Foucault News

News and resources on French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

Life at the Nowhere Office

BY MIYA TOKUMITSU AND JOERI MOL
New Republic, September 6, 2016

Today’s workplace design asks us to be permanently on call—and demands that we vanish at a moment’s notice.

Extract
If we want to get any work done, we can only do so on the terms afforded by technology, which includes our ever-dispersing workspaces.

Gilles Deleuze envisioned a transition from Michel Foucault’s enclosed disciplinary societies to “societies of control” that superficially appeared more open and amenable to free movement. Power is no longer only exercised through the top-down power structures, but is increasingly manifested in the cloud’s capacity to include or exclude. In an excellent analysis of round-the-clock capitalism, Jonathan Crary argues that while indeed now that our lives are organized by machines, a perfect storm awaits us; rather than one evil (technological determinism) replacing another (the boss), Deleuze’s society of control actually enhances Foucault’s disciplinary society and accelerates us towards a hyper-monitored world, where the all-seeing, all-knowing managerial dashboard keeps us in check by making use of computerized panopticons.

Jen Pan astutely notes that the cost of having a flat, or bossless, work environment is that the work of management (and attendant surveillance) spreads throughout the workforce; when no one is the boss, everyone is. The office as a cyberized version of Hotel California: You can clock-in anytime you like but you can never clock-out.

Miya Tokumitsu is a lecturer of art history at the University of Melbourne and a contributing editor at Jacobin. She is the author of Do What You Love. And Other Lies about Success and Happiness.

Joeri Mol is a senior lecturer of organization studies at the University of Melbourne.

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