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'Posthumanities: The Dark Side of "The Dark Side of the Digital"' (with Janneke Adema), in Janneke Adema and Gary Hall, eds, Disrupting the Humanities: Towards Posthumanities, Journal of Electronic Publishing, Vol. 9, No.2, Winter, 2016.

'Pirate Philosophy And Post-Capitalism: A Conversation With Gary Hall', by Mark Carrigan, The Sociological Imagination, December 8, 2016.

The Uberfication of the University - new book! (Open access version available here.)

Pirate Philosophy - new book!

Open Access

Most of Gary's work is freely available to read and download either here in Media Gifts or in Coventry University's online repository CURVE here 

performative project Janneke Adema has put together, based on our ‘The Political Nature of the Book: On Artists’ Books and Radical Open Access’ article for New Formations, Number 78, Summer, 2013. 

'What Does Academia.edu's Success Mean for Open Access: The Data-Driven World of Search Engines and Social Networking', Ctrl-Z: New Media Philosophy, no.5, 2015.

Radical Open Access network

Tuesday
Jan242017

The Philosophical Salon - new book from Open Humanities Press' Critical Climate Change series

We're delighted to announce the latest release from the Critical Climate Change series: The Philosophical Salon, edited by Michael Marder and Patricia Vieira. 

http://www.openhumanitiespress.org/books/titles/the-philosophical-salon/

Through the interpretative lens of today’s leading thinkers, The Philosophical Salon illuminates the persistent intellectual queries and the most disquieting concerns of our actuality. Across its three main divisions—Speculations, Reflections, and Interventions—the volume constructs a complex mirror, in which our age might be able to recognize itself with all its imperfections, shadowy spots, even threatening abysses and latent promises. On the cutting edge of philosophy, political and literary theory, and aesthetics, this book courageously tackles a wide array of topics, including climate change, the role of technology, reproductive rights, the problem of refugees, the task of the university, political extremism, embodiment, utopia, food ethics, and sexual identity. It is an enduring record of an ongoing conversation, as well as a building block for any attempt to make sense of our world’s multifaceted realities.

Contributors: Robert Albritton, Linda Martín Alcoff, Claudia Baracchi, Geoffrey Bennington, Jay M. Bernstein, Costica Bradatan, Jill Casid, David Castillo, Antonio Cerella, Anna Charlton, Claire Colebrook, Sarah Conly, Nikita Dhawan, William Egginton, Roberto Esposito, Mihail Evans, Gary Francione, Luis Garagalza, Michael Gillespie, Michael Hauskeller, Ágnes Heller, Daniel Innerarity, Jacob Kiernan, Julia Kristeva, Daniel Kunitz, Susanna Lindberg, Jeff Love, Michael Marder, Todd May, Michael Meng, John Milbank, Warren Montag, T. M. Murray, Jean-Luc Nancy, Kelly Oliver, Adrian Pabst, Martha Patterson, Richard Polt, Gabriel Rockhill, Hasana Sharp, Doris Sommer, Gayatri Spivak, Kara Thompson, Patrícia Vieira, Slavoj Žižek.

Monday
Jan092017

Disrupting the Humanities: Towards Posthumanities - special issue of JEP

We are pleased to announce the publication of a special issue of the Journal of Electronic Publishing: ‘Disrupting the Humanities: Towards Posthumanities’, edited by Janneke Adema and Gary Hall.  

‘Disrupting the Humanities: Towards Posthumanities’ consists of a selection of video-articles by Johanna Drucker, Mark Amerika, Erin Manning, Monika Bakke, Endre Dányi, Lesley Gourlay, Silvio Lorusso, Niamh Moore, Karen Newman, SØren Pold, Craig Saper, Sarah Kember, and Iris van der Tuin.

It is available for free, open access, CC-BY, here:
http://www.journalofelectronicpublishing.org/

‘Posthumanities: The Dark Side of “The Dark Side of the Digital”’

Adema and Hall have written a 10,000 word opening essay, discussing the conceptual premises that underly this special issue. Engaging with various discourses around the digital humanities, the essay outlines the experimental mode in which the videos included in the issue have been edited, as well as pointing to the idea of "posthuman humanities".
Link: http://dx.doi.org/10.3998/3336451.0019.201

A table of contents for this special issue of the Journal of Electronic Publishing is provided below.  

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Disrupting the Humanities: Towards Posthumanities

The Journal of Electronic Publishing (JEP)

Volume 19, No. 2 winter 2016

Edited by Janneke Adema and Gary Hall

 

Contents 

1  Maria Bonn, A Note From JEP

2 Janneke Adema and Gary Hall, Posthumanities: The Dark Side of “The Dark Side of the Digital”

PART ONE – Creating Posthumanities: Disrupting Humanities Methodologies

Part one of Disrupting the Humanities consists of a radical exploration of new posthumanist methodologies that take into account the agency of technologies and other non-human actants involved in modern forms of knowledge production. 

3   Monika Bakke, Deep Time Environments: Art And The Materiality Of Life Beyond The Human 

4   Lesley Gourlay, Posthuman Texts: Nonhuman Actors, Mediators and Technologies of Inscription 

5   Niamh Moore, “Humanist” Methods in a “More-than-Human” World 

6   Iris van der Tuin, Reading Diffractive Reading: Where and When Does Diffraction Happen?

PART TWO – Performing Posthumanities: Disrupting Humanities Aesthetics

Part two looks at the ways in which research is mediated and performed. It focuses on a reconsideration of the aesthetics of scholarship, including the “aesthetics of bookishness.” In doing so it investigates the potential of more post-digital, hybrid and multimodal forms of knowledge creation. 

7   Erin Manning, 10 Propositions for Research-Creation 

8   SØren Pold, Ink After Print: Literary Interface Criticism 

9   Johanna Drucker, Diagrammatic Form and Performative Materiality 

10  Silvio Lorusso, The Post-Digital Publishing Archive: An Inventory of Speculative Strategies

PART THREE – Circulating Posthumanities: Disrupting Humanities Institutions

Part three of Disrupting the Humanities provides a critical examination of how research is disseminated and shared, be it by publication to peers or to students in a pedagogical setting, or by adopting practices of radical openness and experimentation to challenge the normative and often print-based (neo)liberal humanist assumptions of how scholars in the humanities communicate. 

11   Sarah Kember, At Risk? The Humanities and the Future of Academic Publishing 

12   Endre Dányi, Samizdat Lessons: Three Dimensions of the Politics of Self-Publishing 

13    Craig Saper, Disrupting Scholarship 

14    Mark Amerika, Glitch Ontology (A Video Performance) 

15    Karen Newman, The West Midlands as an ‘Electronic Super Highway’: BOM and the Emergence of New Art Infrastructures

 

Monday
Dec192016

Ten Ways To Affirmatively Disrupt The Sharing Economy ♯2: Pressure Regulators to Change the Law

(This is part of a series of posts in which I provide ten proposals as to how to affirmatively disrupt ubercapitalism and the corporate sharing economy. Together these posts constitute the draft of a text provisionally titled Data Commonism, designed to follow on from my recently published short book, The Uberfication of the University. If the latter provides a dystopian sense of what is lying in store for many us over the course of the next few years, Data Commonism is more optimistic in that it shows what we can do about it. 

The first text in this series, Data Commonism: Introduction is here.

The Uberfication of the University is available from Minnesota University Press here. An open access version is available here.)

 

We Don’t Have To Live Like This: How To Affirmatively Disrupt the Disrupters 

♯2: Pressure Regulators to Change the Law 

Another way we can endeavor to affirmatively disrupt the platform capitalists of the sharing economy is by making them more accountable to the state. For example, we can argue for changes to be made in the law so that trusting these businesses to behave well--as we currently do with Amazon, Facebook, Google, and other data-management companies--is not our only option. (Hence the recent appeals to Facebook to sort out its fake news problem, and to Google to review its PageRank system to prevent it from being gamed by right-wing news and propaganda websites. The latter have created a huge network of links to each other in order to manipulate the company’s algorithm and produce what one newspaper headline characterizes as a “new reality where Hitler is a good guy, Muslims are evil and … Donald Trump becomes president”.) 

Placing pressure on regulators is an approach that has been proposed a number of times now. In the U.K., Labour MP Frank Field has called for the Department of Transport and Transport for London to insist Uber outlaw “sweated labor” before they renew the company’s license to operate in 2017. In a similar vein, Chi Onwurah, Labour’s shadow minister for industrial strategy, said this week that she wants to see the algorithms of technology companies opened up to regulation and rendered transparent to ensure they comply with the law on employment and competition. Onwurah also wants legislation “for greater consumer ownership of data” to be introduced. Tessa Jowell, who has twice stood in as leader of the United Kingdom Labour party, has even gone so far as to make it clear she is refusing to use Uber, which for legal purposes is currently based in the Netherlands, until it pays taxes in the U.K. Uber only paid £411,000 in tax in 2015, despite having a turnover in the U.K. of £23.3 million. (As Fortune details, in May 2013 “Uber formed a new business entity in the Netherlands called Uber International C.V.,” which actually has no employees and gives the address of a Bermudian law firm as its headquarters. “Over the next few weeks [the] San Francisco startup executed a flurry of transactions that shifted ownership of several foreign subsidiaries to Uber International C.V. and formed an agreement with the Dutch business to split the profits from Uber’s intellectual property. By mid-June… nearly all its ride-share income outside the U.S. would be effectively shielded from US [and UK] taxes.”) 

Such a law-oriented focus has met with a certain amount of success. The California state labor commission has deemed that Uber’s so-called “partner-drivers” are actually employees (and not independent contractors), with all the responsibilities regarding their right to a wage, benefits, sick pay, retirement pension and so forth this implies for the company. Florida has made a similar ruling, as has a tribunal in London. Meanwhile the cities of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo have both made moves to prohibit Uber altogether. When it comes to Airbnb, officials in Berlin have introduced regulations prohibiting users from renting out more than 50% of an apartment for less then two months without permission from the city council--at the risk of a 100,000 euro (£85,000) fine. In San Francisco hosts are only allowed to let their properties for a maximum of ninety days a year, with the city able to fine Airbnb up to $1,000 a day for any property it advertizes that is not registered with the authorities.  Reykjavik in Iceland has even introduced legislation that means those offering rentals in their properties for more than 90 days a year have to officially register as businesses and pay business tax. 

Yet the state and ubercapitalism are not two different entities. The situation is not one in which the state can be relied upon to act as a counterbalance to, or some kind of reformist brake on, ubercapitalism, giving it a more humane, democratic aspect: say, by providing those who are self-employed with more government assistance in the form of maternity pay, pension provision, and an easier system of taxation. The state is intricately bound up with it, one of the tenets of neoliberalism, after all, being that the state should serve capital and private interests. In fact, the success of the state today is often determined by its ability to support the market, if not achieve economic growth.

Consider the way many businesses rely on the state to top-up the wages of their workers with benefits; or how many governments have been forced to borrow vast amounts to pay the debts created by the banks and financial capital and keep the economy functioning. In fact, for a long time Amazon received more in government grants in the United Kingdom than it paid in tax. Moreover, in 2014 Facebook paid just $4,327 in U.K. corporation tax, despite having revenues here of £105 million, and total worldwide revenues of $12.5 billion. Similarly, Airbnb may be valued at £23 billion and have two million properties worldwide, with 40,000 in London alone. But it was still able to use its company in Ireland to arrange to pay only £317,00 tax in the United Kingdom in 2015. And even when the government of the U.K. did manage to persuade Google to pay something in lieu of unpaid taxes stretching back over a decade, it was only able to obtain £130 million when between 2005 and 2014 the technology company had sales of over £24 billion, on which it reported profit margins of between 25 and 30 per cent, which means it had a profit somewhere in the region of £7.2 billion. (With U.K. corporation tax over the last ten years having been above 20 per cent, this means Google has been able to negotiate a tax rate of around 3 per cent. To put this in further perspective, when Sundar Pichai became Google’s CEO in October 2015 after its reorganisation into Alphabet, he was awarded 273,328 shares, which at £138 million is worth more than Google is paying in U.K. tax.)

Indeed, one reason companies such as Amazon, Facebook, and Google have had sufficient finances to be able to continue striving to grow their market share and become a monopoly, even when for long periods they have not been able to turn a profit, is because they have not given very much of their money to governments in the form of tax. If treating their labor force as independent contractors is one way of reducing costs and maximizing profit for these companies, aggressively finding ways to pay as little tax as possible is clearly another.

The state is thus currently too weak, too much a part of ubercapitalism, to be able to save us from it. (This is evident from the way many of these corporate sharing economy companies are able to continue to run their operations even in cities that have prohibited them. Furthermore, the Google Transparency Project has discovered 80 cases of staff moving between Google and government in Europe, and 251 cases in the U.S.). Nor is this suprising, given that for some time now government has been more about actively reducing the size and scope of the state, smoothing the way for corporations to take over many of its functions, while at the same time enabling neoliberals not to “govern as little as possible but to govern everything down to the last detail,” as Maurizio Lazzarato emphasizes--to the extent of ensuring the state and public sector not only supports the market but frequently operates in terms of market rationality itself. Witness the attempt to introduce the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) and Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TTP), all three of which would have severely restricted the power nation states have over corporations. TTIP, for instance, would enable companies to use secret courts to sue countries that pass local laws that are unfriendly to their business. Witness also the introduction of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (Ceta) between Canada and the EU--often referred to as a “backdoor for TTIP.” Like the latter, Ceta gives companies the power to sue countries that introduce laws that threaten their profits, including those they may make in the future.

So it is not that ubercapitalism wants to get rid of the welfare state entirely: it’s rather that welfare in this society is to be provided first and foremost to businesses and banks. Evidence the commitment the U.K government is rumored to have given the Japanese car manufacturer Nissan, which has a large manufacturing plant in Sunderland in the north east of England, that “extra support” will be provided “in the event Brexit reduces its competitiveness.” Seen in this light it is hard to believe a regulatory approach that tries to make the platform capitalist companies of the sharing economy further accountable to the state and its democratically made laws regarding employment, competition, and tax--say by introducing some form of legislation or audit to ensure openness and transparency--can have too much success over the longer term. And all the more so given the power of these corporations to employ an army of pans-national lobbyists, advertisers and others to help sway public and political opinion in their favor. (The third person hired by Airbnb was a lobbyist, while by June 2015 Uber had at least two hundred and fifty lobbyists; and that is just in the United States. Uber also hired the resigned deputy commissioner of the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission to be its first ever head of policy development and community engagement in the city. This is not insignificant, since it is estimated that during the evening rush hour ten per cent of all vehicles in lower Manhattan are Uber cars. So much for the sharing economy reducing environmental impact!) More likely, such reformism will at best change the behaviour of a small number of particular companies, producing important yet relatively minor changes in corporate behaviour with the help of occasional moral outrages at Google-esque tax avoidance or Sports Direct-like “Victorian workhouse” practices, while doing little to alter the overall system whereby ubercapitalism is presiding over the dismantling of social democracy.

Monday
Dec122016

Ten Ways To Affirmatively Disrupt The Sharing Economy ♯1: Act Tactically 

(This is part of a series of posts in which I provide ten proposals as to how to affirmatively disrupt ubercapitalism and the corporate sharing economy. Together these posts constitute the draft of a text provisionally titled Data Commonism, designed to follow on from my recently published short book, The Uberfication of the University. If the latter provides a dystopian sense of what is lying in store for many us over the course of the next few years, Data Commonism is more optimistic in that it shows what we can do about it. 

The first text in this series, Data Commonism: Introduction is here.

The Uberfication of the University is available from Minnesota University Press here. An open access version is available here.)

 

We Don’t Have To Live Like This: How to Affirmatively Disrupt the Disruptors 

♯1: Act Tactically 

In The Uberfication of the University I showed how obtaining a degree of autonomy from any for-profit sharing economy market by means of a strategic (and dialectical) withdrawal of our intellectual and bodily labour will be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve. Nevertheless, we can still respond tactically by flooding the market with inaccurate, misleading, or questionable information and data about ourselves. Such a response will have the added advantage of being consistent with the notion expressed at the end of The Uberfication of the University: that affirmatively disrupting ubercapitalism requires us to creatively destroy not only the jobs we do but also the microentrepreneurs of the self we have become.

The artist Natascha Sadr Haghighian offers an intriguing take on this approach. As part of a larger project of critiquing institutionalized regimes of knowledge, Haghighian rejects the totalizing ideas of CVs, resumes and bios. Instead, she insists only biographies obtained from the bioswop project (www.bioswop.net) be used in printed material regarding her work. This is a CV-exchange platform Haghighian has created with a view to providing curriculum vitaes, resumes and bios for mutual utilization and borrowing, as well as basic elements of CVs for assembly. (For an example, see the bio for Haghighian that is available at MIT List Visual Arts Center.)

Haghighian’s bioswop project is certainly helpful, not least in showing just how conservative most of us are when it comes to curriculum vitaes. Yet here too a question arises concerning the extent to which experiments with obfuscation of this kind are going to be possible under the rigorous performance management regime of any for-profit sharing economy business. In the era of ubercapitalism such an information and data intermediary will surely implement a real-name policy similar to that of Facebook and other online platforms. If so, then the only way to labor in the decentralised network of those providing services in the market created by the associated sharing economy ecosystem will be through the performance and maintenance of one’s own personal (self-)profile and reputation. (As I note in Pirate Philosophy, Facebook’s Terms of Service include the following conditions: “You will not provide any false personal information on Facebook, or create an account for anyone other than yourself without permission;” and “You will not create more than one personal account.”)

Indeed, according to Michael Fertik, this is why the “Reputation Economy will prove so disruptive to higher education” in particular: “because the technology is quickly developing to allow your unique reputation to become a stronger signal of employability than the name on your diploma, or even whether you have a diploma at all.” It is the latter credentialism, which includes the social, economic, and cultural capital generated by the name and type of the institution you attend (Ivy league or community college, Oxbridge or ex-Poly), which has so far enabled the traditional university system to hold off the challenge of MOOCs and other forms of online Open Education, after all. (A report from the Sutton Trust indicates that an Oxbridge graduate will on average earn £10,000 more every year of their working life than a graduate from a university outside of the Russell Group of elite United Kingdom universities.) What this means as far as any freelance individual microentrepreneur who adopts a tactic along the lines of Haghighian’s bioswop project is concerned, however, is that here too it will be more a case of work rejecting them than of them rejecting work and its totalizing ideas of CVs, resumes, bios, and the related information and data concerning educational qualifications, career trajectories, salary, social connections, online influence and behaviour. 

Wednesday
Dec072016

Data Commonism: Introduction

(This is the first of a series of posts in which I provide ten proposals as to how to affirmatively disrupt the disruptors of ubercapitalism and the corporate sharing economy. Together these posts constitute the draft of a text provisionally titled Data Commonism, designed to follow on from my recently published short book, The Uberfication of the University. If the latter provides a dystopian sense of what is lying in store for many us over the course of the next few years, Data Commonism is more optimistic in that it shows what we can do about it. 

The Uberfication of the University is available from Minnesota University Press here. An open access version is available here.)

 

In his essay on “The Political Technology of Individuals,” Michel Foucault notes how those profound moments of social change that have produced “institutions oriented toward the care of individual life--the great welfare, public health and medical assistance programs”--have often co-existed in political structures with “large destructive mechanisms.” The Industrial Revolution saw the introduction of compulsory primary school education, while the immediate period after the Second World War heralded the development in the United Kingdom of both the NHS and the welfare state--the latter two being precisely the kind of public service institutions that are currently being starved of funding and gradually privatized

Now our own era is of course far from free of the dangers posed by large destructive mechanisms. There are disruptive innovations in new digital technologies, including those associated with networked social, mobile, and interactive media, as well as artificial intelligence, gene editing, pre-emptive, cognitive, and contextual computing. The result is expected to be a cull of large numbers of middle-class jobs in the global North and West, with very little to put in their place. Indeed, a 2016 World Economic Forum report estimates that by 2020 technology will have created 2 million jobs but displaced 7 million. (It should be emphasized that sweat-shop and slave labor will still be required in the global South and East nonetheless to build the hardware and mine the minerals that digital technologies such as iPhones are made from.) Richard Florida describes the situation rather ominously as “the great reset.”  From this point of view, Uber assumes the appearance of a “dry-run for autonomous, ever-circling, point-to-point fleet vehicles in which humans stand in for the robots to come.” Such a lack of paid employment--a situation characterised by some as “post-work”--combined with the associated falling value of labor, could quite conceivably lead to the breakdown of Western consumer capitalism if there is no system of finance capable of continuing to extend credit, or universal basic income (as is being introduced in Utrecht and a number of other municipalities in the Netherlands, and is being considered for adoption as a policy by the U.K. Labour Party), to sustain the purchasing power of large swathes of the population now rendered surplus to requirements. In February 2016 the Office for National Statistics was already reporting a decline in the quantity of material consumed in the United Kingdom: down to 659.1m tonnes in 2013 (10.3 tonnes per person) from a peak of 889.9m tonnes in 2001 (15.1 tonnes per person). As Steve Howard, head of sustainability for Ikea puts it: “If we look on a global basis, in the West we have probably hit peak stuff. We talk about peak oil. I’d say we’ve hit peak red meat, peak sugar, peak stuff… peak home furnishings.” (The recycle-repair-reuse approach of certain elements of the sharing economy can be viewed as one response to “peak stuff.” So too can the wider shift to a more circular economy in which products are mended and reused rather than repeatedly bought, thrown away, and then bought again. The Swedish government is even planning to introduce tax breaks on the cost of fixing bicycles, fridges, washing machines and other goods to encourage such a culture of “repair” rather than “replace.”) 

Other large destructive mechanisms include the ongoing financial crisis in many parts of the world, as evident in the waning of the political and economic hegemony of the United States, those policies imposed in the name of “austerity” in Europe and the United Kingdom to defend the neoliberal order after the crisis of 2008, mass unemployment in southern Europe, the financial collapse in Greece, the marked slowing down of growth in China, and the slump in the price of oil and steel. 

There is also the “democratic deficit,” whereby citizens in established democracies are increasingly alienated from a technocratic class that is no longer seen as being able to manage neoliberal globalisation, increasing inequality having resulted in large sections of the population feeling they have been left behind while an elite minority have prospered. This disaffection has led to the election victories of Syriza in Greece, the popularity of Podemos in Spain, the Jeremy Corbyn phenomenon in the U.K., as well as the emergence of a range of “horizontal” movements for social justice and more egalitarian economic models, both local and global in nature. I am thinking of the Occupy, indignados, and Nuit debout protests in particular. But there is also the opposition to neoliberal globalization in favour of an emphasis on place, nation and borders that has seen a revival of the far right. This has led to the post-fact, post-truth, hyper-emotive politics and populist distrust of experts that was such a feature of the nostalgic nationalism of the 2016 Brexit campaign in Britain, and presidential election victory of Donald Trump in the United States.

Still, while Andy Haldane, the Bank of England’s chief economist, may have predicted that the “‘Anglo-Saxon’ crisis of 2008-09” and subsequent “‘Euro-Area’ crisis of 2011/2012” is due to be followed by an “‘Emerging Market’ crisis of 2015 onwards,” what we have seen so far, primarily, is a continued belief in “pro-growth” capitalism as the only game in town. To be sure, stock markets fell sharply in China, Germany, and France at the beginning of 2016. Coupled to instability in the Middle East, specifically the possibility of conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran, this led the then U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne to describe 2016 as less “mission accomplished” when it comes to the economy recovering from austerity and more as “mission critical.” And, if anything, this is all the more the case almost a year later, given there is now the influx of refuges from Syria and Iraq, the terrorist attacks by Islamic extremists in France, Belgium, and Germany, the possibility of war with Russia over the Crimea, and instability of Turkey to consider too. Nevertheless, if Syrizia, Podemos, and Corbynmania--not to mention Brexit and Trump--are all evidence that a mental break with neoliberalism has occurred after the financial crash of 2008, it has not as yet been accompanied by a decisive political, economic or cultural break. Witness the way British prime minister Theresa May is currently arguing that a free-trading U.K. can lead on developing solutions to anti-neoliberal and anti-globalisation sentiments from outside of the E.U. May wants to save the neoliberal order from the reactionary populism of Trump and UKIP’s Nigel Farage by renewing its legitimacy in the 21st century. And the way she wants to do this is by using the power of the state to steer the shift from old industries to new ones.

Part of the difficulty, as Felix Stalder notes, lies “in assessing when a ‘certain stage’ is reached in historical reality” in which one can tell whether such destruction “acts--as it does in normal times--as the engine of capitalist innovation (Joseph Schumpeter style), or, if it is already at the point where it harbours something deeper, a structural crisis of the system as such.” Certainly, as Stalder says, it remains to be seen if any of these developments affects the “entire system or just certain segments that might be reorganised through another mode of production, parallel to, or subsumed under, the capitalist mode.” For example, does the oligarchic economic nationalism of Trump in the U.S., Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Turkey, and Viktor Orbán in Hungary, indicate that we have entered a new era of post-neoliberal politics, as some commentators are claiming? Is it a reactionary spasm presaging the system’s immanent collapse—not just the death throws of the free market, then, but of capitalism itself?  Or is it just a new iteration of global capitalism?

The situation is further complicated by the fact that ideas about large destructive events often contain an element of fantasy--serving to reassure us it is indeed still possible to conceive of an end to capitalism, to offer just one example. (Nowhere is the latter more apparent today than in many theories of the Anthropocene.) Yet even if none of these large destructive mechanisms does represent a structural crisis capable of affecting the entire capitalist system, the question still arises: do any of them at least have the potential to be comparable to those Foucault identifies? And if they do, how likely is it that they too will be accompanied by large-scale social change? Suppose one of the technological, political, or environmental crises of our time--the Zika virus, to provide a still further example, which is being spread in Latin America and the Caribbean by mosquitos whose range is expanding as the climate heats up--does grow to become equivalent in its effects to those produced by the Industrial Revolution. (In the case of Zika, this could take the form of a world separated into different geographic zones: those free from extremes of disease and pollution in which it is safe for women to get pregnant and those that are not, the former being inhabited by the wealthy, the latter by the poor.) Imagine it does so even to the extent of producing the kind of future an accelerationist politics looks toward. In such a scenario, the gains of late capitalism and the particular technosocial innovations that have historically typified it are not reversed. Instead, they are reprogrammed beyond those capitalism’s “value system, governance structures, and mass pathologies” currently allow--until capitalism reaches a point where it has to either develop a host of more Commons-based, post-work, post-carbon practices, or self-combust via a process of “slow fragmentation towards primitivism, perpetual crisis, and planetary ecological collapse.” From this point of view, “the material platform of neoliberalism does not need to be destroyed. It needs to be repurposed towards common ends. The existing infrastructure is not a capitalist stage to be smashed, but a springboard to launch towards post-capitalism.”   Yet what if that does happen? There is still no guarantee such a large destructive mechanism will coexist in our political structures with a moment of profound social transformation oriented toward the care of life. Neoliberal ubercapitalism winning out still further over welfare, public health, and medical assistance programs is as possible a future as any strengthening of the social, be it post-capitalist, neo-socialist, or liberal democratic in orientation. The Commons and a Universal Basic Income are both ideas that have neoliberal supporters, for instance. Granted, socialists see the Commons as an alternative to privatization, commodification and to corporate trade. But by the same token, for free marketeers the Commons represents an alternative to state regulation and centralized bureaucracy. 

Yet Foucault is careful not to suggest in “The Political Technology of Individuals” there is a causal link that creates the “coincidence” by which “life insurance is connected with a death command:” that the one is the effect, the result, of the other.  In that case our only hope would be to wait for the kind of special circumstances that are more or less comparable to those generated by a world war before something even approaching a 21st century equivalent to the 1870 Education Act or 1946 NHS Act could be introduced, let alone a form of society developed that goes beyond the all-pervasive algorithmic surveillance and control of the market and its metrics. (The quickening of climate change and the irreversible transformation of our bio- and geo-sphere, say, or the discovery and exploitation of a new world--the kind of thing that might result if we developed the ability to mine planets or asteroids, say.) So are there things we can do right here, right now, to affirmatively disrupt the disruptors of the for-profit sharing economy with a view to beginning the process of inventing a different, more caring future--not just for the university, the sharing economy, or even for post-industrial society, as I said in The Uberfication of the University, but for “individual life” too--while at the same time being aware that there is no certainty doing so will achieve a structural transformation, and that such changes will not end up simply being subsumed under the capitalist mode?