Here is a rough draft of the paper I'm supposed to give at a symposium in London on Thursday. Given the protests and the vote, the schedule for the meeting is already being altered. I expect that more alterations are likely.
In upstate NY, we are basically under white out conditions--icy, windy, snow. These conditions are expected to persist over the next couple of ways...and I am really hoping that they won't cause flight delays that will thwart my travel plans.
Anyway, here is a brief and excerpt and the pdf: Download Is democracy possible. The excerpt is a gloss on some ideas I've already presented here regarding the common:
As Albert-Laszlo Barabasi explains, complex networks follow a powerlaw distribution. The item in first place or at the top has much more than the item in second place, which has more than the one in third and so on such that there is very little difference among those “at the bottom” but massive differences between top and bottom. So lots of novels are written, few are published, fewer are sold, a very few become best-sellers. Or lots of articles are written; few are read; the same 4 are cited by everybody. The idea appears in popular media as the 80/20 rule, the winner-take-all or winner-take-most character of the new economy, and the “long tail.”
In these examples, the common might designate the general field out of which the one emerges. Exploitation consists in efforts to stimulate the creative production of the field in the interest of finding, and then monetizing, the one. Expanding the field produces the one (or, hubs are an immanent property of complex networks). Such exploitation contributes to the expropriation of opportunities for income and paid labor, as we’ve seen in the collapse of print journalism and academic presses. We should recognize here a primary condition of labor under neoliberal capitalism. Now, rather than having a right to the proceeds of one’s labor by virtue of a contract, ever more of us win or lose such that remuneration is treated like a prize. In academia, art, writing, architecture, entertainment, design, and, in the US, increasing numbers of different areas (education, technology), people not only feel fortunate to get work, to get hired, to get paid, but ever more tasks and projects are conducted as competitions, which means that those doing the work are not paid unless they win. They work but only for a chance at pay.
Hobbes’ description of merit is helpful here. In Leviathan (chapter fourteen), Hobbes explains that the one who performs first in the case of a contract, merits that which he is to receive by the performance of the other. In the instance of a prize, we also say that the winner merits his winnings, but there is a difference: the prize is the product of the event, the contest. The relation between the one awarding the prize and the winner depends on the good will of the giver; there is nothing that specifically links me to the prize. The implication of this shift from contract to contest, from wages to prizes (a shift the consent to which has been manufactured in part via so-called reality television competition), is the mobilization of the many to produce the one. Without the work of the many, there would not be one (who is necessarily contingent).