EssaysFeature

Restoring Security by (Re)discovering the Culture of Flexible Work

By the early 1990s, Jay Chiat had reached the pinnacle of the advertising world thanks to his firm’s iconic campaigns, especially the Absolut Vodka bottle print ads and Apple’s “Think Different” and “1984” spots. Flush with cash, Chiat commissioned the architect Frank Gehry to design “the office of the future.” Gehry produced the iconic (if mystifying) “Binoculars Building” in Venice, California. The structure’s whimsical exterior, however, clashed with the staid, cubicled ways of work going on inside. And so Chiat soon embarked on a mission to reorganize the ways employees worked at the Chiat/Day offices. His “virtual office,” a phrase Chiat popularized, would be as radical as the building’s shell. The quirky interiors would stimulate creativity and foster equality through open, non-hierarchical communal spaces sure to inspire imagination, collaboration, and flexibility — even playfulness. 

The firm chose associate media director Monika Miller to test-drive the office, which meant she was freed of her desk, chair, and personal office space. Each morning,  …

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CapitalismEssaysFeature

Global Sweatshops, Solidarity and the Bangladesh Breakthrough

The global apparel industry is a notorious sweatshop employer, with millions of workers laboring under terrible conditions in dozens of developing countries, making products sold in the Global North. This is an industry that was among the first to undergo the globalization of production. The vast majority of workers are young women. Thus this industry combines issues of international trade, race, gender and labor in a confluence of misery and oppression.

The reasons for sweatshop working …

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CapitalismEssays

Platform Cooperativism vs. the Sharing Economy

The backlash against unethical labor practices in the “collaborative sharing economy” has been overplayed. Recently, The Washington Post, New York Times and others started to rail against online labor brokerages like Taskrabbit, Handy, and Uber because of an utter lack of concern for their workers. At the recent Digital Labor conference, my colleague McKenzie Wark proposed that the modes of production that we appear to be entering are not quite capitalism as classically described. “This is not capitalism,” he said, “this is something worse.”[1] …

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CapitalismEssaysIn Depth

Think Outside the Boss

Cooperate alternatives to the sharing economy

Digital labor touches all of us, whether you are browsing Tinder profiles in your spare time, searching for “Jersey Shore” on Google, or ordering an Uber taxi.

In this afternoon’s talk, I will highlight what is and what could be successful about 21st century work and what are some tendencies that are worrisome. Once we gain an understanding of that, we can examine how to work around the concerning dispositions and promote positive trends. In the first five minutes, I will walk you through a few cases that I find troublesome. …

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LettersSex & Gender

Identity Politics on Steroids or What do Women Want?

Last week Johanna Oksala asked is capitalism good for women? And if it is not, are there reforms that can make capitalism good for women? Rather than rehearse her complex and fascinating answers to these questions, let me rather interrogate the assumptions that underlie them. One, of course, is that we know what capitalism is, but I won’t go into that just yet. Another is that we can consider women as a social and historical totality — a “gender” — that is oppressed as a whole, and that can seek remediation as a whole. Of course, there are differences among women — rich and poor, gay and straight, young and old and so forth. Nonetheless, women as a whole are oppressed and can seek remedies that apply to all women.

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