Jonathan Marshall on Wed, 15 May 2013 16:36:31 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Jaron lanier: The Internet destroyed the middle class

Mark writes:

>But, before you roll up your sleeves, if you want to have any useful
>ideas on the structure of labor (and leisure and consumption) then
>you must begin with a CRASH effort to understand the impact of
>*digital* technology on the economy.

You could also begin with a crash course on the impact of the economy
on technology, or the impact of social organisation or the impact of
power relations, on technology as well.

People use stuff, stuff uses people, and what arises is often
unexpected and then exploited by particular groups of people - and
that involves politics, and politics involves social organisation...

Some tech may even be more important in its social effects than
others.... :) If so what kind of tech has what kinds of effects - ie
the differences would be interesting to specify.

>Economists -- including the "heterodox" ones -- uniformly treat
>technology as an "externality." That means there is no place in their
>models or narratives for fundamental technological change.

Mainstream economists tend to treat social, political and
psychological factors as externalities as well, so this is not that
big a deal. There is perhaps a slight change recently with behavioural
economics, but that is not mainstream.

If you look at the origins of modern economics, you can see them
deliberately decide to cut out all the complexities of human (social)
life, in order to have a discipline of their own, immune from
philosophers and other theorists and more manageable.

>When I asked the editor of Real World Economics Review last year if
>he had *ever* (in 10+ years) had any articles submitted to him about
>these basic relationships his answer was "No, why don't you submit

for what its worth i own a couple of books by schumpeterian economists
which discuss technological change, so it does exist.

>Sociologists convinced themselves 40 years ago that it would be
>better to be "constuctivist" instead of "operational" and have
>steadfastly clung to the CONDEMNATION of anyone who proposes a
>primary role for technology as being a "determinist" -- including on
>this list.

social theorists tend to dislike other theorists who say the secret of
life is that everything is controlled by one factor X, whether that be
technology or whatever. Especially if the theories seem pretty vague.

>Before the rise of "post-modern" social science in the 1970s, there was a
>very lively discussion about what technology was doing to the economy and
>society.  Post-Vietnam that discussion *stopped* and has not been revived

Ok We obviously live in different worlds, because there seems to be
quite a lot of this discussion going on....

>What was once called post-industrial -- which is in fact what is
>going on not "over-devlopment," making it *unexplored* territory
>for those who try to understand industrial economics -- then became
>"late-stage capitalism" or "neo-liberalism," which *deliberately*
>obscures what is happening and recasts the discussion in terms of a
>"political" framework that ensures nobody has a clue about what is
>really happening.

Of course it is equally easy to say that if you just talk about tech .
and ignore the social formations and the politics of technology then .
you really will have no clue about what is 'really' happening For me .
the internet allows the intensification of capitalism. It also sets  .
up some obvious paradoxes which could undermine that order, or at    .
least cause the mechanisms of the state to be intensified to control .
those paradoxes                                                      .

>So, is he [Mr Lanier] going to be taken "seriously"? No.

On this list alone, I think one person said he has just bought the
book after hearing about the interview, so have I. another has said we
really need to discuss this issue.

So the 'No' is perhaps a bit excessive.

>If you want to "get to work" on the problem of a disappearing
>middle-class (which, as an *industrial* artifact should be *expected*
>to "disappear" when the economy shifts to post-industrial) then you'd
>better explore the factors that are driving the tectonic shifts in
>the economy. Are you (or anyone else) ready to do that?

Of course. Heaps of people are again writing about the growing
precariat, as it is sometimes called. (Personally i think that ignores
history. Now my parents really did grow up precariously.... but that
was in 'industrial times').

My understanding incidently was when the cotton looms of manchester
came into play within the politics of Empire, then Bengali weaver's
starved.... but i'm not an expert in indian history.... Usually who
starves and who doesn't is a matter of politics and force, as it plays
out in a disruptive ecology.

i personally also don't think you can ignore the apparently
deliberate, but perhaps unintended, politics of weakening the middle
class which has played out in the anglophone world since the late
70s, but it is easy to ignore if you just focus on the technology -
and focusing on the technology makes it much safer. You don't have
to stand up to anyone with any real power, if you are being serious,
that is, because "well that is just what happens with that tech and we
can't do anything about the way it benefits some and not others...".

>Recently, Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen published their "The
>New Digital Age," in which they argue that we now live in two
>*civilizations* -- one "physical" and the other "virtual." So what
>are the economic, social and psychological implications of living in
>two very DIFFERENT worlds? Any takers?

Haven't people been alleging this since the 90s? When i started this
game, that was the big deal: how wonderfully different the virtual was
going to be, how it was free and dismeboddied and a new frontier and

Personally i don't live in separate physical and virtual
civilisations, and neither does anyone I know (unless we are talking
about different ordinary cultures which happen to be online) - but i
guess it could happen.

>The name of this list is NETTIME. The implication is that there is
>something *different* about living in NET time, as opposed to other
>sorts of "time" -- but what are they?

Maybe the differences are trivial?

>Who has the *courage* to tackle these questions? Without doing this,
>all the calls to "get to work" will be just more impassioned chatter
>and breast-pounding . . . !!

As i said it appears to me that people have been struggling with this
since the 90s and i see no sign of it stopping. I'd just guess life
did not stop with Mcluhan


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