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American capitalism and science fiction


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Ivanković, Jure. (2016). American capitalism and science fiction. Diploma Thesis. Filozofski fakultet u Zagrebu, Department of English Language and Literature. [mentor Grgas, Stipe].

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This paper examines the latest development of capitalism called cognitive capitalism and its characteristics that differentiate it from the industry-based society through literary science fiction, more specifically, the alternative history novel The Difference Engine. This novel is examined within the framework of Moulier-Boutang’s theory of cognitive capitalism for signs of economic, social and technological trends, such as social inclusion in economic production of value, free access to information and networking. Furthermore, contradictory effects of information propriety and endangered privacy of individuals are explored. Much of the issues of cognitive capitalism identified by Moulier-Boutang are present in the work of Sterling and Gibson. The increasing informatization of the society and economy are depicted as causing the extinction of certain small businesses, and the booming of mass media and the entertainment sector as evidenced by the importance of computerized cinema theatres in London. The convenience of information access has rendered much of the urban population indifferent to the privacy-intruding computerized surveillance. Furthermore, the disenchanted masses of unemployed who are not included in the new economy (which constitutes a cognitive capitalism contradiction to its policy of horizontal distribution of labor) feel alienated by the society and instigate a rebellion amidst the environmental disaster in the city (a negative economic externality affecting the biosphere) against the perceived oppressiveness of the regime. Finally, the computer-controlled system is constantly evolving to the point of removing human influence from the decision-making loop. With these points of convergence of today’s economy and yesterday’s fiction we turn towards the United States, particularly its South which is argued to be the cradle of modern day neoliberalism. In this short outline of neoliberal origins it is established that the regional economic interests of the South have superseded the social welfare inclination of the US as a whole and took the lead not just in the country but also in the rest of the world. In the end, the conclusion is that science-fiction, or 42 The Difference Engine in particular did not really try hard to predict the future of society but it merely reflected the changes that were already underway at the time of the writing (Reagan-era America and Margaret Thatcher UK). This in turn means that the rapid transformation of the ways in which capitalism operates is nothing new. The advancement of technology makes it more flexible and this enables it to negotiate its position with consumer society by offering convenience and instant communication in exchange for economic exploitation of privacy. In other words, generation of profit and production of value are the same end goals that they have always been.

Item Type: Diploma Thesis
Uncontrolled Keywords: Cognitive Capitalism, Surveillance Issues, Social Friction, Social Mobility
Subjects: English language and literature > American Studies
Departments: Department of English Language and Literature
Supervisor: Grgas, Stipe
Date Deposited: 30 Nov 2016 10:00
Last Modified: 30 Nov 2016 10:00

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