[NetBehaviour] Intensities of Labour: from Amphetamine to Cocaine.

marc marc.garrett at furtherfield.org
Thu Jun 15 13:49:02 CEST 2006

Intensities of Labour: from Amphetamine to Cocaine.

By John Barker/Mute.

In the '60s 'labour saving' technology was used to sell the promise of 
infinite leisure. After thirty years of speed ups and lay offs, RSI and 
dotcom sweatshops, the dream is looking distinctly tarnished. John 
Barker draws on his personal and theoretical capital to explore the 
contradictions and possibilities of a hi-tech, low-wage world


At the end of the 1960s young and cocky Situationists like myself talked 
of the Japanese economic miracle – because then it was the Japanese 
miracle – as being fuelled by amphetamine. The evidence was anecdotal, 
but it was well known that the cheaply-made drug was a major business 
for the Yakuza. This particular miracle was manufacturing-based; 
electronics and autos figured prominently. In modern parlance, it was 
Fordist, that is, large-scale manufacturing dependent on the 
‘mass-worker’. Amphetamine, known to us then as an all-night dancing 
drug, was perfect for long hours of work while staying alert. As we saw 
it, the miracle depended on disposable workers subject to early burn 
out. A modern version of Marx’s picture of capital and labour as the 
Vampire and its victims.

Since then, in the richest parts of the world, the decline in the 
relative size of the manufacturing sector is common knowledge. At the 
same time the shift to a services-based economy has involved what 
Maurizio Lazzarato has called an anthropo-sociological shift in the 
organisation of labour, prompting the concept of ‘immaterial’ labour. In 
addition, the generic term post-Fordist has come to be used as an 
umbrella description of these changes. They are real enough, but to see 
them as forming a discontinuity with what went before is too slick in 
manipulating theoretical categories, and leapfrogging the realities of 
global work.


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