Free Radicals

In Sessions on November 10, 2010 at 3:34 pm

  • ..the means of labour passes through different metamorphoses, whose culmination is the machine…a moving power that moves itself…consisting of numerous mechanical and intellectual organs, so that the workers themselves are cast merely as its conscious linkages. […] The production process has ceased to be a labour process in the sense of a process dominated by labour as its governing unity. Labour appears, rather, merely as a conscious organ, scattered among the individual living workers at numerous points of the mechanical system; subsumed under the total process of the machinery itself, as itself only a link of the system, whose unity exists not in the living workers, but rather in the living (active) machinery, which confronts his individual, insignificant doings as a mighty organism. –Marx, Grundrisse (Notebook VI)

By way of contextualizing the essays of Radical Thought, and autonomist thinking more generally, into our primary course itinerary, the following are five ways that these movements might be taken as responding to the logos/techne complex we have been unpacking this semester; for the sake of simplicity, I lean heavily on the work of Paolo Virno as the most exemplary figure for voicing the shared concerns that have been loosely identified with autonomia.

Heidegger/Foucault: Our seminar itinerary ends with a concentration on two thinkers and their impact on contemporary critical thinking around the question of contemporary techne/technology (Stiegler and Harmon/Latour as writing in the wake of Heidegger, and the Radical Thought contributors and Grusin as writing in the wake of Foucault) . Much as we read Jameson and Badiou at the start of the semester as suggesting “breaks” with the usual ways that logos/techne, infinity/finity, and transcendence/immanence are taken up in contemporary philosophical and critical-theoretical discourse, Heidegger and Foucault present earlier attempts to trouble the Western tradition of thinking logos and techne. Most obviously, Heidegger presents both logos (as it is introduced in the emergence of Platonic metaphysics) and techne (or, more accurately, the “essence” of contemporary technology and the technoscientific “worldview”) as challenges to mid-twentieth century epistemology and ethics. Foucault, for his part, proposed a techne (a series of methodological practices – archaeology, genealogy, asubjective history) for doing the “work” of philosophy that is typically associated with the logos tradition, and, like Heidegger, returned to the primal scene of their emergence in Greek Antiquity to consider the problems of contemporary politics and subjectivity. Matteo Mandarini suggests in his contribution (“Beyond Nihilism”) to The Italian Difference, autonomist thought (and the linking of politics and ontology in Italian intellectual culture) largely got off the ground as a critique/refusal of the “left-Heideggerianism” that had guided European philosophy into the 70’s. In place of the negative or “failed” ontology of the time (in which being if founded on a kind a nothingness), thinkers such as Virno and Negri proposed new (emergent, possible) “positive” conceptions of contermpoary being and (to quote the subtitle of Virno’s Grammar), forms of life (the most famous being their individual takes on “the multitude”). Crucial to this undertaking was, amongst other influences, Foucault’s late work on biopower (and Deleuze’s extensions of Foucault’s work on power) (see, in particular, Zanini’s contribution to Radical Thought). Agamben’s work, though only loosely consistent with autonomist commonplaces, has been a primer in ways that Heidegger (on ontology) and Foucault (on biopower) can be thought together.

Base/Superstructure: One of the most compelling features of autonomist thinking, and perhaps its most potent challenge to more traditional critical/political thought, is a shared insistence on the breakdown between previously discrete categories, almost (?) all of which might be mapped on the legacy of the techne/logos divide; Virno, for instance, refers us to the emergence of “a field of immediate coincidence between production and ethics, structure and superstructure, between the revolution of labor processes and the revolution of sentiments, between technology and emotional tonality, between material development and culture” over the past few decades (14).

(Anti)Foundations: We have had reason, fairly frequently, to relate the terrain of mid-twentieth-/twenty-first-century critical as a an ostensible rejection of the “logocentrism” of Western philosophy that, at the same time, largely kept logos central (as the “negative” center of critical thought). Even more specifically, we have suggested that in this process, contra their traditional antagonistic relationship, logos often became associated with techne (to the detriment of both; cf. “instrumental reason,” “technocracy,” etc.). However, it’s fair to say that present conditions have taken the bloom off of the rose of “trickle-down theory” of critical resistance in which challenging the ostensibly “foundational” nature of social power (or social norms, or capitalism, etc.) was meant to produce ameliorative effects. As Virno writes, “If we still want to talk about a revolutionary destruction of social foundations, we can only  mean a destruction taking place where there is no longer any real foundation to destroy (15).”

The Always Already/Just Now (or the Natural-Historical): “socio-political states of affairs which display, in changing and rival forms, some salient features of anthropogenesis” (“Natural-Historical Diagrams” 133)

The General Intellect:

    Also Make Sure Your Shoes Match Your Belt as Well as Your Fundamental Conception of Ontological Substance and the Dominant Mode of Contemporary Labor-Production

    “From the dark opening of the worn insides of the shoes the toiling tread of the worker stares forth […] The artwork lets us know what shoes are in truth.” (Heidegger 159/161)

    “…the willed and violent transformation of a drab peasant object world into the most glorious materialization of pure color in oil paint is to be seen as a Utopian gesture, an act of compensation which ends up producing a whole new Utopian realm of the senses, or at least of that supreme sense, sight, the visual, the eye…a part of some new division of labor in the body of capital, some new fragmentation of the emergent sensorium which replicates the specializations and divisions of capitalist life at the same time that it seeks in precisely such fragmentation a desperate Utopian conception for them. […] At any rate, both readings may be described as hermeneutical…” (Jameson 7/9)

    “Andy Warhol’s Diamond Dust Shoes evidently no longer speak to us with any of the immediacy of Van Gogh’s footwear; indeed, I am tempted to say that it does not really speak to us at all. […] Andy Warhol’s work in fact turns centrally around commodification, and the great billboard images of the Coca-Cola bottle or the Campbell’s soup can, which explicitly foreground the commodity fetishism of a transition to late capital, ought to be powerful and critical statements. If they are not that, then one would surely want to know why, and one would want to begin to wonder a little more seriously about the possiblities of political or critical art in the postmodern period of late capital.” (Jameson, 8/9)

    Your Moment of Zen:

    X-Ray Spex performing “I Live Off You” on The Old Grey Whistle Test, 1978.

    1. I was thinking of ways to put together the ideas in “Radical Thoughts” and the “Liberal Bias” article.

      In particular, I noticed this bit in “RT:”

      “The eternal conflict between those who have power and those who do not. . . . (40).

      I was struck by the “eternal.” The academy has been talking about the struggle for so long, and about the concept of Otherness for so long, why are we surprised that people in groups we didn’t originally consider (the conservatives from the article) are appropriating other-language?

      In the academy, especially, we’ve been privileging otherness, so much so that do we even have a word for the un-Other? So it’s no surprise that everyone would want all the advantages and protections that can come from being Other.

    2. I was especially struck by the post-Fordist section, and particularly the chapter on “Technological Innovation and Sentimental Education,” in which Piperno brings up Marx’s “Fragment on Machines.” He makes an interesting argument about the computer being out of sync with the rhythm of the human body (this gets into the speed vs. slowness discussion we had last night; that is, the computer is basically the speed of the light, whereas manually produced implements follow the rhythm of the human body).

      He comes very close to Rotman in talking about the alphabet producing “the development of rational thought” (125). He illustrates the difference between oral culture and writing: “In Hesiod, justice is a person who acts, who is moved, and who suffers; in Plato, it is a concept” (ibid.). This almost reminds me of Pruchnic’s description of the left and right, though only in that the liberal style focuses on “the action of judgment” and the “republican favors the cultivation of pragmatic strategies [or concepts?]” (61).

      To get back to the machine, Piperno at the end of his essay writes: “it is doubtful that the machine is the cause of the poverty of the unemployed; of that loss of communication that follows being excluded from socially recognized work, as painful and degrading as it may be…. The poverty of the unemployed, the true one, the suffering of the freedom to determine one’s own time, originates in desire or, better, in the absence of desire, in the self-interdiction of daring to stipulate a new meaning for the word *labor*, another calendar, a different collective time” (130). The first sentence in this quote relates to the idea that machinic labor has not totally displaced human labor–humans and machines now work together, as was pointed out in class. What I wanted to know was, what does he mean by saying “The poverty of the unemployed … originates … in the self-interdiction of daring to stipulate a new meaning for the word *labor*, another calendar, a different collective time”? Is he saying that only those who reject the current system will be poor and unemployed?

    3. Agency and the “Can do:” In response to the pedagogy of potential
      Throughout a few of the essays in the “Radical Thought” anthology, the word “potential” appeared more than once but didn’t seem to be of much consequence to the overarching argument in any of the specific works. Regardless of the futile attempts to locate value in this choice of terminology in the author’s text, I pressed on with what *should be* keyed in on in regards to pedagogy and potential. Before encountering the term potential – specifically in Agamben’s “Form-of-Life” – considering “potential” occurred to me when re-reading this passage in “Ironic Encounters:”
      “…the work of the classroom becomes the infinite consideration of what materials of composition studies – discourse, persuasion, aesthetic productions – cannot do (cannot make claims to truth, legitimacy, or meaning, and cannot guarantee an ethical frame or praxis) rather than what they can do, or how they might be leveraged for particular purposes.”
      As an instructor, the element of “can do” is one of the grounding principles of my classroom practice. I believe that the key to a successful composition classroom is to communicate to students not just their potential in ability, but in agency, as well. At first, it might seem that promoting and encouraging agency is just another mode of spreading an agenda or suggesting that students take up some sort of political philosophy (perhaps handed down inadvertently from examples used in the classroom). In actuality, the pedagogical approach is closer to what Agamben touches upon in his essay Form-of-Life when he states “We can communicate with others only what in us – as much as in others – has remained potential, and any communication is first of all communication not of something in common but of communicability itself” (154.5). Of course, Agamben is discussing community and through it the relationship to common power – but this is exactly my point. Particularly curious is the question of whether or not the use of a communal relationship to an exteriority (power or any other abstraction) automatically assumes an agenda is being offered or inferred? I don’t believe so. I believe what Agamben suggests here (to some degree) is the notion that there is a constant potential and upon communication, that potential is transformed not into any specific “thing in common” (e.g. an agenda, political ideology, etc) but simply (what I want to suggest is) the agency one can exercise as a reaction to being affected – by anything, anywhere, in any way. In my classroom, it’s never a matter of “responding” to anything per say, but instead, being “reactionary.”
      For example, when learning the *way* to execute a specific assignment, some focus is placed on whatever argument the student chooses to explore but more emphasis is on the purpose – divided into two categories: structure/practice and agency/potentiality. Some might find it peculiar to think about the purpose of a project partially in terms of practice, but I find that students respond quite well to this, and in addition they tend to have much more to say in regards to their own work when thinking about it in terms of what control they are exercising in their own learning as it relates to whatever exterior world they construct outside of the classroom.
      If any of this is unclear (which I fully accept that it may be, as these are ideas that are in constant progress and, of course, practice) it might help to think about it through the quote provided by Agamben from Dante’s De Monarchia:
      “… the proper work of mankind taken as a whole is to exercise continually its entire capacity for intellectual growth, first, in theoretical matters, and, secondarily, as an extension of theory, in practice.”
      This traditional, perhaps common view of intellectual growth within a community is in need of rearrangement as it relates to the practices of the composition classroom. The goal is simply this: a foregrounding of practice itself – without the presupposition of some particular theory – will better lead to the neutralization of theoretical matters which can prove to cloud the goal of the composition classroom – that of empowerment in the writing process rather than the handing down of critique.

    4. @Jason: The problem, I think (and here I take it that I am clarifying, not contradicting your position) moves in two directions; on the one hand, although no one “actually” wants to be the “Other” (to assume a position that is actually disadvantaged, abject, marginal, etc.), it becomes altogether to tempting to claim this mantle as well of voicing your concerns. If our conceptions of justice are too narrowly thought of in the categories of power/resistance, dominant/marginal and so on, then its not altogether surprising that minoritarian groups (say, creationists) would use their marginal status for political gains, or that corporations, the rich, white people, etc., will claim they have become the victims of oppression through policies that are meant to ameliorate earlier disparities.

      On the “other” hand, and Wendy Brown has a great reading of this problem in her essay “Wounded Attachments” (cited in the IE piece, if memory serves), this configuration also hurts the “truly Other” insofar as “showing one’s wounds,” disclosing the specific ways one is made to feel abject, becomes a condition for seeking redress. (Badiou has an interesting encapsulation of this problem near the start of his recent The Communist Hypothesis as well: “Good is never anything more than the struggle against Evil, which is tantamount to saying that we must care only for those who present themselves, or who are exhibited, as the victims of Evil.” [2]) The problem with this issue in the academy then, may not be that we lack language to address the “an-Other,” but that we’ve been too proud of the presumed achievements created by drawing attention to “the Other” (or “otherness” as a category).

    5. Adrienne Jankens
      ENG 7065
      November 10, 2010

      Questions: Radical Thought in Italy: A Potential Politics and Ironic Encounters: Ethics, Aesthetics, and the “Liberal Bias” of Composition Pedagogy

      My questions from Radical Thought in Italy come from a bringing together of two of the essays included in the text: “Toward a Phenomenology of Opportunism” by Massimo De Carolis and “Worker Identity in the Factory Desert” by Marco Revelli. I am particular interested in a possible connection between the two, in terms of the concepts of traditional community in the former and collective identity in the latter. These terms are contrasted by the ideas of a world community and opportunism (De Carolis) and movement and transformation (Revelli). De Carolis writes that opportunism is “instinctive, unreflective, and inevitable condemned to failure” (49). “A true opportunist,” he writes, “cannot believe in the value of money, power, or success any more than he or she can really believe in a political idea or moral principle” (49). But he does not seem to find the solution to this problem of opportunism in a return to the traditional community; rather, he seeks to “radicalize this tension [between the duality of traditional and world community] and transform ambivalence into open conflict” (51). Revelli seems to describe his “loser” as the worker movement who “was defeated by the mobility of capital, by its speed, by the metamorphosis and transformation of that desert [one which this group sought as its center]” (119). While Revelli wishes not to diminish the efforts of this group, whom he admires, we see, perhaps, a reiteration of the idea that the perpetration of the binary will not be the thing that advances the cause. Is it fair to compare the “‘physiological’ form of self-defense” represented by the collective identity of these workers in the 1970s to the traditional community that De Carolis describes? That is, can we see it as the example, perhaps, that De Carolis refuses to give in his essay? Can we assimilate the view of the forces opposing these communal units: the world community and opportunism in De Carolis, and “a radical metamorphosis of capital, which belied its nature as concrete and ‘static’…and reproposed itself as money and abstract knowledge” (119)? In Revelli’s text, are we getting a sense of De Carolis’s “those who can and those who cannot” (40) through the employers and workers, or is the worker movement (or, rootedness, rather) described in Revelli’s text more intentional than what is represented in De Carolis’s excluded people?

      Some rambling thoughts, including questions, on “Ironic Encounters”:

      Performance is brought up much earlier in the text than when it is presented as a solution at the end, in that those students who participate in “Conservative Coming Out Day” understand critique through performance (through their co-opting of that which has been presented to them in different contexts in the classroom).
      A question, though, how easily can we separate mode or movement or method from message? How might the teacher move himself/herself from position of leader to co-traveler, itinerant buddy, whatever. This seems to be a question key for any rethinking of pedagogy, which stems from the fact that true student-centeredness is problematic, if only because the teacher’s selections frame the context of class discussion, the teacher gives grades, etc. What we might end up with is often a collective critical distance versus an individual critical distance (that which might be better achieved through inhabitation). It would seem that in this article, inhabitation, performance, moving through the binary, rather than taking up a side, is seen as the way forward. The focus on aesthetic forms would seem to shift the curriculum. Through performance of these forms, students come to understand them in a new way, to understand how they are used, and how to use them. Powerful individual critique can come from this understanding of performance, of this inhabiting. What aesthetic forms might be particularly productive here? Can we invoke something like Ranciere’s distribution of the sensible when looking at this refocusing on aesthetic flexibility? Can a focus on pedagogy as a collective effort (ala Dewey) and alternative text (or multiple forms of text) as the accepted form of writing in the writing classroom as some ways to empower the student?

      I see another problem, and it is not only political (though it is political, even if students don’t see it this way): there is a divide between students who see a value in general education, and those who seek only vocational training, and see gen eds as a waste of time. How might we help students to see a value in the kind of work we do in the composition classroom, outside of the practical writing skills they may obtain, so that they are positioned to be critical participants in the community, rather than singularly trained workers alone.

    6. @Henry: The end of the Piperno essay is somewhat cryptic, but I think if we read this final sentence in the context of earlier sections of the essay (the text on time in particular), then we can unpack the following:

      Piperno begins by discounting (or at least qualifying) the lockstep assumption that the problem that computer technologies causes “for” labor (or the laboring class) is not that humans labor is replaced with machinery (and, of course, there was a time, in the late 50s and 60s in particular, in which people were very much worried that automation would shrink or even eliminate positions filled by unskilled labor). Instead, it is the ways that the introduction of immaterial labor, the ubiquity of cybernetics, etc., has created what Piperno calls “a mutation of common affects and sentiments” that is most clearly seen in the ways that our shared conceptions of “time,” “truth,” and “memory,” have changed in conjunction with these technologies (as they changed, in earlier times, with the introduction of the alphabet and of earlier machines) (124). In other words, it is these massive (but perhaps more subtle) changes to the socius form the backdrop to the “poverty of the unemployed.” Again, to return to the Piperno’s own comments on the Fragment, the problem today is not that surplus value is extracted from your performance of “socially recognized labor” (130), but that you increasingly labor in ways that are not socially recognized: providing value without traditional forms of renumeration. Short version: you’re not put out of work by being replaced by a machine, but by being sutured into a general intellect that follows the logic first demonstrated by (material) machines that “performed” labor.

      It’s worth mentioning also, I think, that Piperno’s reference to “sentimental education” in the title (presuming the original Italian would match up with the following) might be meant to bring to mind Flaubert’s 19th century novel of the same name. Flaubert famously described that work as an attempt to capture the shared “feelings” of a generation, particularly the impotent or inactive passions of the day. Piperno, in this piece, is similarly seeking to investigate shared feeling, and is also concerned with the non-traditional or self-defeating ways that passion or freedom are expressed in the current moment. Finally, Piperno’s reference to “self-interdiction” bring to mind Derrida’s famous reading of “the law” (particularly via Kafka’s short work “Before the Law”) as proceeding through a “self-interdiction”: the “law” at stake here actually makes humans free in their own self-determination, but this freedom ends up compelling them to perform a self-interdiction, a curtailing of their own agency. Again, here, Piperno seems to find a similar process taking place in how we respond to the ways that “the computer authorizes us recognize the collective human freedom to change the meanings of words that seemed to be certain forever and to change what words mean to change the feelings and affects that they evoke” (129).

    7. @Amy: I figured it made sense to think about composition pedagogy in relation to the autonomists for a few reasons. One is that the theory/praxis (dis)connection in 20th-century critical theory that the autonomists are trying to rethink is (by necessity) a consistent concern of composition pedagogy. Another is that the autonomist focus on new categories of (immaterial) labor links rather nicely with comp pedagogy’s longstanding interest in interrogating categories of intellectual labor and the position of the contemporary comp class as occupying a strange place between service/vocational “job training” and more traditional, liberal arts-oriented, conceptions of the “required English course” as a humanistic undertaking. Finally, I was interested in what ways the autonomist’s disaffection for logos-oriented critical thought about the (failure) of truth and meaning might overlap the early rhetorical tradition’s similar misgivings about centering theory and praxis in this way (this occlusion, particularly via the sophists, but also Aristotle’s work on rhetoric, is, I take it, the link between contemporary intersections of both rhetoric/critical theory as well as composition pedagogy/critical theory).

      One way this “ancient” connection is made explicit, as apparent in the IE piece, is via the concept of virtuosity; I also mentioned Virno’s work on the Aristotlean “common” (from his *Grammar* and elswhere) as another.

      You draw us to another important connection via “potential” here. Although it might not be apparent in the selections from Agamben included in *Radical Thought,* Aristotle (see Agamben’s essay “On Potential”) and Western/Eastern antiquity as a whole (see his “Bartleby, or On Contingency”) are crucial sources for Agamben’s writings about potentiality (see also, in line with the “Post-Foucauldian” moment of the seminar we are currently enjoying, his essay “Absolute Immanence” for Agamben on potentiality in Foucault).

      Your inversion of the Dante quote is well-taken. It is, perhaps, not so much that practice should always dictate theory, but that, first, we have yet to truly shake off the emergence of “meditative life” notions of *theoria* from Plato onwards, that, quite literally, make intersections with praxis a disreputable undertaking (see Nightingale’s *Spectacles of Truth* and or Arendt’s *The Human Condition* for reading of the early Greek obsession with the “useless knowledge” of *theoria*). Second, we find it difficult to combine the two without giving one priority. It’s almost as if we need something like a “thraxis” some third possibility for crafting a techne that is “theoretically informed” (as we would traditionally understand that term) but takes neither some teleological conclusion or hoped-for (non-)revelation as its final goal.

    8. My reading of Radical Thought in Italy ran parallel to my reading of Marx’s chapter on the Working Day. Thus, this week for me has been one of mapping Neo-Marxist writings against Marx himself, a somewhat distracting, but totally enjoyable experience. That being said, my pontifications also join up with my seminar paper and the structuring of temporalities by new forms of machines or technologies.

      A seemingly simple question can be asked of Marx’s chapter: What is the working day? As with all of the concepts Marx approaches in Capital, they appear stable at first, or at least concrete. Only as you follow Marx’s logic through to the end can you see the internal tensions and the complexities of these smoothed-over surfaces. Within the chapter, Marx offers up two “definitions” of the working day: 1.) the whole of the 24-hours in which the Capitalist can, vampire-like, extract surplus value from its laborers, and 2.) the socially-necessary amount of time in which the laborer can productively offer up his body without rest (“He can strike so many blows per day, walk so many steps, breathe so many breaths” (366). The Capitalist, in response to these limitations, re-orders the temporal structure of the working “day” (the 24-hour clock time) through the shift system so as to optimize its labor extraction. Work time no longer adheres to the logic of clock time. The workers relationship to time fundamentally changes through this development.

      In the writings of the Italian workers, similar discussions of temporal shifts are explored that I find of interest. In Franco Piperno’s “Technological Innovation and Sentimental Education” he advances Marx’s discussion of the working day writing: “The day, the temporal unity that is proper to the gravitation movement of the Earth, becomes almost infinite time, magically long” (124). The introduction of the computer into the production radically alters human labor as well as the laborer’s relationship to a variety of concepts: time and memory being two key terms.

      Some connected thoughts come from the panel essay “Do You Remember Revolution?” Discussing the changes in the labor system, the group writes: “Above all, it was the appropriation of free time, liberation from the constraints of factory command, and the search for new community” (232).

      Thinking about these three discussions of temporality as constructed by shifts in the work place (both the literal changes in the work shift and the inclusion of technologies in the work place), I can’t help but think about the ways in which productivity and our relationship to “time” remains an increasingly vital topic of discussion. One example that comes to mind is TV programming time and the inclusion of “options” for commercials on Hulu. Even in these appropriated moments of “free time” we are asked to perform the work of the laborer: “which ad is most relevant to you?” Yet, even these moments are structured around some idea of time in 22-minute blocks (always rounded to 30 in my head). The “shift” work for me comes every episode when I am asked to return to work, even in my free time.

    9. @Adrienne: Two very good questions here.

      In regards to the Carolis and Revelli essays, the two are most generally linked in their address of the failures of two more traditional tools of critical-political thought, both of which are conveniently emphasized in their titles. Carolis (“Phenomenology”) is arguing that the common topics of phenomenological investigation (anxiety and fear) need to be replaced with two more prevalent affective tonalities (opportunism and a more free-floating “fear”) (recall the comment above that one of the shared objectives of early autonomists was the attempt to think their way out of the “Left-Heideggerianism” that marked mid-century Italian intellectual thought). Though a “political existentialist” like Sartre might have told us that fear is the threshold of authentic experience, today it just pushes us further into our default mode of opportunism.

      Revelli (“Identity”) similarly emphasizes the ways that “solidarity” or collective consciousness, which more traditionally was posited as a way to unify workers against capitalism, now functions to unify them *to* capitalism (the Fiat study, specifically, shows how workers’ identity forms in relation to their work and the factory, rather than “against” labor and their exploitation by the factory system). Since the positive notion of “rootedness” is no longer an option (only its negative hypostasizing along modes of belonging dictated by capitalism), exodus emerges as the only (already doomed to fail) option available.

      I think you’re right in suggesting that one depiction is more intentional than the others, but whereas Carolis seems to hold the hope that existing antagonisms may lead to the destruction of the system they inhabit, Revelli suggests the more pessimistic conclusion that there is (speaking of Sartre) “no exit” from the system.

      As for the pedagogy question, part of my interest in that IE piece was in thinking through whether the division between the comp class as filling “vocational” vs. “humanistic/critical” goals exists at all anymore. *Students* may see that division, but insofar as “critical thinking” and our creative capacities are increasingly “part of the job” today, then learning them has become “vocational training.” The positive(?) upshot here is that it is easier to justify for students why they should be interested in learning these skills even if they are only focused on their (future) careers. The downside, and here is perhaps my own, Revelli-style, cynical conclusion, is that the vectors of critical thought that would make students “critical participants in the community” may no longer fulfill that aim; or, at least, their “participation” can no longer be, in any strong sense, taken to support politically progressive ideals.

    10. @Joe: If you’re interested in television, temporality, and labor time, I’d recommend Richard Dienst’s excellent study *Still Life in Real Time*; it leverages readings of Marx and Heidegger to investigate precisely these questions.

      Unfortunately, Dienst was writing before the advent of TiVo, Hulu, and the rest. With TiVo, the ability to watch a show whenever, eliminated, sad as it may have already been, one of the very few collective cultural experiences that still “took in” larger segments of various communities; not only was time no longer an issue, but consumers gained the added benefit of eliminating advertisements. The spread of ad-supported streaming of television content on hubs such as Hulu put the ads back in, but made them more “efficient” – shorter ads more clearly geared toward “your interests,” with the final achievements being the “which ad would you prefer?” options and the integration of advertising into shows directly via, first product placement, and then what we might have to call “ironic product placement” (cf. the October 14 episode of NBC’s community, whereas most of the cast spends most of the episode trapped inside “the Kentucky Fried Chicken Spacebus”).

      Maybe we shouldn’t be that concerned that McLuhan’s global village has been balkanized. But the deeper issue here, the more timely one, might be whether “time” makes any sense anymore as a measurement of “X” (labor, production, exploitation); time was, initially (for Marx, etc.) crucial for quantifying degrees of exploitation and (for Proudhon, etc.) as a way of “equalizing” (via “time coupons” and such) the contributions of various categories of labor and/or finding a workable substitute for money. Later, for people like Andre Gorz, et al., time was what one “fought for” (for more leisure time and less work time). If one’s work (and general “productivity”) is no longer restricted to measurable blocks nor traditional categories of labor, we may have to come up with some other category than labor and some other measurement than time.

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