Landscapes of Global Capital
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We are in the midst of a dramatic historical shift in capitalism - from fordist production to just-in-time production. This transition has entailed decentralization of production processes along with a corresponding concentration of the mode of consumption - e.g., the proliferation of superstores like Wal*Mart and Costco. The transition involves a heavier reliance on integrated information flows coupled with continuous pressure on overcoming the limits of space and time in order to integrate global systems. Speed - or the pursuit of speed - has become a prime imperative of corporate business systems. The business media proposed that this involves less hierarchical organizations, which espouse flexibility, multitasking, non-bureaucratic initiatives. Competition breeds Speed, which has consistently been framed as the semiotic opposite of bureaucratic state relations. Speed translates into a metaphor for fluidity and efficiency and greater consumer satisfaction. Rather than focussing on the disruptive aspects of the twin forces of speed and flexibility, the media dwell on how innovation serves the consumer (the contemporary notion of 'everyman').

The now decades-long transition from fordism to the current regime of production, consumption and financing has been accompanied by changes in the political landscape -- most importantly, the forces unleashed by deregulation of corporate markets and the loss of power by organized labor.

Advertising represents new economic formations as modular, sleek, and efficient -- unburdened by the material weight of massive physical plants. Replacing industries of scale weighted by the ponderous workings of bureaucracy with new streamlined forms enables capital to achieve higher levels of productivity. Just-in time production is shown eliminating warehousing; new informational technology is depicted as efficiently coordinating non-conflictual management of a worldwide system of goods. And because management is apparently driven by the ultra-rational imperatives of software, it is shown leading simultaneously to higher levels of productivity and a resultant cornucopia of corporate products and services seems to eliminate the need for the heavy hand of the State. Absent from these representations is the Dark Side of Capital -- the productivity that is achieved by outsourcing, downsizing and deskilling.

The ideological exclusion of this dark side also suppresses other features of the new political economy as well. In a world where information becomes ever more a commodity, and a seemingly very valuable commodity at that, it is not surprising that corporate espionage has mushroomed. Matters of monitoring and surveillance suffuse the system and yet that dimension is also absent in the advertising of capital. Just as the predictability of consumers is an unspoken requisite of this system, so too has the dislocation and relocation of labor in the global system been kept out of sight. In the later 1990s, human rights advocates made this latter invisibility more difficult by drawing attention to the ways that corporate labor practices had moved the nexus of exploitative labor practices into the third world.


New Economic Formations
Commodification
Social Relations of Production
Information Economy

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Robert Goldman, Stephen Papson, Noah Kersey