these elements of world culture, replacing it with a
>  self-obsessed techno-corporatist Social Darwinism.  Presented as a
>  gift to the rest of the world, a scene in Homer's Iliad can be
>  metaphorically redeployed as part of a cautionary tale: Think
>  carefully about that Trojan horse, the one that techno-capitalism
>  left behind, even as you drag it in behind the city's walls. A
>  seemingly benign gift that provides much needed jobs for your
>  intellectual talent ... well, you'd be best off not to leave it
>  unattended.
> 
> 
> 
>  Notes
>  ---------------
> 
>  [1] The repost of Brian Valentine's PowerPoint presentation was made
>  possible by The Washington Alliance of Technology Workers,
>  Communications Workers of America, Local 37083, AFL-CIO. The URL for
>  Valentine's exhortations is
>  http://www.washtech.org/docs/html_ppts/01.php
> 
>  [2] Engardio, Pete,  Bernstein, Aaron and Kripalani, Manjeet. "The
>  New Global Job Shift." ~Business Week Online~, February 3, 2003.
>  Available online at
>  http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/03_05/b3818001.htm
> 
>  [3] Moyers, Bill. "NOW: In Depth: Politics and Economy: Foreign
>  Service Overview." August 29, 2003. Available at
>  http://www.pbs.org/now/politics/jobflight.html
> 
>  [4] Flores, Matt. "Looming Tuition Jump Worries Some." ~San Antonio
>  Express-News~, 10/12/03. Available at
>  http://news.mysanantonio.com/story.cfm?xla=saen&xlb=320&xlc=1068413
> 
>  [5] Washington Post Infographic: "Higher Cost Education: Increases in
>  Tuition and Fees at selected state university campuses and systems or
>  systems (changes from 02 to 03-04)." Available at
>  http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-rv/education/daily/graphics/
>  tuition_costs_072203.html
> 
>  [6] Drucker, Peter F. "The Age of Social Transformation." ~The
>  Atlantic Monthly~, November 1994. Available online at
>  http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/ecbig/soctrans.htm
> 
>  [7] Cook, David. 08/22/1993. "Farewells To American Culture, Work And
>  Competition." ~CTHEORY~, R001. Available at
>  http://www.ctheory.net/text_file.asp?pick=7
> 
>  [8] Angell, Ian. 1995. "Winners and Losers in the Information Age."
>  ~LSE magazine Centenary issue of Summer 1995~, pg 10-12. Available at
>  http://mrdata.com/~laurens/angell1995.html
> 
>  [9] Brodner, Peter. _The Future of Work in a Knowledge-Based
>  Economy_. ICT/CIREM International Seminar Economy at Work in the
>  Knowledge Society, February 24-25, 2000, Barcelona. Available at
>  http://www.iatge.de/aktuell/veroeff/ps/broedner00a.pdf
> 
>  [10] Lindlaw, Scott. "Bush Looks to Stem Manufacturing Job Loss."
>  ~The Guardian Unlimited~,  Monday, 09/01/03.
> 
>  [11] ibid.
> 
>  [12] Cringley, Robert X. The Pulpit on PBS.org: "Body Count: Why
>  Moving to India Won't Really Help IT."  August 7, 2003. Available at
>  http://www.pbs.org/cringely/pulpit/pulpit20030807.html
> 
>  [13] An audio file "bootleg" of Tom Lynch's in-house discussion of
>  IBM's plans for outsourcing is available at
>  http://www.washtech.org/wt/news/industry/display.php?ID_Content=4598
> 
>  [14] Weston, Liz Pulliam. MSNBC/CNBC on NBC Money: "Is a Degree Worth
>  a Million Bucks? How to determine what piece of paper will really pay
>  off."  October 17, 2003. Available at
>  http://www.msnbc.com/news/981649.asp
> 
>  [15] Washington Post Infographic: "Higher Cost Tuition: Increases in
>  Tuitions and Fees at Selected State Universities and Campuses." July
>  22, 2003. Available at
>  http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-v/education/daily/graphics/
>  tuition_costs_072203.html
> 
>  [16] San Antonio Express News Infographic: "Tuition Costs Rising."
>  October 12, 2003. Available at
>  http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/images/graphics/1012tuition.swf
> 
>  [17] Chafee, Mary. "The Real Cost of Increasing Tuition." Letter to
>  the Editor, ~Washington Post~. October 10, 2003. Available online at
>  http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A6296-2003Oct9.html
> 
>  [18] MSNBC/Reuters: "Fed Official: Jobs Permanently Gone." October
>  20, 2003. Available online at
>  http://www.msnbc.com/news/982733.asp?0si=-
> 
>  [19] ibid.
> 
>  [20] ibid.
> 
>  [21] ibid.
> 
>  [22] Petrella, Richard. "Six Commandments."  ~Financial Times~,
>  12/28/99. Cited in Imade, Lucky O. 2003. "Globalization: The Two
>  Faces of Globalization: Impoverishment or Prosperity?," in
>  ~Globalization~, Vol 3, No. 1. Available at
>  http://globalization.icaap.org/content/v3.1/01_imade.html
> 
>  [23] The recent Bolivian resistance to this phenomenon is worth
>  noting: Mass protests and resistance by peasants resulted in the
>  Bolivian government canceling a Bechtel water privatization project
>  in Cochabamba. Even more recently (October 2003), mass resistance to
>  the construction of an export gas line led to the resignation of
>  President "Goni" Sanchez and the annulment of the export agreement.
> 
>  In another sign of resistance, see Srivastava, Amit.  "Communities
>  Reject Coca-Cola in India," ~CorpWatch India~, 07/10/03.  Available
>  on-line at
>  http://www.corpwatchindia.org/issues/PID.jsp?articleid=4545
> 
>  The article details how water supply and quality has been degraded
>  near Coca-Cola bottling plants in India, and the emerging Indian
>  boycott against the Atlanta-based firm.
> 
>  [24] Arguably, when basic research and development, as well as
>  financial analysis functions are outsourced, one has reoriented the
>  heart of the corporation's identity and practices.  No practice,
>  then, theoretically, is beyond the performative gaze and ethos.
> 
>  [25] Derrida, Jacques.  "Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of
>  the Human Sciences."  In _Writing and Difference_, pp. 278-295.
>  Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978.
> 
>  [26] Data on the configuration of the top 200 global corporations
>  bears out this conclusion. For example, one study, titled the "Top
>  200: The Rise of Corporate Global Power," authored by Sarah Anderson
>  and John Cavanaugh of the Institute for Policy Studies (2000), makes
>  the following (selected) claims:
> 
> 
>  a. While the sales of the Top 200 are the equivalent of 27.5 percent
>  of world economic activity, they employ only 0.78 percent of the
>  world's workforce;
> 
>  b. Between 1983 and 1999, the profits of the Top 200 firms grew 362.4
>  percent, while the number of people they employ grew by only 14.4
>  percent;
> 
>  c. The Top 200 corporations' sales are growing at a faster rate than
>  overall global activity. Between 1983 and 1999, their combined sales
>  grew from the equivalent of 25.0 percent to 27.5 percent of World
>  GDP.
> 
>  The entire report is available from CorpWatch at
>  www.corpwatch.org/issues/PFT.jsp?articleid=377
> 
> 
>  --------------------
>  With enduring interests in representation, communication, culture and
>  technology, Dion Dennis is an Assistant Professor of Sociology and
>  Criminal Justice at Bridgewater State College.
> 
>  _____________________________________________________________________
> 
>  * CTHEORY is an international journal of theory, technology and
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