Stiegler argues that today the proletarian must be reconceptualized as the economic agent whose knowledge and memory are confiscated by machines. This new sense of the term ‘proletarian' is best understood by reference to Plato's critique of exteriorized memory. By bringing together Plato and Marx, Stiegler can show how a generalized proletarianization now encompasses not only the muscular system, as Marx saw it, but also the nervous system of the so-called creative workers in the information industries. The proletarians of the former are deprived of their practical know-how, whereas the latter are shorn of their theoretical practice, and both suffer from a confiscation of the very possibility of a genuine art of living.
But the mechanisms at work in this new and accentuated form of proletarianization are the very mechanisms that may spur a reversal of the process. Such a reversal would imply a crucial distinction between one's life work, originating in otium (leisure devoted to the techniques of the self), and the job, consisting in a negotium (the negotiation and calculation, increasingly restricted to short-term expectations), leading to the necessity of a new conception of economic value.
This short text offers an excellent introduction to Stiegler's work while at the same time representing a political call to arms in the face of a deepening economic and social crisis.
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"Stiegler's critique of political economy provides the theoretical resources to understand how technologies have reconstituted memory and subjectivity, renewing modes of domination and generating new forms of collectivity. In the midst of a crisis of Western neo-liberalism, this path-breaking book could not come at a more opportune time. Eat your heart out Slavoj i ek!"
Scott Lash, Goldsmiths, University of London
"Stiegler's writings emerge as the real world antidote to the utopian and apocalyptic traces of post-politics in figures like the 'multitude,' 'biopolitics,' or i ek's recent Christo-communist imaginary. He is one of the few contemporaries capable of addressing a new era whose epistemological mutations are just beginning to appear."
Tom Cohen, State University of New York