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Re: <nettime> The $100bn Facebook question: Will capitalism survive 'val
Jonathan Marshall on Fri, 2 Mar 2012 06:07:41 +0100 (CET)


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Re: <nettime> The $100bn Facebook question: Will capitalism survive 'value abundance'?


Brian writes:

>For years I have been dismayed by a very common refusal to think. The
>dismaying part is that it's based on the work of European history's
>greatest political philosopher, Karl Marx. It consists in the assertion
>that social media exploits you, that play is labor, and that Facebook is
>the new Ford Motor Co.

I'm not actually sure that saying people are refusing to think by disagreeing with you, is the best way of approaching the question.  We could easily and shallowly argue that the idea that Facebook is a sponser of creativity and communication, that only incidently profits off the service it offers, is also a refusal to think. Certainly it is what facebook might like us to think.. 

To me, the problem is the complexity of what is to be thought, and a general refusal to allow paradox - ie that something can be both good and bad, that it can have contradictory drives - to exist within the same thought. 

Thus is it not possible that facebook, and others, both exploits free labour and provides something that enables people to do something of their own? Why do we have to ultimately say it is just one or the other? 

Free labour itself is a complicated idea, perhaps descending from Toffler's idea of the 'prosumer', the fact that we all do work nowadays which used to be somebody's paid labour - such as filling a petrol pump, checking out goods in a store etc etc. Thus we all provide free labour, and that is now part of the structure of contemporary capitalism.  It may or may not generate unemployment or free people of boring jobs - which ever you like - it certainly cuts costs for business and increases profits and upper management salaries. It has drives in both directions, but it would not seem to be something entirely outside of exploitation.

>Now, there are all kinds of things wrong with social media, and I don't
>even use it. But even I can recognize that it doesn't exploit you the
>way a boss does. 

But a boss is not the only form of exploitation, and indeed we could argue that in contemporary capitalism, your direct boss may also be exploited, even though they might think they are working 80 hours a week because they want to get ahead or something. Again the relation is complex.

Perhaps a better way of expressing the facebook relation is tribute.  Like you farm and give a certain percentage of your income to the Lord, because he enables you to farm - in theory.  Facebook provides the farm, and skims off some money you never knew you had produced.

>It emphatically _does_ sell statistics about the ways
>you and your friends and correspondents make use of your human faculties
>and desires, to nasty corporations that do attempt to capture your
>attention, condition your behavior and separate you from your money. In
>that sense, it does try to control you and you do create value for it.

Yes.

>Yet that is not all that happens. Because you too do something with it,

That is not all that happens in a workplace either.  We party, have love affairs, rivalries, express ourselves, sometimes sell results of our labour elsewhere and so on. 

Are people at google not wage labourers even with the beanbags, free form spaces, and day a week to officially do something interesting? The peasants under their lord also have fun days as well. But this might not mean that zero exploitation exists.

>something of your own. The dismaying thing in the theories of playbour,
>etc, is that they refuse to recognize that all of us, in addition to
>being exploited and controlled, are overflowing sources of potentially
>autonomous productive energy. 

By criticising facebook for 'exploiting' people and for enabling certain forms of contact, and restricting other forms of contact, what is precisely being recognised is that people have productive energy. No business could survive without people's productive energy.

The whole point of a 'business organisation' is to harness as much of that creative and productive capacity for its own ends, and to make its ends the ends of the workers. If those workers don't get paid for it, all the better, as far as management and ownership is concerned. 

The business enables people to survive and produce things; it also exploits them.

>The refusal to think about this - a
>refusal which mostly circulates on the left, unfortunately - leaves that
>autonomous potential unexplored and partially unrealized.

Not in my opinion, it recognises the difficulties faced for autonomous potential...

Can we have an autonomous potential in any case? To me sounds like a potential outside of society, outside of organisation, or the interplay of chaos and structure. So again facebook might be good or bad.

anyway, just some non-thinking.

jon

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