McKenzie Wark on Tue, 4 Jun 2002 14:55:33 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> on material and 'immaterial' labour

Doug Henwood writes,
>Ever hear of these little entities called Ford and General Motors?
Yes, and look how far down he Fortune 500 they have slid in the
last 50 years.

>In case you've forgotten, they're based in the
>First, or if you prefer "overdeveloped," world, own big factories,
And are moving those factories to Mexico or the former Eastern

>There are some 18 million manufacturing workers in the U.S.
Which is less than the number working in the fast food industry.

>Manufacturing generates over $1 trillion in income annually in this
>country. We've got a ways to go before we hit pure virtuality.
I have never argued that the economy of the overdeveloped world
is in any sense becoming a 'pure virtuality'. I argue that *power*
in that economy is less and less tied to manufacturing ability,
and more and more tied to the research and development of new things
and new images, new patents and copyrights. Nothing 'virtual' about

Things still get made, but they are increasingly made elsewhere.
I'm surprised that Doug of all people would appear to deny that
manufacturing in the United States is in trouble. Its one of the
great achievements of American marxist political economy to show
1. that this is the case and 2. the reasons why. Most writing on
the topic focusses on the way corporations have used 'globalisation'
to drive down the price of labour. I simply add to that something
that is turing up in the management literature -- the discovery of
the value and power of IP to the contemporary corporation. You
can subcontract your component manufacture to the cheapest bidder,
but it helps to invest heavily in the value of your brands and the
strength of your patent portfolio.

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