Tuesday, January 8, 2013

8 of 95: That's a capital idea, old chap! I'll retweet it at once!

8. In both internetworked markets and among intranetworked employees, people are speaking to each other in a powerful new way.

[Part 7]

Now, I know what you might be thinking. Isn't this something of a rehash of thesis #6, whose only apparent reason for being is that it introduces the divide between inter and intra, the networks of humans vs the networks of employees?

In a word, yes.

Since this theme will recur at some length as we go along, this is a perfect time - kairos - to return to the theme of capitalism. It has been declared vital and then kinda been indirectly forgotten. Let's remedy this.

There is no denying that capitalism produces results. Economists of the ideological bent might tell you it's because the free flow of capital by means of invisible hands unleashes the human spirit or some such descriptive handwaving. Which is interesting if you need a description of results, but tautological to a fault if you want to delve into reasons of why. (It goes without saying that the explanation "this produces this result because it produces this result" is tautological. I'm saying it anyway, so that you can point to this spot and say that I said it here.)

If you want a why, here's one: capitalism works because it reduces existential anxiety. Any and all practical strategic questions about what to do are given a prefabricated answer by default, and this answer is: make money.

This goes for whatever it is you're thinking about doing. Want to be a farmer? Make money. Want to run a newspaper? Make money. Want to run a global consortium of patent trolling with a vast array of lobbying interests in an equally vast number of countries? Make money. No matter what you're about to do, the answer to the question of why is always the same: make money.

This reduction of teleological complexity serves to increase productivity in human endeavors. It reduces the amount of discussion that can take place, and focuses the organizatorial spirit onto this one goal in such a fashion that getting along ultimately turns into an optional feature. You are, as it were, not on the job to make friends, but to - yep, you guessed it - do a job.

Make money.

One doesn't even have to think of an answer to the question what one is going to do with all the money that's being made. That question, too, is pre-answered: make more money, of course!

This capitalization on the cutting of bullshit is indeed a force for increasing production. The ever present need to make excuses, have reasons for what you're doing or explain why this absurd thing has to be done is removed, and as long as the main goal is fulfilled, anything goes. People don't even need to know each other, or indeed know that their partners in capitalization exist - ask any stock trader about their shareholder's interest in the companies they happen to own a part of at this given moment, and you'll see what I mean.

This anonymization of business is a general feature of capitalism. Just think about the transactions you do any given day - how many of them depend on you knowing anything about the person on the other end? When buying things in the grocery store, the fancy phone store, the subway toll booth - how much of the ritualized customer/salesperson relationship depend on you as an individual actor relating to another being-in-the-world?

This is indeed a rhetorical question.

Now, there's no force of increased production that doesn't have side effects, and this general sense of not having to know things about others in order to be a functioning and productive member of society is one of them.

If we return to the starting point - the division between networks among humans and networks among employees - we'll see how the implications of what's been said in earlier posts might make themselves brutally painful. People form communities around things, ideas, values, beliefs, particular human beings - anything you care to mention. Employees, on the other hand, can get along just fine without any sense of community whatsoever, and this shows in their top-downed intranetworks of profit-maximizing ambitions. The mandated goal? Why, to make money of course!

New tools of community are co-opted into new tools of profit making. Regardless of any human factor involved. Not because of malignant intent, conspiratorial conspiracies or even political ambitions, but because that's what capitalism is and does to everything. And everyone.

I'll see you again tomorrow for part nine. Do co-opt Les and Eli's thoughts.

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