A ‘second geography’ of logistical spaces, scientific management and the ‘age of anxiety’

Three recent essays published by Mute explored the connections between surveillance, national security and logistics-driven production.

In the first Logistics and Opposition, Alberto Toscano examines the anti-urbanist presuppositions of insurrectionary anarchism.

For my purposes however, what is paramount is what this logistical view of post-Fordism tells us about the character of antagonism, and specifically of class struggle. Narcissistically mesmerised by hackers, interns and precarious academics, radical theorists of post-Fordism have ignored what Bologna calls ‘the multitude of globalisation’, that is all of those who work across the supply chain, in the manual and intellectual labour that makes highly complex integrated transnational systems of warehousing, transport and control possible. In this ‘second geography’ of logistical spaces, we also encounter the greatest ‘criticality’ of the system – though not, as in the proclamations of The Coming Insurrection , in the isolated and ephemeral act of sabotage, but in a working class which retains the residual power of interrupting the productive cycle – a power that offshoring, outsourcing, and downsising has in many respects stripped from the majority of ‘productive’ workers themselves.”

Further he argues that the inherent urban character of logistics as a mode of production suggests that anti-urbanist visions of post revolutionary space/time are in fact counter-productive. Drawing from a 2010 essay by Mike Davis, Toscano believes that our utopian future perhaps lies in cities themselves.

In the second What the RFID is That?, Brian Ashton zooms in on the microscopic technologies surveilling and shaping working lives. Although scientific management was a product of the late 19th century Ashton contends that contemporary capital’s ability to gather, archive and correlate information on the worker/consumer is simply the logical extension of that old idea. Whether at the human scale a la RFID chips, employer provided workplace badges, drug test, computer monitoring or at the larger scale a la Echelon or other government projects for data-mining all he concludes:

As the welfare state model of social control is being dismantled, the need for other forms of control increases. The hegemonic structures are there to encourage us to interiorise the control mechanisms – the prison, the factory, the asylum and the school, for example. As sketched out in this article, capital and the state are using technologies like GPS and RFID to back up the already existing mechanisms of control”

Finally, in the third Anxious Resilience, Mark Neocleous explores how the neoliberal state’s production of generalised anxiety…produces subjects that fit perfectly with the needs of capital. Provactively, Mark wonders:

I want to suggest that the management of anxiety has become a way of mediating the demands of security. It has done so within a broader logic of endless war. We have been told time and again that the War on Terror is a war like no other: this is a war without end, a permanent state of emergency, a peace which is also war. Because of this, the ideas of war and peace have been increasingly subsumed under the logic of police and security. Might we not think of the age of anxiety as a form of police power deployed for the security crisis of endless war?

Even more interesting he goes on to make the arguement that the spread of the concept of resilience or  resiliency is “Central to this process“. Implying then that all the talk amongst design professionals in recent years of the need for resilient urbanism et al., may perhaps be a less progressive (politically at least) notion than as generally articulated.

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