Stroking the Platypus

Time Enough at Last

What is information, though? And what is intellectual property? These questions bring us back to the issue of alienation, and the purported difference between industrial and service or knowledge labor. The celebrated sociologist Manuel Castells acknowledges that “information, in its broadest sense, e.g. as communication of knowledge, has been critical in all societies,” but he also maintains that the late twentieth century saw the rise of “a specific form of social organization in which information generation, processing, and transmission became the fundamental sources of productivity and power…”[1] What does it mean that information (and the handling of information) is the main source of … [Read more...]

The Thing Called Information: Understanding Alienation in the Post-Industrial Economy

Knowledge workers?

“Here, and shockingly few other places in this country, men are paid to increase knowledge, to work toward no end but that.” “That’s very generous of General Forge and Foundry Company.” “Nothing generous about it. New knowledge is the most valuable commodity on earth. The more truth we have to work with, the richer we become." Had I been a Bokononist then, that statement would have made me howl. - Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Cat’s Cradle, 1963[1] The late Kurt Vonnegut loved to skewer the irrationality of both science and religion in his novels. In the acclaimed Cat’s Cradle, he invented Bokononism—a faith that encouraged its adherents to believe in lies or, at least, “harmless … [Read more...]

ToM “Besties” of 2014

TOM best of montage

Hello there. You are now witnesses to a kind of confrontation between me and these three men. And it ain’t so simple, treasonous crime. No it ain’t so simple and there’s reasons why When Detroit’s Protomartyr released their 2014 album Under Color of Official Right (itself eerily descriptive of public discourse from all sides this year), how could they have known their mix of Wire-like punk dirges would be emblematic of the last 12 months? The year seemed punctuated by rough arguments, sometimes violent confrontations, and the kind of disagreements that as Protomartyr sings, “Ain’t so simple and there’s reasons why.” Yet, our little blog dedicated to engaging these sorts of “conflicts” … [Read more...]

A Loray Mill of the Mind

IMG_3502

My family moved to North Carolina in the late 1980s, having left a stagnant and hopeless West Virginia in search of greater economic opportunities. My mom and grandparents and I first tried Indiana for a few years, but eventually left for the greener shores of the Sunbelt. We came to Gastonia, a modest-sized former textile town (it once boasted of having “more looms and spindles within its hundred-mile radius than... any other southern city”) in the greater Charlotte metropolitan area. An aunt and uncle had already paved the way for us, in a sort of internal chain-migration, leaving WV for NC several years before. I once asked my mom why Suzy and Jim had settled on Gastonia as a place to … [Read more...]

13 Great Books on the Post-industrial Society

industrial vs postindustrial

Since at least the 1950s, scholars have speculated about what the economy might look like when and if manufacturing came to play a smaller role in employment, output, and so forth. Though we often think of the early years after World War II as the heyday of a high-wage, unionized, mass-production economy, the most perceptive observers at the time noticed that manufacturing was already shrinking as a proportion of employment by the late 1950s; even if the absolute number of industrial jobs was holding steady at the time, employment was growing fastest in services such as retail, education, healthcare, and so forth. The young radicals of the New Left took note of these trends in their 1962 … [Read more...]

i Paid for Your iPhone: Mariana Mazzucato’s Spirited Defense of the Public Sector and Its Crucial Role in Innovation

mary tyler moore intro

The State makes things happen that otherwise would not have. - Mariana Mazzucato Thomas Piketty isn’t the only European economist making headlines lately—though his 700-page juggernaut has tended to dominate the discussion everywhere from the New York Times and Economist to Slate and The Nation, where Tim Shenk wrote an epic and slightly snotty piece putting the book in its place. As Piketty himself pointed out in the introduction to Capital in the Twenty-first Century, economics is truly the coin on the realm in the United States—the academic discipline that probably gets the most deference and respect in policymaking circles, as well as American media and popular culture more … [Read more...]

The Lego Movie and the Gospel of the Creative Class

the_lego_movie

Any parent who has ever stepped on one of the wonderful Danish bricks known as Legos might find their faith in karma reaffirmed by The Lego Movie. Indeed, a reasonable observer could not be blamed for doubting that a film adaptation of a toy could be hailed by critics as “the first fantastic movie of 2014,” or as “wickedly smart” with “a joyous wit.”  Yet this is what the Lego company—and directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller—have given us as payback for all those hurt feet: a fresh, dizzying, and audacious animated film about interlocking blocks and anonymous minifigurines. Of course, Michael Bay’s Transformers movies gave us plenty of reason to doubt the premise of toy-as-movie, … [Read more...]

Making Sense of North Carolina’s Political Mess

greetings from north carolina

As the late, great Larry Goodwyn might say, it all goes back to Populism.  The roots of today’s right-wing putsch in the Old North State, which has seen resurgent Republicans in the General Assembly and Governor’s Mansion push an extreme agenda against the poor, minorities, education, the environment, voting rights and reproductive freedom, stretches back over a century, long before the rise of Barack Obama or the Tea Party. It has been hard for many observers to square the state’s recent sharp turn to the right with its reputation as among the most moderate and even progressive of Southern states.  The long, ugly career of Jesse Helms notwithstanding, North Carolina could boast of its … [Read more...]

When Genius Fractured

fail financial crisis

It is hard not to sympathize with Alex’s complaint about Age of Fracture: Rodgers’ implicit avoidance of the question of why. Age of Fracture is not the place to turn to if you are looking for an explanation of America’s twenty-first century malaise. Age of Fracture is a diagnosis, and a second-order one at that - an analysis of failed analyses, neither a prescription nor a cure. But for students wondering at the their elders’ impotence in the face of economic austerity, financial collapse, long-term unemployment, deindustrialization, mass surveillance, and so on, it is the unavoidable place to start. I read the book as a catalogue of elite failure. Each chapter is a series of logically … [Read more...]

Working Poor in the Creative Economy

money machine wind money grab

Donald Trump just unveiled an exciting new start-up—a crowdfunding website called “Fund Anything." You can find your own way to the site if you care about such things. The heightened profile of crowdfunding—Amanda Palmer, the Veronica Mars film, and even Iron Sky—probably motivated Trump to dip his toes into this new variant of capitalization.[1] If Trump has a talent, it seems to be sniffing out opportunities to exploit, and the shift to crowdfunding now seems like such an exploitable moment. Whatever draws the ever-listening media to listen to him bloviate, he'll embrace it—lest we forget his all-important announcement about the conditions of the President's birth. But the means by … [Read more...]

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,968 other followers