For a New Critique of Political Economy

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Polity, 2010 - Social Science - 154 pages
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The catastrophic economic, social and political crisis of our timecalls for a new and original critique of political economy Ð arethinking of Marx’s project in the very different conditionsof twenty-first century capitalism.

Stiegler argues that today the proletarian must be reconceptualizedas the economic agent whose knowledge and memory are confiscated bymachines. This new sense of the term ‘proletarian’ isbest understood by reference to Plato’s critique ofexteriorized memory. By bringing together Plato and Marx, Stieglercan show how a generalized proletarianization now encompasses notonly the muscular system, as Marx saw it, but also the nervoussystem of the so-called creative workers in the informationindustries. The proletarians of the former are deprived of theirpractical know-how, whereas the latter are shorn of theirtheoretical practice, and both suffer from a confiscation of thevery possibility of a genuine art of living.

But the mechanisms at work in this new and accentuated form ofproletarianization are the very mechanisms that may spur a reversalof the process. Such a reversal would imply a crucial distinctionbetween one’s life work, originating in otium (leisuredevoted to the techniques of the self), and the job, consisting ina negotium (the negotiation and calculation, increasinglyrestricted to short-term expectations), leading to the necessity ofa new conception of economic value.

This short text offers an excellent introduction toStiegler’s work while at the same time representing apolitical call to arms in the face of a deepening economic andsocial crisis.

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a warning
TWO Introduction
THREE Pharmacology of theproletariat
FOUR To work
Pharmacology of Capital and Economy of Contribution

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About the author (2010)

\Bernard Stiegler is cultural development department director for the Centre Georges-Pompidou.

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