Crimethinc; Work

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JoeMaguire's picture
JoeMaguire
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Apr 11 2011 07:28
Crimethinc; Work

For due release shortly

Quote:
After so much technological progress, why do we have to work more than ever before? How is it that the harder we work, the poorer we end up compared to our bosses? When the economy crashes, why do people focus on protecting their jobs when no one likes working in the first place? Can capitalism survive another century of crises?

Our newest book, entitled Work, addresses these questions and a great many more. To answer them, we had to revisit our previous analysis of employment and develop a more nuanced understanding of the economy. We spent months studying obscure history and comparing notes about how we experience exploitation in our daily lives, slowly hammering out a grand unified theory of contemporary capitalism.

In addition to distilling our findings in this book, we’ve also prepared a poster to diagram the system it describes. The poster is based on the classic illustration of the pyramid of the capitalist system published in the Industrial Worker in 1911. With the assistance of Packard Jennings, we’ve created a new version, much more detailed than the original and updated to account for all the transformations of the past one hundred years.

In combination, the book and poster explore the positions we occupy within this pyramid and the mechanics that maintain it. From the industrial revolution to the internet, from the colonization of the Americas to the explosion of the service sector and the stock market, from the 2008 financial crisis to the upheavals taking place right now across the globe, Work offers an overview of how capitalism functions in the 21st century and what we can do to get beyond it.

Quote:
This project is the combined effort of a group of people who have already spent many years in pitched struggle against capitalism. What qualifies us to write this? Some of us used to be students or pizza deliverers or dishwashers; others still are construction workers or graphic designers or civic-minded criminals. But all of us have lived under capitalism since we were born, and that makes us experts on it. The same goes for you. No one has to have a degree in economics to understand what s happening: it s enough to get a paycheck or a pink slip and pay attention. We re suspicious of the experts who get their credentials from on high, who have incentives to minimize things that are obvious to everyone else.
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Apr 11 2011 07:36

Not going to overly pre-judge this before its release, but the pyramid is very proleinfo stylee and I am not sure whether I should be pleased or alarmed that crimethinc are moving onto the subject of labour with some gusto. They until recently were slating AF and SF as professional revolutionaries, so I hazard to guess they still haven't corrected their ways.

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Apr 11 2011 18:12

I e-mailed them requesting a review copy, because I was very intrigued by it!

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Apr 11 2011 18:57

There's also this piece

http://www.crimethinc.com/texts/recentfeatures/terrain.php

in which they're arguing that the drop-out strategy they've been advocating for far too long has become "mainstream" (a lot thanks to the internet it seems like they're saying; since the internet provides the space, anonymity, possibility for freeganing etc. that they advocated in carbon life).

Crimethinc wrote:
Today, much of what we proclaimed has become passé. As capitalism has shifted into a state of perpetual crisis and technological innovations have penetrated deeper into every aspect of life, instability, decentralization, and anonymity have come to characterize our society without bringing the world of our dreams any closer.
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Apr 11 2011 20:12

So where poverty, homelessness and unemployment were radical lifestyle choices confronting capitalist society in 2004, now in 2011 they have become passé? I think I'd respect them a bit more if they just said 'look guys, we took on board some of your criticisms even if we maintain some differences blah blah'..

But to act like things have massively changed in the last seven-odd years so that now work - the activity that most people on the planet do for most of their days - has taken on a new importance that wasn't there previously is bollocks in my opinion..

Though I suppose now what with the financial crisis, they're right that unemployment is very 'mainstream' now.. in a way.. sad

MT
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Apr 11 2011 21:15

exactly, i felt they had just discovered capitalism exists, hehehe

bricolage
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Apr 11 2011 21:21

well they write;

Quote:
Our approach was shaped by a specific historical context. The Soviet bloc had recently collapsed and the impending political, economic, and ecological crises had yet to come into view; capitalist triumphalism was at its peak. We focused on undermining middle class values because they seemed to define everyone’s aspirations; we presented anarchist struggle as an individual project because it was difficult to imagine anything else. As the anti-globalization movement gathered momentum in the US and gave way to the anti-war movement, we came to conceptualize struggle more collectively, though still as originating from a personal decision to oppose a firmly rooted status quo.

So from what I can gather they are saying that writing in the 'end of history' period capitalism appeared dominant in a way it had never done so before, the possibility of collectively overcoming it was gone and, as that oft quoted quote goes, it was easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism. In that context the only option seemed individual pursuits and dropping out of the social order, if you couldn't save the world maybe you could save yourself? Obviously this was all bogus but with a renewed upsurge in struggle (they pinpoint the alter-globalisation movement, evidently the anti-austerity 'movement' - if one can be said to exist - is far more pertinent) these ideas seem less relevant and they are being swept along into the open terrain of class struggle. I don't think you have to agree with the stuff they were saying about dropping out, and I'd be a bit confused if anyone here actually did, to accept it was shaped by the historical context it was in (maybe less so as I've just realised it was written in the early 2000s and no the early 1990s, but then had the nature of struggle changed much between 1990 and 2000? Probably not) and that what they are now putting out is shaped by the resurgence in class conflict. Well that's how I see it.

Anyway this work book actually looks pretty interesting, might have to check it out.

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Apr 11 2011 21:35

Yeah, bricolage, I think what you say is all true.. when I got into the anarchist movement in 2002 I think it was the year with the lowest number of work days lost to strike action since records began. I def think that in that historical context it can explain why Crimethinc. 'happened'.

I suppose it just burns a bit to see this shift (in the right direction) of their politics after years of being involved in 'big tent' type groups and eventually giving up on banging my head against a brick wall whenever I talked about class.. it's a bit annoying to see them still slagging off the AF and SF for being 'professional revolutionaries' while at the same time embracing more of our ideas.. probably in a 'new' way so that they won't have to admit these ideas had been presented to them six/seven years ago.. Guess I'd like a hat tip is all wink

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Apr 11 2011 21:55

Or maybe ten years on middle class kids in their teens and twenties have got tired of eating out of bins and got jobs and feel a need to explain that without admitting that they've grown up a bit.

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Apr 12 2011 04:09

edit: misread the post I was responding to. Removed.

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Apr 12 2011 10:48
jef costello wrote:
Or maybe ten years on middle class kids in their teens and twenties have got tired of eating out of bins and got jobs and feel a need to explain that without admitting that they've grown up a bit.

Seems logical! Yeah it's pretty odd hearing them "rediscover" capitalism as if there's been such a major shift in how the world works since DOW/NOL etc. But it'll be interesting to see what their "grand unified theory" is like, and if they're moving in a more class-oriented direction that can only be a good thing. Just no one say "I told you so"... wink

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Apr 12 2011 16:40

Willing to bet that (some of) this will have more than coincidental similarities to 'Abolish Restaurants'.

From Crimethinc Insurrection article:

Quote:
Ten years ago, we were the upstarts whose new energy and muddled ideas provoked all the testy veterans; we were able to learn from some of their criticisms, no thanks to them, but their disdain contributed to our defensiveness and their marginalization. If we accept roles on the opposite side of this dynamic now, we may doom those who come after us to repeat the same pattern.

So yeah, maybe best to lay off the "I told you so", and try to be encouraging of growth and maturing.

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Apr 12 2011 18:29

Exactly, when we were criticising then most we were young upstarts as well - we were just more sensible

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Apr 12 2011 20:55
Tommy Ascaso wrote:
We were young upstarts with energy and muddled ideas 10 years ago and we still had better politics than them.

True that!

But as was said above, they'll probably present these ideas in a 'new' way and not admit to having had them presented to them in the past. So maybe encouragement might be one approach.

Also, Crimethinc are great at 'contextualising'. wink tongue
http://libcom.org/library/smack-white-boy-part-two-crimethinc-eviction-2009

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Apr 17 2011 19:39

I just picked up a copy of Work at the Toronto Anarchist bookfair. I've skim-read parts of it (chapters are typically 2-6 pages long) and while the analysis is nothing new at all, it is a huge step in the right direction. From the little I read it seems like the book is a superficial autonomist-inspired analysis of capitalism. Still, it's presented as new and groundbreaking analysis.

Graphic design, is, as per usual, pretty nice.

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Jun 5 2011 10:45

Yeah just been reading through it, not a bad intro, if a little simplistic. It's very easy reading (I finished half of it just traveling to Norfolk and back). Having said that its approach to "worldwide" capitalism is pretty US-centric, so how well it would resonate with a wider audience is difficult to say.

Couple of sections did stand out for still being infected with serious lifestylism-related issues, on research/technology and medicine. They are still banging on about how "capitalist technology" is intrinsically evil (particularly stupid is the insistence that we somehow had it better when our solutions to complex illnesses and injuries revolved around stepping out into the back garden and picking berries to rub on the troublesome area).