Doug Henwood on Wed, 13 Mar 2002 00:34:07 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> A review of Negri and Hardt's Empire from an anarchist perspectiv e

John Armitage quoted Andrew Flood:

>Because they put this production of subjectivity at the centre of Empire
>they argue that the old centre of the working class, that is industrial
>workers, have been replaced by "intellectual, immaterial and communicative
>labour power" [20]. This claim has been criticised by pointing out that
>even in the US there are more truck drivers then computer programmers [21]
>but Empire counters this criticism by pointing out that the industrial
>jobs that exist are now governed by information technology. The Detroit
>car factories may have moved to Mexico rather then simply vanishing but
>the Mexican based industry does not simply re-create that of 1960's
>Detroit. Rather in using the latest technology it creates a labour process
>that is dependant on information workers as well as those on the assembly

Since this cites my review 
<>, I've got to 
respond. The point is not that info tech hasn't infiltrated old 
economy production - clearly it has. It's everywhere. But the 
experience of being a truck driver or an assembly line worker is not 
predominantly one of "inellectual, immaterial, or communicative" 
labor. They involve lots of mind-numbing manual work in the world of 
things. It's easy for intellectuals to forget this. In this passage, 
I also pointed out that about half of humanity lives in the rural 
Third World, where the main occupation is tilling the soil. Such 
workers barely appear in Empire, if at all.

One other point. Though auto production has largely left Detroit, 
plenty of it still goes on in the U.S. And over 15% of the U.S. 
workforce is employed in manufacturing - a shrinking portion for 
sure, but still well above 0.

I say this not out of hostility to the book, in which I find a lot to 
admire, but to counter a lot of overheated perceptions of 
postmateriality that are almost everywhere you turn, whether it's to 
Alan Greenspan or Irish anarchists.


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