I was not surprised to learn that Andrew Ross, professor of American studies at NYU, had been barred from entering the United Arab Emirates. I have known Andrew for quite a few years, and know him to be a persistent and consistent critic of injustice and exploitation. Much of his recent work has focused on labor and debt, for example in his most recent book, Creditorcracy. That he was prevented from spending his spring break doing further research on labor practices in Abu Dhabi one can take as an admission by the relevant authorities there that his researches had been, as usual, on point. The work of his I want to focus on here concerns the politics of the American city in the Anthropocene. Ross has always had good instincts for how to apply scholarly practices to contemporary issues.
It is quite scandalous how much theory-talk still retails metaphors based on 19th century worldviews. As if what we can know about the world had not undergone several revolutions since. Hence if one were to look for a #Theory21c it would have to start with people who at least engage with technical scientific languages of our times. One example of which would be Tiziana Terranova’s Network Culture (Pluto Press 2004). I looked back over the bulk of the book in a previous post. This one takes up her engagement with the theories and sciences of biological computing.
Sanjay Ruparella’s lucid and compelling talk on the global South can help us to clarify what we mean by capitalism. If the “global South” implies a global capitalist system or project, what was that project? We can think of it as unfolding in two waves: the first began with the discovery of America in 1492 and took the form of the great trading empires; the second began with industrial capitalism in the nineteenth century and continues today. In the first wave, specialization, the division of labor and trade are crucial; in the second, the capital labor relation per se. To be sure, we can think of the two waves as continuous, building on one another. In both cases, capitalism implies increased productivity and growth, as well as increasing inequality.