[NetBehaviour] Intensities of Labour: from Amphetamine to Cocaine.
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
1 THE MIRACLE OF SPEED
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
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