Banks, governments, credit card companies and fintech evangelists all want us to believe our cashless future is inevitable and good. But this isn’t a frictionless utopia says Brett Scott, and it’s time to fight back
Warning: the media is not a reflection of reality.
As I move toward the conclusion of this review that has tried to breathe life into the old philosopher of the Sorbonne, poor old guy, in his conservative suits (not hip for any of the soixanthuitards, except the hippest, Deleuze), I want to reflect on just how valuable I have found this concept of instauration, as it sets up the specifications for each of an open set of modes of existence. There is no point of instauration without plural ontologies, because it depends on refusing the notion of the one objective reality being opposed to human subjectivity, a familiar opposition structuring phenomenological thought. Not only does the right mix of things have to be in place for an instauration, but there is also dedicated human labor, taking the risk of spoiling the work before it is accomplished.
A single thread seems to run through all of these examples: a shift away from the power of the unconscious. The unconscious doesn’t make you succeed or fail proportionately to your belief in yourself. The unconscious doesn’t change your behavior because of insignificant environmental cues. The unconscious doesn’t make you racially discriminate despite your own better nature. The conscious mind is strong enough to hold onto its preferred beliefs despite brainwashing techniques intended to force it otherwise.
So maybe we should update in general towards less of a role for the unconscious mind?
(This is the only piece I got to write for grinding.be: all I need add is that the fallout from various Middle Eastern conflicts continues to cause harm, Western governmental surveillance demands are increasing in both scope and sophistication, the radicals in both Islam and the Christian right wing make further gains, and the usual suspects still profit from it.)
The recent murder of a soldier by two men on the streets of London has produced a wave of shock and horror around the world. It has also produced a vicious backlash, both officially and otherwise: the British government has responded with increasing pressure for near-total internet surveillance to be put into law and also restricting the availability of certain ‘radical’ Muslim websites, while the thuggish forces of the neo-Nazi English Defence League have staged several highly-publicised (but poorly-attended — tens or hundreds at most) marches and riots.
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Postcapitalism is possible because of three major changes information technology has brought about in the past 25 years. First, it has reduced the need for work, blurred the edges between work and free time and loosened the relationship between work and wages. The coming wave of automation, currently stalled because our social infrastructure cannot bear the consequences, will hugely diminish the amount of work needed – not just to subsist but to provide a decent life for all.
Second, information is corroding the market’s ability to form prices correctly. That is because markets are based on scarcity while information is abundant. The system’s defence mechanism is to form monopolies – the giant tech companies – on a scale not seen in the past 200 years, yet they cannot last. By building business models and share valuations based on the capture and privatisation of all socially produced information, such firms are constructing a fragile corporate edifice at odds with the most basic need of humanity, which is to use ideas freely.
Third, we’re seeing the spontaneous rise of collaborative production: goods, services and organisations are appearing that no longer respond to the dictates of the market and the managerial hierarchy. The biggest information product in the world – Wikipedia – is made by volunteers for free, abolishing the encyclopedia business and depriving the advertising industry of an estimated $3bn a year in revenue.
Almost unnoticed, in the niches and hollows of the market system, whole swaths of economic life are beginning to move to a different rhythm. Parallel currencies, time banks, cooperatives and self-managed spaces have proliferated, barely noticed by the economics profession, and often as a direct result of the shattering of the old structures in the post-2008 crisis.