A technological economy

A lot has been written in this decade attempting to situate an ‘information’ or ‘digital’ economy in relation to politics and political practices. Some suggest recent technological innovations provide a transformative potential for society, others are more cautious. I have collected below some quotes that I feel help set out, or act as a primer for, some key concerns in these debates.

All possible valences of an object, all its ambivalence, which cannot be reduced to any model, are reduced by design to two rational components, tow general models – utility and the aesthetic – which design isolates and artificially opposes to one another… But this artificial separation then permits evoking their reunification as an ideal scheme. Utility is separated from the aesthetic, they are named separately (for neither has any reality other than being named separately), then they are ideally reunited and all contradictions are resolved by this magical operation. Now, the two equally arbitrary agencies exist only to mislead.

Baudrillard J 1981. “Design and Environment or How Political Economy Escalates into Cyberblitz” in For a Critique of the Political Economy of the Sign, trans. Levin C, St Louis: Telos Press: pp.188-89

There’s a strange meshing of techno-sciences and economic markets which produces what Marilyn Strathern calls the proliferation of new identities and which constantly creates new uncertainties about the constitution of the collective. So this constant creation and proliferation of the social (or what we propose to call emerging concerned groups) requires new procedures, new institutions, political institutions,new forms of debates

Barry A and Slater D 2002. “Technology, politics and the market: an interview with Michel Callon“, Economy and Society 32 (2):p. 287

The same economic characteristics that make exclusive rights in information a tool that imposes barriers to access in advanced economies makes these rights a form of tax on technological latecomers. What most poor and middle-income countries lack is not human creativity, but access to the basic tools of innovation. Th cost of the material requirements of innovation and information production is declining rapidly in many domains, as more can be done with ever-cheaper computers and communications systems. But exclusive rights in existing innovation tools and information resources remain a significant barrier to innovation, education and the use of information-embedded tools and goods in low-middle income countries… If the networked information economy is indeed a significant inflection point for modern societies… it is so because it upsets the dominance of proprietary, market-based production in the sphere of the production of knowledge, information and culture

Benckler Y 2006. The Wealth of Networks. New Haven and London: Yale University Press: pp. 467-8

The increasing importance of measurement and information in the economy might be thought to have anti-political effects. Governments have become less concerned with questions of distribution and public ownership, and more concerned with fostering a culture of regulation, monitoring, measurement, auditing, testing and compliance. And all these activities… can be delegated to experts [which] becomes a secure relay between the political and economic field.

Barry A 2002 “The anti-political economy” Economy and Society 32 (2): p. 279-80

[T]o draw together a range of issues connecting technology and economy: economics as a technology; economies as material arrangements of technical devices; but also new approaches to the traditional issue of the place of technology in socio-economic change… leads us directly to contemporary debates about the so-called ‘new economy’and to question the technological determinism with which the notion of the new economy is often associated. According to the new economy theorists, technological innovation (particularly in new media and biotechnologies) places information and knowledge at the centre of economic processes. More broadly, the advent of the new economy is often reckoned to imply a whole series of other transformations in economic life:the centrality of ‘culture’; the ‘dematerialization’ of economic factors, objects and processes; transformations in the nature of property, labour and value; reductions in transaction costs; deregulation and globalization.

the ‘new economy’ is not a (falsifiable) description of an increasingly dematerialized economy. On the contrary, it is an attempt to establish new material economic arrangements. These innovations take place at the boundaries of existing markets and economic institutions, in this case at their boundaries with previously externalized knowledges and processes: cultural processes, natural scientific expertise and ethics… It is surely significant that the voices which count in these circumstances include Wired magazine as much as academic economists, Castells as much as Reich; and they include not only resurgent rational choice theorists but also a growing number of anthropologists and ethnographers recruited into multinational corporations and market research and management consultancies to make new and expanded sense of economic objects, actors and processes… [We should not] deny that real socio-economic transformations are occurring… [but] place these changes within a more adequate methodological framework, one in which the problematic character of subjects and objects, materiality and ‘culture’ are interrogated, rather than taken to be an unprecedented development.

Barry A and Slater D 2002. “Introduction: the technological economy“, Economy and Society 32 (2): pp. 189-90

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