Michael Hardt / Antonio Negri



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According to our thesis, then, after the dramatic final years of Stalin's rule and Khrushchev's abortive innovations, Brezhnev's regime imposed a freeze on a productive civil society that had reached a high level of maturity and that, after the enormous mobilizations for war and productivity, was asking for social and political recognition. In the capitalist world, the massive cold war propaganda and the extraordinary ideological machine of falsification and misinformation prevented us from seeing the real developments in Soviet society and the political dialectics that unfolded there. Cold war ideology called that society totalitarian, but in fact it was a society criss-crossed by extremely strong instances of creativity and freedom, just as strong as the rhythms of economic development and cultural modernization. The Soviet Union was better understood not as a totalitarian society but rather as a bureaucratic dictatorship.[28] And only ifwe leave these distorted definitions behind can we see how political crisis was produced and reproduced in the Soviet Union, to the point finally of burying the regime.
Resistance to the bureaucratic dictatorship is what drove the crisis. The Soviet proletariat's refusal of work was in fact the very same method of struggle that the proletariat in the capitalist countries deployed, forcing their governments into a cycle of crisis, reform, and restructuring. This is our point: despite the delays of development of Russian capitalism, despite the massive losses in World War II, despite the relative cultural isolation, the relative exclusion from the world market, the cruel policies of imprisonment, starvation, and murder of the population, despite all this, and despite their enormous differences with the dominant capitalist countries, the proletariat in Russia and the other countries of the Soviet bloc managed by the 1960s and 1970s to pose the very same problems as the proletariat in the capitalist countries.[29] Even in Russia and the other countries under Soviet control, the demand for higher wages and greater freedom grew continuously along with the rhythm of modernization. And just as in the capitalist countries, there was defined a new figure of labor power, which now expressed enormous productive capacities on the basis of a new development of the intellectual powers of production. This new productive reality, this living intellectual multitude, is what the Soviet leaders tried to lock in the cages of a disciplinary war economy (a war that was continually conjured up rhetorically) and corral in the structures of a socialist ideology of labor and economic development, that is, a socialist management of capital that no longer made any sense. The Soviet bureaucracy was not able to construct the armory necessary for the postmodern mobilization of the new labor power. It was frightened by it, terrorized by the collapse of disciplinary regimes, by the transformations of the Taylorized and Fordist subjects that had previously animated production. This was the point where the crisis became irreversible and, given the immobility of the Brezhnevian hibernation, catastrophic.
What we find important was not so much the lack of or the offenses against the individual and formal freedoms of workers, but rather the waste of the productive energy of a multitude that had exhausted the potential of modernity and now wanted to be liberated from the socialist management of capitalist accumulation in order to express a higher level of productivity. This repression and this energy were the forces that, from opposite sides, made the Soviet world collapse like a house of cards. Glasnost and perestroika certainly did represent a self-criticism of Soviet power and posed the necessity of a democratic passage as the condition for a renewed productivity of the system, but they were employed too late and too timidly to stop the crisis. The Soviet machine turned in on itself and ground to a halt, without the fuel that only new productive subjectivities can produce. The sectors of intellectual and immaterial labor withdrew their consensus from the regime, and their exodus condemned the system to death: death from the socialist victory of modernization, death from the incapacity to use its effects and surpluses, death from a definitive asphyxia that strangled the subjective conditions which demanded a passage to postmodernity.
3.4 - POSTMODERNIZATION, OR THE INFORMATIZATION OF PRODUCTION
Postmodernism is not something we can settle once and for all and then use with a clear conscience. The concept, if there is one, has to come at the end, and not at the beginning, of our discussions of it.
Fredric Jameson
The good news from Washington is that every single person in Congress supports the concept of an information superhighway. The bad news is that no one has any idea what that means.
Congressman Edward Markey
It has now become common to view the succession of economic paradigms since the Middle Ages in three distinct moments, each defined by the dominant sector of the economy: a first paradigm in which agriculture and the extraction of raw materials dominated the economy, a second in which industry and the manufacture of durable goods occupied the privileged position, and a third and current paradigm in which providing services and manipulating information are at the heart of economic production.[1] The dominant position has thus passed from primary to secondary to tertiary production. Economic modernization involves the passage from the first paradigm to the second, from the dominance of agriculture to that of industry. Modernization means industrialization. We might call the passage from the second paradigm to the third, from the domination of industry to that of services and information, a process of economic postmodernization, or better, informatization.
The most obvious definition and index of the shifts among these three paradigms appear first in quantitative terms, in reference either to the percentage of the population engaged in each of these productive domains or to the percentage of the total value produced by the various sectors of production. The changes in employment statistics in the dominant capitalist countries during the past one hundred years do indeed indicate dramatic shifts.[2] This quantitative view, however, can lead to serious misunderstandings of these economic paradigms. Quantitative indicators cannot grasp either the qualitative transformation in the progression from one paradigm to another or the hierarchy among the economic sectors in the context of each paradigm. In the process of modernization and the passage toward the paradigm of industrial dominance, not only did agricultural production decline quantitatively (both in percentage of workers employed and in proportion of the total value produced), but also, more important, agriculture itself was transformed. When agriculture came under the domination of industry, even when agriculture was still predominant in quantitative terms, it became subject to the social and financial pressures of industry, and moreover agricultural production itself was industrialized. Agriculture, of course, did not disappear; it remained an essential component of modern industrial economies, but it was now a transformed, industrialized agriculture.
The quantitative perspective also fails to recognize hierarchies among national or regional economies in the global system, which leads to all kinds of historical misrecognitions, posing analogies where none exist. From a quantitative perspective, for example, one might assume a twentieth-century society with the majority of its labor force occupied in agriculture or mining and the majority of its value produced in these sectors (such as India or Nigeria) to be in a position analogous to a society that existed sometime in the past with the same percentage of workers or value produced in those sectors (such as France or England). The historical illusion casts the analogy in a dynamic sequence so that one economic system occupies the same position or stage in a sequence of development that another had held in a previous period, as ifall were on the same track moving forward in line. From the qualitative perspective, that is, in terms of their position in global power relationships, however, the economies of these societies occupy entirely incomparable positions. In the earlier case (France or England of the past), the agricultural production existed as the dominant sector in its economic sphere, and in the later (twentiethcentury India or Nigeria), it is subordinated to industry in the world system. The two economies are not on the same track but in radically different and even divergent situations-of dominance and subordination. In these different positions of hierarchy, a host of economic factors is completely different-exchange relationships, credit and debt relationships, and so forth.[3] In order for the latter economy to realize a position analogous to that of the former, it would have to invert the power relationship and achieve a position of dominance in its contemporary economic sphere, as Europe did, for example, in the medieval economy of the Mediterranean world. Historical change, in other words, has to be recognized in terms of the power relationships throughout the economic sphere.
Illusions of Development
The discourse of economic development, which was imposed under U.S. hegemony in coordination with the New Deal model in the postwar period, uses such false historical analogies as the foundation for economic policies. This discourse conceives the economic history of all countries as following one single pattern of development, each at different times and according to different speeds. Countries whose economic production is not presently at the level of the dominant countries are thus seen as developing countries, with the idea that if they continue on the path followed previously by the dominant countries and repeat their economic policies and strategies, they will eventually enjoy an analogous position or stage. The developmental view fails to recognize, however, that the economies of the so-called developed countries are defined not only by certain quantitative factors or by their internal structures, but also and more important by their dominant position in the global system.
The critiques of the developmentalist view that were posed by underdevelopment theories and dependency theories, which were born primarily in the Latin American and African contexts in the 1960s, were useful and important precisely because they emphasized the fact that the evolution of a regional or national economic system depends to a large extent on its place within the hierarchy and power structures of the capitalist world-system.[4] The dominant regions will continue to develop and the subordinate will continue to underdevelop as mutually supporting poles in the global power structure. To say that the subordinate economies do not develop does not mean that they do not change or grow; it means, rather, that they remain subordinate in the global system and thus never achieve the promised form of a dominant, developed economy. In some cases individual countries or regions may be able to change their position in the hierarchy, but the point is that, regardless of who fills which position, the hierarchy remains the determining factor.[5]
The theorists of underdevelopment themselves, however, also repeat a similar illusion of economic development.[6] Summarizing in schematic terms, we could say that their logic begins with two valid historical claims but then draws from them an erroneous conclusion. First, they maintain that, through the imposition of colonial regimes and/or other forms of imperialist domination, the underdevelopment of subordinated economies was created and sustained by their integration into the global network of dominant capitalist economies, their partial articulation, and thus their real and continuing dependence on those dominant economies. Second, they claim that the dominant economies themselves had originally developed their fully articulated and independent structures in relative isolation, with only limited interaction with other economies and global networks.[7]
From these two more or less acceptable historical claims, however, they then deduce an invalid conclusion: if the developed economies achieved full articulation in relative isolation and the underdeveloped economies became disarticulated and dependent through their integration into global networks, then a project for the relative isolation of the underdeveloped economies will result in their development and full articulation. In other words, as an alternative to the "false development" pandered by the economists of the dominant capitalist countries, the theorists of underdevelopment promoted "real development," which involves delinking an economy from its dependent relationships and articulating in relative isolation an autonomous economic structure. Since this is how the dominant economies developed, it must be the true path to escape the cycle of underdevelopment. This syllogism, however, asks us to believe that the laws of economic development will somehow transcend the differences of historical change.
The alternative notion of development is based paradoxically on the same historical illusion central to the dominant ideology of development it opposes. The tendential realization of the world market should destroy any notion that today a country or region could isolate or delink itself from the global networks of power in order to re-create the conditions of the past and develop as the dominant capitalist countries once did. Even the dominant countries are now dependent on the global system; the interactions of the world market have resulted in a generalized disarticulation of all economies. Increasingly, any attempt at isolation or separation will mean only a more brutal kind of domination by the global system, a reduction to powerlessness and poverty.
Informatization
The processes of modernization and industrialization transformed and redefined all the elements of the social plane. When agriculture was modernized as industry, the farm progressively became a factory, with all of the factory's discipline, technology, wage relations, and so forth. Agriculture was modernized as industry. More generally, society itself slowly became industrialized even to the point of transforming human relations and human nature. Society became a factory. In the early twentieth century, Robert Musil reflected beautifully on the transformation of humanity in the passage from the pastoral agricultural world to the social factory: "There was a time when people grew naturally into the conditions they found waiting for them and that was a very sound way of becoming oneself. But nowadays, with all this shaking up of things, when everything is becoming detached from the soil it grew in, even where the production of soul is concerned one really ought, as it were, to replace the traditional handicrafts by the sort of intelligence that goes with the machine and the factory."[8] The processes of becoming human and the nature of the human itself were fundamentally transformed in the passage defined by modernization.
In our times, however, modernization has come to an end. In other words, industrial production is no longer expanding its dominance over other economic forms and social phenomena. A symptom of this shift is manifest in the quantitative changes in employment. Whereas the process of modernization was indicated by a migration of labor from agriculture and mining (the primary sector) to industry (the secondary), the process of postmodernization or informatization has been demonstrated through the migration from industry to service jobs (the tertiary), a shift that has taken place in the dominant capitalist countries, and particularly in the United States, since the early 1970s. Services cover a wide range of activities from health care, education, and finance to transportation, entertainment, and advertising. The jobs for the most part are highly mobile and involve flexible skills. More important, they are characterized in general by the central role played by knowledge, information, affect, and communication. In this sense many call the postindustrial economy an informational economy.
The claim that modernization is over and that the global economy is today undergoing a process of postmodernization toward an informational economy does not mean that industrial production will be done away with or even that it will cease to play an important role, even in the most dominant regions of the globe. Just as the processes of industrialization transformed agriculture and made it more productive, so too the informational revolution will transform industry by redefining and rejuvenating manufacturing processes. The new managerial imperative operative here is, "Treat manufacturing as a service."[9] In effect, as industries are transformed, the division between manufacturing and services is becoming blurred.[10] Just as through the process of modernization all production tended to become industrialized, so too through the process of postmodernization all production tends toward the production of services, toward becoming informationalized.
Not all countries, of course, even among the dominant capitalist countries, have embarked on the project of postmodernization along the same path. On the basis of the change of employment statistics in the G-7 countries since 1970, Manuel Castells and Yuko Aoyama have discerned two basic models or paths of informatization.[11] Both models involve the increase of employment in postindustrial services, but they emphasize different kinds of services and different relations between services and manufacturing. The first path tends toward a service economy model and is led by the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada. This model involves a rapid decline in industrial jobs and a corresponding rise in servicesector jobs. In particular, the financial services that manage capital come to dominate the other service sectors. In the second model, the info-industrial model, typified by Japan and Germany, industrial employment declines more slowly than it does in the first model, and, more important, the process of inf ormatization is closely integrated into and serves to reinforce the strength of existing industrial production. Services related directly to industrial production thus remain more important in this model relative to other services. The two models represent two strategies to manage and gain an advantage in the economic transition, but it should be clear that they both move resolutely in the direction of the informatization of the economy and the heightened importance of productive flows and networks. Although the subordinated countries and regions of the world are not capable of implementing such strategies, the processes of postmodernization nonetheless impose irreversible changes on them. The fact that informatization and the shift toward services have taken place thus far primarily in the dominant capitalist countries and not elsewhere should not lead us back to an understanding of the contemporary global economic situation in terms of linear stages of development. It is true that as industrial production has declined in the dominant countries, it has been effectively exported to subordinated countries, from the United States and Japan, for example, to Mexico and Malaysia. Such geographical shifts and displacements might lead some to believe that there is a new global organization of economic stages whereby the dominant countries are informational service economies, their first subordinates are industrial economies, and those further subordinated are agricultural. From the perspective of stages of development, for example, one might think that through the contemporary export of industrial production, an auto factory built by Ford in Brazil in the 1990s might be comparable to a Ford factory in Detroit in the 1930s because both instances of production belong to the same industrial stage.
When we look more closely, however, we can see that the two factories are not comparable, and the differences are extremely important. First of all, the two factories are radically different in terms of technology and productive practices. When fixed capital is exported, it is exported generally at its highest level of productivity. The Ford factory in 1990s Brazil, then, would not be built with the technology of the Ford factory of 1930s Detroit, but would be based on the most advanced and most productive computer and informational technologies available. The technological infrastructure of the factory itself would locate it squarely within the informational economy. Second, and perhaps more important, the two factories stand in different relations of dominance with respect to the global economy as a whole. The Detroit auto factory of the 1930s stood at the pinnacle of the global economy in the dominant position and producing the highest value; the 1990s auto factory, whether in SaƤ Paulo, Kentucky, or Vladivostok, occupies a subordinate position in the global economy-subordinated to the highvalue production of services. Today all economic activity tends to come under the dominance of the informational economy and to be qualitatively transformed by it. The geographical differences in the global economy are not signs of the co-presence of different stages of development but lines of the new global hierarchy of production. It is becoming increasingly clear from the perspective of subordinated regions that modernization is no longer the key to economic advancement and competition. The most subordinated regions, such as areas of sub-Saharan Africa, are effectively excluded from capital flows and new technologies, and they thus find themselves on the verge of starvation.[12] Competition for the middle-level positions in the global hierarchy is conducted not through the industrialization but through the informatization of production. Large countries with varied economies, such as India and Brazil, can support simultaneously all levels of productive processes: information-based production of services, modern industrial production of goods, and traditional handicraft, agricultural, and mining production. There does not need to be an orderly historical progression among these forms, but rather they mix and coexist. All of the forms of production exist within the networks of the world market and under the domination of the informational production of services. The transformations of the Italian economy since the 1950s demonstrate clearly that relatively backward economies do not simply follow the same stages the dominant regions experience, but evolve through alternative and mixed patterns. After World War II, Italy was still a predominantly peasant-based society, but in the 1950s and 1960s it went through furious if incomplete modernization and industrialization, a first economic miracle. Then, however, in the 1970s and 1980s, when the processes of industrialization were still not complete, the Italian economy embarked on another transformation, a process of postmodernization, and achieved a second economic miracle. These Italian miracles were not really leaps forward that allowed it to catch up with the dominant economies; rather, they represented mixtures of different incomplete economic forms. What is most significant here, and what might usefully pose the Italian case as the general model for all other backward economies, is that the Italian economy did not complete one stage (industrialization) before moving on to another (informatization). According to two contemporary economists, the recent Italian transformation reveals "an interesting transition from proto-industrialism to protoinformationalism."[13] Various regions will evolve to have peasant elements mixed with partial industrialization and partial informatization. The economic stages are thus all present at once, merged into a hybrid, composite economy that varies not in kind but in degree across the globe.
Just as modernization did in a previous era, postmodernization or informatization today marks a new mode of becoming human. Where the production of soul is concerned, as Musil would say, one really ought to replace the traditional techniques of industrial machines with the cybernetic intelligence of inf ormation and communication technologies. We must invent what Pierre Levy calls an anthropology of Cyberspace.[14] This shift of metaphors gives us a first glimpse of the transformation, but we need to look more closely to see clearly the changes in our notion of the human and in humanity itself that emerge in the passage toward an informational economy.
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