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Romanticism, Capitalism, and the Internet

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  • Chapter 6: Open Source, the Expressive Programmer, and the Problem of Property (2 comments)

    • Comment by bob stein on December 21st, 2010

      Thomas, for those of us who don’t have access to chapter 3, could you say a bit here about what you mean by the “neoliberal framing of computing”

      Comment by Thomas Streeter on December 21st, 2010

      Sure. In the 1980s, the rise of the microcomputer became a key trope in the rise of neoliberalism, because it was easily assimilated to a romantic/entrepreneurial “two-guys-in-a-garage” mythologizing. Reagan declared it “the age of the entrepreneur” and the business press was full of stories of entrepreneurial microcomputer startups like Apple, Microsoft, and Dell, as if to say Reagan was right. The rise of the microcomputer wasn’t the only thing that made neoliberalism seem plausible and attractive, but I think it was a key element. (Gorbachev cites the 1980s US microcomputer industry as one of things that convinced him to begin introducing market reforms in the USSR.)

  • C. Beyond Property Rights (1 comment)

    • Comment by Erik Marshall on December 22nd, 2010

      This reminds me a bit of Andre Bazin’s take on cinema, where the automatic nature of photography creates a sort of reproduction of reality unfettered by human imagination.  For him, though, there were also quasi-mystical consequences of this.  Cinema is also an interesting intersection with this, especially when thinking about the studio system and (lack of) ownership of work through labor.

  • H. Conclusion (1 comment)

    • Comment by Erik Marshall on December 22nd, 2010

      This “romantic celebration of software creation as a form of personal expression” has implications outside of Open Source, both in hacker cultures and in proprietary software.
      On the one hand, Jon Johansen became both a counter-culture hero and a criminal when he broke DeCSS simply to install software to play encrypted DVDs on Linux.
      On the other hand, while Bill Gates is widely demonized, Steve Jobs is not. Also, look at the popularity of the film_The Social Network_, which portrays Mark Zuckerberg as an iconoclastic hero, a lone genius working to create software as personal expression, but also someone who owns a software company known in large part for confusing and shifting privacy policies, and for being closed and proprietary.  The portrayal of Zuckerberg, complicated as it may be, is that of the rags-to-riches genius of traditional capitalism, a modern day Ben Franklin, rather than a harbinger of openness and connection. The narratives can work in both directions.
       

Comments on the Blog

  • Is Neoliberalism Dead? (3 comments)

    • Comment by Terry on January 5th, 2011

      Tom
      Thanks for the nice words at the bottom. In relation to your friend’s incident at a party, is it an either/or issue. is neoliberalism either the dominant ideology of global capitalism or it is dead? Could it be an element, but one of many, in the intellectual statum of a social formation?
      Also, it strikes me that in the US, you tend to get an equation of “Everything People Loathe About the Republican Party” = neoliberalism = “Everything People Loathe About the Republican Party”. I’m not saying your wrong about the Republican Party, but a ,ot of it does not make sense to call it neoliberlaism. As an Australian spending a little bit of time in the US at Indiana U. in 2008, one of the things that struck me was the complete disinterest of the Bush Administration in the size of the budget deficit, to a degree that is inconceivable nowadays in Australia.
      That is partly to do witht eh relative weighting of each currency, of course, but the US situation would have rankled with the German neoliberals that Foucault discusses, whose point of differentiation from the Keynesian/planners/social democrats ascendant in the rest of europe was precisely their commitment to sound finance. That has remained a constant in Germany since 1945, under both Christian Democrat and Social democrat governments, and has coexisted with a quite interventionist and regulatory state and a strong role for unions in corporate decision-making.
      You would perhaps also be aware that The Economist has been repeatedly drawing attention to what it saw as the very un-neoliberal tendency in both the US and Britain to keep expanding the size of government in the economy over the course of the 2000s:
      http://www.economist.com/node/15328727
      Anyway, let’s talk further.
       

      Comment by Thomas Streeter on January 5th, 2011

      Thanks Terry. There’s always a question of when and how to totalize. It’s easy to say “it’s all a bunch of different things,” e.g., practices, ideologies, political movements, cultural trends, none of which can be reduced to the other. But part of the usefulness of the idea of neoliberalism — when it was, imho, useful — was that it allowed drawing connections across domains. The flip side of such a move is that it can quickly become reductive, which I fear is happening a little too often these days.

      Comment by Thomas Streeter on January 9th, 2011

      One more thought: maybe it’s a safe generalization to say that neoliberalism has always had a kind of surface-level existence, something that’s seemed more coherent on the level of sweeping political rhetoric, but that has never really accounted for all of political economic action. The fact that Keynesiasm resurfaced as if whole-formed during the banking crisis — there was never any actual debate about it in the US, Bush and then Obama just dove in — suggest that Keynesianism never really disappeared, it just hid out in the bureaucratic corners of economic thinking, not in full view, but still there.

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