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The New Spirit of Capitalism

A major new work examining network-based organizations and post-Fordist work structures.
Why is the critique of capitalism so ineffective today? In this major work, the sociologists Eve Chiapello and Luc Boltanski suggest that we should be addressing the crisis of anticapitalist critique by exploring its very roots.

Via an unprecedented analysis of management texts which influenced the thinking of employers and contributed to reorganization of companies over the last decades, the authors trace the contours of a new spirit of capitalism. From the middle of the 1970s onwards, capitalism abandoned the hierarchical Fordist work structure and developed a new network-based form of organization which was founded on employee initiative and relative work autonomy, but at the cost of material and psychological security.

This new spirit of capitalism triumphed thanks to a remarkable recuperation of the “artistic critique”—that which, after May 1968, attacked the alienation of everyday life by capitalism and bureaucracy. At the same time, the “social critique” was disarmed by the appearance of neocapitalism and remained fixated on the old schemas of hierarchical production.

This book, remarkable for its scope and ambition, seeks to lay the basis for a revival of these two complementary critiques.

Reviews

  • “A wide-ranging, nuanced sociological inquiry into the nature of contemporary work.”
  • “[A] vast and ambitious work, which is inscribed in a great tradition of theoretical and critical sociology.”
  • “This magnificent book [is] the sociology of a whole generation which capitalism caught on the wrong foot. In more than 800 pages which one devours like a great novel, the book furnishes new weapons for the renewal of the Left.”
  • “This book will no doubt come to be regarded as a contemporary classic of political economy and political sociology.”
  • “Ambitious and fascinating.”

Blog

  • Emmanuel Macron, spasm of the system

    First published in Le Monde Diplomatique. Translated by David Broder.



    "I'm going to be very clear..." Probably ignorant of the basic logics of the symptom, Emmanuel Macron seems unable to see how this repetitive way of starting each of his answers betrays the deep desire to cover things up — or rather, to recover them — that animates his whole campaign. "Keep on bathing between vagueness and nothingness" — that is what we should take from each of his promises of clarity. In his defence, we will admit that deferring to the obligation to speak when one's intention is to say nothing at all is one of the curses of this "democracy" that we have still found no satisfactory antidote for. Some will object that most of the candidates end up accommodating to this long and difficult moment — a moment one simply has to go through — and that the campaign-season fib is a well-established genre which should no longer be able to surprise anyone. For Macron, however, the problem takes on unprecedented proportions: not just a matter of slipping across a couple of whoppers, even of the calibre of "my enemy is finance" [as François Hollande claimed before his election in 2012]: rather, his entire campaign, and even his very persona as a candidate, constitute an essentially fraudulent enterprise.

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  • Clinton’s Historical Tragedy and the International Women’s Strike: In Support of a Feminism for the 99%


    1912 Lawrence Textile Strike

    Mired in the recurrent nightmare that is Trump, it is hard to look back and take stock of what happened last week, let alone three months ago. Yet, looking back at Hillary Clinton’s defeat, one may not only see the rising tide of Trump’s hordes, but also the tragic fate of a liberal era. Nowhere is this clearer than in the contradictions embodied by Clinton’s deeply personal but nonetheless strained relation to feminism. Not surprisingly, a broad group of radical and internationalist women are showing the way forward with a call for a feminism of the 99% and coordinating in the U.S. on March 8th with the International Women’s Strike.

    Even viewed from a radical perspective, responding on one hand to Clinton’s loss and on the other to Trump’s continuous appalling attacks, we can see Hillary Clinton defeat as having the features of a contemporary tragedy.

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  • Frédéric Lordon's Willing Slaves of Capital: A Review



    The following review, by Abhijeet Paul, was originally published in Critical Inquiry.

    In the three chapters—more like three theses—Lordon explores the reasons for our general desire to be enslaved by modern work and the workplace. This justifies the title of the book: we are willing slaves of capital—it would not be otherwise. Further, Lordon emphasizes, there is no voluntary, but only passionate, servitude.

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