By McKenzie Wark
In this radical and visionary new book, McKenzie Wark argues that information has empowered a new kind of ruling class. Through the ownership and control of information, this emergent class dominates not only labour but capital as traditionally understood as well. And it’s not just tech companies like Amazon and Google. Even Walmart and Nike can now dominate the entire production chain through the ownership of not much more than brands, patents, copyrights, and logistical systems.
While techno-utopian apologists still celebrate these innovations as an improvement on capitalism, for workers—and the planet—it’s worse. The new ruling class uses the powers of information to route around any obstacle labor and social movements put up.
So how do we find a way out? Capital Is Dead offers not only the theoretical tools to analyze this new world, but ways to change it. Drawing on the writings of a surprising range of classic and contemporary theorists, Wark offers an illuminating overview of the contemporary condition and the emerging class forces that control—and contest—it.
Madeleine Collier on After Image; Journal of Media, Arts and Cultural Criticism wrote:
"McKenzie Wark writes in order to identify and describe an unrealized global 'info-prole' (short for information proletariat), or 'hacker class,' as she dubbed it in her 2004 book A Hacker Manifesto. According to Wark, a new kind of class struggle, unlike anything Karl Marx could have diagnosed, now ravages our world on an unprecedented scale. This creeping reality, as the author’s latest book, Capital Is Dead: Is This Something Worse?, sets out to illustrate, is that the big, evil Capital, which we all think we’re so familiar with, often taking for granted (whether we like it or not) that it remains the eternal system that rules our lives … is actually dead. Something new and much worse, involving what Wark calls 'the vector,' has usurped it. The vector is our unwitting input, which charges the system with every click, share and purchase [...] Capital Is Dead aims to not only incite its readership to revisit Marx’s original writings, but also consider the possibility of new radical marriages between art and science, philosophy and technology"
Garrett Pierman on Marx & Philosophy Review of Books wrote:
"The commonsense pedagogical notion that questions are more important than answers is rarely borne out with the theoretical conciseness enacted by McKenzie Wark in her new volume, Capital Is Dead: Is This Something Worse? In seven short chapters, Wark extends the provocative suggestion that capital has lost its own devil's bargain with the information economy and today a more ruthless mode of production lurks in our midst. Capital Is Dead roots its critical engagement in a Debordian détournement not of Das Kapital itself but rather of the extracted ideals that have crystallized over the subsequent centuries into a Marxist mythology. [...] The colossal enterprise of this provocative little book is belied by its readability: Wark's endeavor to loosen critical theory's death grip on the semantics and technics of late capitalism is sprinkled with wry allusions to Buzzfeed quizzes and arguments for Marx's proto-punk sensibility. Performing a survey of labor representation in recent popular culture, Wark invokes media texts as divergent as the film Get Out (2017, directed by Jordan Peele) and the television series Dollhouse (2009–10, created by Joss Whedon) and Mad Men (2007–15, created by Matthew Weiner). [...] While the argument of Capital Is Dead adheres to the basic principles outlined in her earlier work, Wark significantly revises her stance toward the intellectual commons. [...] Capital Is Dead performs the vital function of uncovering a critical taboo in Marxist theory; like-minded theorists are now tasked with establishing (if this is indeed a new mode of production) how it is worse, for whom, and how."
"In searching for a foundation from which to build an analysis of our current situation Wark turns productively throughout Capital Is Dead to the classical Marxist tradition as an analytical starting point, adding in this work some sharp commentary to attempt to develop a historical materialism that has been updated well into the information age. [...] Generally speaking however, the book as a whole is a thoughtful explanation of digital economics and a call for a new historical materialism that takes the lessons of classical Marxism, but translates them to our current historical context. To this end, it lays a much of the groundwork for the intellectual labor that will be necessary in the next several years of Marxist scholarship – the work is a clear-headed analysis of current relations of production with the degradation into inane postmodern jargon that often holds back postmodern readings of the Marxist tradition. The work takes some of the better lessons from classical Marxism, and updates them for a contemporary context. [...] In terms of making use of the work, the writing is clear and its explanation of literature as well as the history of Marxism, make it well for an advanced undergraduate course. To this end it would perhaps be best suited to political theory or classes in international political economics [...]. Graduate students and scholars will find the analyses presented in Capital Is Dead to be both thoughtful and compelling. Overall, we can place this book among the best in the last half-decade or so in terms of its clarity in these concerning times. While the book is not perfect, as the commentary here regarding some potential blind spots hopes to have highlighted, Capital is Dead is nonetheless a worthwhile work in contemporary Marxist scholarship"
The Full Video Interview
In this interview - of which fragments are displayed earlier on this page - McKenzie Wark explains the ideas and theories behind her book Capital Is Dead: Is This Something Worse?
If you have more time, you may watch this longer interview with McKenzie Wark on the occasion of the book launch (45 minutes).
Table of Contents of Capital Is Dead
- The Sublime Language of My Century
- Capitalism - Or Worse?
- The Forces of Production
- The Class Location Blues
- A Time Machine Theory of History
- Nature as Extrapolation and Inertia
- Four Cheers for Vulgarity!!!!
- Conclusion: A Night at the Movies
About McKenzie Wark
According to Wikipedia, McKenzie Wark (born 1961) is an Australian-born writer and scholar. Wark is known for her writings on media theory, critical theory, new media, and the organisation Situationist International. Her best known works are A Hacker Manifesto and Gamer Theory. She is Professor of Media and Cultural Studies at The New School in New York City.