March 06, 2014

Revolts of the cognitariat: class struggle today What if we look at all the revolts of the last few years (from 2010 on) as revolts of the knowledge class or cognitariat? So, we think of knowledge workers broadly -- teachers, adjuncts, civil servants, nurses, Verizon workers, the newly layed off, phone-center employees, programmers, the unemployed students and graduate students -- we read, in other words, the precarious in terms of the majority of knowledge workers (those who generate content and data for communicative capitalism) who have been displaced and disposed because of the very technological innovations that make them knowledge workers. My hypothesis is that all the revolts of the last three years are revolts of these e-proles. The current skirmishes around Google buses are thus absolutely key for understanding the current cycle of struggles. Likewise, university struggles aren't epiphenomenol or derivative. They are major sites of struggle, like factories were in previous cycles. The problem with much emphasis on the cognitariat has been the focus on the entrepreneuers and billionaires. This emphasis tends to rely on rags-to-riches narratives: homegrown computers and hackers in it for the lulz. But these stories are of course capitalist fairy-tales that displace our attention from workers onto their becoming-capitalist. Success is when they are capitalists, huge amounts of venture capital, successful IPOs, etc. What matters, though, are those who remain knowledge workers. If this inclination is correct, then the stupid media fixation on Facebook and Twitter in the revolutions is useful: it flags the activity of the cognitariat (I really hate...

Jodi Dean

Jodi Dean is a political theorist.

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