Best Essays of 2015 (2): Post-Post-Fordism in the Era of Platforms

This in turn leads to a third form of socialisation, which we might call ‘civil socialization’. I would like to distinguish it from the socialisation of information, for it is about the capacity of us as civil beings to socialise directly, to act directly, to discuss directly, to produce directly: to produce not only ideas but also, say, an open-sourced car, by collaborating. Bauwens has established a core platform for this new collaboration, the P2P Foundation. The extent of peer to peer collaboration is already remarkable. It is bursting through the bounds of the old form of socialised civility – which tended to be bound by space – yet is still able to link this new ‘collaboration without boundaries’ back to specific places. We talk about optimism, but it’s not a question of pessimism and optimism. It is a question of where are the possibilities, and, through understanding the contours and modes of operation of the new economy, whether or not we can collectively organise ourselves as so many communities of interest, including labour, in other words as directly socialised citizens.

Excellent and insightful and in-depth conversation:

* Conversation: Post-Post-Fordism in the Era of Platforms. Robin Murray talks to Jeremy Gilbert and Andrew Goffey. New Formations, 2015

From the Abstract:

“One of the UK’s leading radical economists discusses the history of post-Fordism as both a concept and a set of economic practices, with specific reference to his role as an innovative municipal policy-maker at the GLC in the 1980s and subsequently. The interview explores the ways in which post-Fordism has mutated since the 1980s, before moving on to discuss the attention economy and the death of the brand. It then looks at the future of co-operatives and ideas of co-operation in the age of social media, before investigating in more detail the politics of platforms and the democratic possibilities opened up by peer-to-peer technologies. Murray makes a convincing case that we have now entered the epoch of ‘post-post-Fordism’: the era of platforms. The discussion is framed with reference to Deleuze’s ‘control societies’ hypothesis, which is the subject of the themed journal issue in which the interview appears.”

Here is an excerpts from the special issue’s introduction:

“This issue of New Formations is concerned with a complex of issues around the politics of networks, ‘control’ and ‘security’ societies as defined by Deleuze and Foucault respectively, and post-Fordism. In fact Maurizio Lazzarato, for one, has explicitly linked the latter two phenomena, understanding postFordism as more-or-less the direct consequence of new techniques of power and governance as described by Foucault being deployed in the context of processes of capitalist production.

Today the ‘post-Fordist’ hypothesis seems more or less irrefutable. While some of the key features of ‘Fordist’ capitalism – such as assemblyline production – remain central to global manufacturing (above all in China), they are no longer bundled with the other key features of ‘Fordism’, such as a strict gendered division of labour and a macro-economic policy committed to maintaining high aggregate demand within the same nation state in which production is concentrated. Industrial automation, market differentiation, corporate disaggregation, labour market specialisation, justin-time production and the expansion of the retail, IT and service sectors have transformed economies beyond recognition, not just in the old industrial heartlands of Northern Europe and North America, but in differentiated ways on a global scale. What’s more, these changes have been bound up with profound cultural, social and political changes, as commentators such as David Harvey were already discerning at the end of the 1980s. It is worth bearing in mind, then, that when the hypothesis was first advanced at the end of the 1970s, the idea that such changes would have any significant results at all was widely regarded as controversial, and was much resisted.

Robin Murray has been one of the UK’s leading radical economists for many years. An expert on co-operatives, social enterprise and institutional and technological innovation, he was Director of Industry for the Greater London Council during the 1980s. This was the period during which the GLC was led by Ken Livingstone, enacting one of the most radical progressive programmes of any major governmental body in British history. Directly influenced by this experience, Murray wrote two celebrated articles for the British monthly Marxism Today on the subject of emergent ‘post-Fordism’ in the second half of the 1980s. These two essays ‘After Henry’ and ‘Benetton Britain’ were key in introducing the concept of post-Fordism to the wider left in the UK.1 New Labour would later take up the idea of post-Fordism as dictating a narrowly individualist culture and an approach to economic management and publicservice reform which was wholly informed by neoliberal ideology. But this was never Murray’s conclusion. Instead he has argued consistently that the new technological and organisational forms of contemporary production are adaptable to classic democratic socialist objectives, and facilitate collaborative creativity, democratic self-management and co-operative production.

In this interview Andrew Goffey and Jeremy Gilbert discuss a wide range of these issues with Murray, for whose time and co-operation we remain extremely grateful. “

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