Felix Stalder on Wed, 9 Feb 2011 16:23:58 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> The beginning of the end?

On Wednesday February 9 2011, Brian Holmes wrote:

> We think there is a link between financially driven globalization,
> just-in-time production, smart-weapons warfare and the rise of the
> Internet: all of that begins in the early 70s, starts to develop
> seriously in the 80s and comes to a peak in the late 90s and early
> 00s; and it's all associated with changes in organizational forms,
> media, cultural values, even the very definition of money. In short,
> it's a different paradigm.

Well, the question is, what kind of links? If I read you correctly,
these are the some of the dimensions that make up the paradigm you
call informationalism, and if one goes down, the other go as well.
The revolt in Egypt then is just the latest sign of the whole edifice
unraveling, aka the beginning of the end.

I'm not sure I can follow you here.

First, I don't think the revolts in the Arab world are a product of
the financial crisis, or, even react to the same underlying structural
problems. I think they react to different things: a combination of
the rise in food prices (relating to a real degree to global warming
issues, e.g. Russia not exporting any grain due to record droughts
last summer and Egypt being the world's biggest grain importer [1]),
corrupt and sclerotic regimes way past their time, and empowered youth
thanks to digital technologies. The regimes are sclerotic not because
they are run by very old men, but because they embody structures that
are outdated and cannot reform themselves to a new environment. We
saw this happening in Russia and its periphery and now we are seeing
happening again in Arab World. It's perhaps not a co-incidence that
Mubarak was trained as an air force pilot in the Soviet Union in the
late 1950s, a time when Arab nationalism was left wing. This is why I
compared it to Berlin 1989, not because I think the outcome of these
uprisings will be the same.

I think it would be a analytical mistake not to account sufficiently
for the degree to which major institutions can lag behind other
currents in society (most importantly, the economy and civil society)
and the fact that several logics can and do co-exist on different
levels at the same time. And geo-political arrangements are certainly
among the most complex forms of governmental institutions so there is
no surprise that they can outlive the conditions that produced them
for a long time, at least in certain areas, such as the middle east.
This why I see this as the end of the end.

Second, I don't think the things in the quote above are in the same
category, thus they should not be lumped together even though they are
linked. Let me explain. In my view, informationalism is an particular
organizational paradigm that enables to combine flexibility and scale
at previously unmanageable levels of complexity, based high-speed,
high-volume information flows. It does not relate to a particular
political or economic program. Financial globalization is one way to
implement this organizational capacity to achieve particular economic
and political ends. Just-in-time production is another, but also the
rise of a global civil society, the alter-globalization movement, the
global criminal economy and whatnot. They all belong together because
they implement this organizational paradigm and some of its basic
values such as diversity, flexibility and networking. Still, they are
not a solid edifice where one element depends on the other. Rather,
they comprise a mess of competing agendas and power struggles.

So, unless you are talking about "de-growth" and real subsistence
economy, you will be stuck within the informational paradigm.
Personally, I think this is a good thing, because it's
informationalism that allows to ggregate people's intelligence in new
ways and create new kinds of (post-representational) politics. Parts
of that are played out in central Cairo. So, rather than seeing this
as the peak of the paradigm, it's the very paradigm triumphing yet
again over the previous, obsolete one.



--- http://felix.openflows.com ----------------------- books out now:
*|Deep Search.The Politics of Search Beyond Google.Studienverlag 2009
*|Mediale Kunst/Media Arts Zurich.13 Positions.Scheidegger&Spiess2008
*|Manuel Castells and the Theory of the Network Society. Polity, 2006 
*|Open Cultures and the Nature of Networks. Ed. Futura/Revolver, 2005 

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