Felix Stalder on Sat, 12 Feb 2011 15:03:55 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> The beginning of the end?

Dear Brian,

it took me a while to absorb this. I agree with you as far as the three 
main crises are concerned and the exceptional challenges they pose to the 
US (and, in to a lesser degree, Europe and Japan): financialization 
(compensating for the loss of productive capacity with credit, allowing to 
hide rising social inequality and ignore demographic challenges), climate change 
(necessitating the reorganization of global energy flows) and the 
transformation of hegemony (shifting from a center/periphery structure into 
a network that internalizes everything).

What I still don't agree with you is the characterization of 
informationalism and its supposed inherent path-dependencies. The concept 
of 'mode of development' only make sense in conjunction with the concept of 
'modes of production'. One is a techno-organizational, the other 
is a political paradigm. One is about means, the other is about ends. Of 
course, historically, they are always deeply intertwined, because it is the 
end that produces the means. 

Joseph Weizenbaum realized in the mid 1970s that the techno-organizational 
transformation where actually stabilizing the political system, rather than 
challenging it:

âMany of the problems of growth and complexity that pressed insistently and 
irresistibly during the postwar decades could have served as incentives for 
political innovation....Yet, the computer did arrive âjust in time.â But in 
time for what? In time to save--and to save very nearly intact, indeed, to 
entrench and stabilize--social and political structures that otherwise 
might have been either radically renovated or allowed to totter under the 
demands that were sure to be made on them. The computer, then, was used to 
conserve Americaâs social and political institutions. It buttressed them 
and immunized them, at least temporarily, against enormous pressure for 

Yet, the context of their invention does not determine their development, 
let alone their use. The Internet was initially developed by the military, 
but it's no longer a military technology.

I think it is necessary to separate Keynesianism from Fordism (or more 
generally, industrialism), and neoliberalism from informationalism. 
Historically, Fordism has been a mode of development in a variety of 
political systems, one of them being Keynesisan capitalism, but also in 
Soviet statism (to use another of Castells expressions), where it was 
oriented towards very different political ends. 

The same thing is with informationalism. Its emergence is connected to the 
political transformations of the late 1970s and 1980s, that is, the 
transformations of capitalism, which were essentially about preserving its 
core features. But the resulting neo-liberalism is not the only political 
system that can embody. China, it is my suspicion, makes very different use 
of capacities of informationalism, it's certainly not neoliberal.

Thus, when I speak of the role of social media in the Egyptian revolution, 
I'm not a starry-eyed web2.0 enthusiast claiming Facebook will set you 
free. What made the revolution 'liberal' are the universal aspiration of 
freedom, democracy, individual dignity expressed by the people. Zizek is 
quite right about this. The exactly opposing values are advanced by global 
jihadists, who are using the informational paradigm for their ends.

There is a relationship between informationalism and political dynamics, 
but it's much more open. And, finding ways to act within the contemporary 
macro-transformations is exactly about articulating this openness. 
Otherwise, we have wait for the full crash before anything new can happen.


On Thursday February 10 2011, Brian Holmes wrote:
> On 02/09/2011 09:02 AM, Felix Stalder wrote:
>  > rather than seeing this as the peak of the [informational] paradigm, 
> it's the very paradigm triumphing yet again over the previous, obsolete 
> Felix, your view is the intuitive one, which sees the hoped-for collapse 
> of the Mubarak regime as a consequence, more or less, of the freedom to 
> communicate: in a situation made tense by rising food prices, liberal 
> informationalism finally exerts its effects.

--- 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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