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From: "Arthur Kroker Political Science, Concordia University,  
      Tel: 514-282-9298; Fax: 514-987-9724" 
Subject:      Repost: Article #4(B)"Cyber-Economy"

                                               THE VIRTUAL CLASS

                                     Arthur Kroker and Michael A. Weinstein

Virtual Economy

        Virtual economy is seductive because it "grows" wired culture
like a wildly mutating cancerous tumor: a crash-site that moves from
the world of highly differentiated cellular (economic) organization to
an undifferentiated (tele-)organic mass. Having no energy of its own,
the tumor economy feeds parasitically off the flesh and blood of the
host organism. A body invader of reclining flesh, the tumorous mass
of the virtualized economy is a perfect parasite/predator: depending
for its very existence on the standing-reserve of old flesh and blood,
but always willing itself to become *the*sovereign life-principle.
Fascinating because always fatal, the  the virtualized economy
is the vanishing-point for the disappearance of the now superseded
order of capitalism into the will to technology.

        And why not? Virtualized economy is an economy of
disappearances: the disappearance of the main factors of capitalist
production (labor and products most of all), and the disappearance of
the key *relations* of production (the class system of classical
capitalism). Not even an *economy* any longer, but the vanishing of
the economic into a global virtual space of telematic transactions: a
wired economy that quickly dissolves products into relational
processes, labor into networks of cybernetic knowledge, and consumer
"purchasing power" into *political opportunities* for policing
interventions by the austerity state through consumption taxes. In the
age of virtuality only speed of circulation matters. A nomadic economy
that is already post-economic: where capitalism is preserved as a
mise-en- sc ne distracting the eye from the liquidation of the real
material relations of production, and the triumph of the virtualized
commodity- form.

        No longer the age of commodity-fetishism (capitalism in the
modern age) or even of promotional culture (capitalism under the sign
of postmodern pastiche), but now the *recombinant* commodity- form. In
virtual capitalism, the recombinant commodity functions like a
hard-wired digital sequencer: cutting and splicing the surplus matter
of the wired economy into electronic bytes: imaging bytes, sound
bytes, body bytes, smell bytes, money bytes. Here, the (organic) body
spasms as it vomits into the desert-like void of the electronic body;
TV mutates into a complex cybernetic system patching the body
electronic into the neural networks of liquid capital; the old world
of manufacturing is forced to move at strobe light shutter-speed as it
is resequenced across the time zones of hardware, software and
wetware; and flesh itself becomes a welcoming orifice for penetration
by all the molecular ganglia of digital economy. Like a circuit
diagram for the hyper-charged Pentium microchip, the recombinant
commodity is always positionless, endlessly circulating and fully
relational: an invisible (post-economic) architecture that is imposed
on the grid of the electronic body. Never capable of being
comprehended in its discrete elements (there are none), the
recombinant commodity-form is a violent force-field: a screenal
economy whose dynamic logic is digital reality, and whose destiny is
the disappearance of really existent material conditions into the
vanishing-point of the will to virtuality.

        The recombinant commodity has no (earthly) home, only an
electronic sim/porium. A rootless nomad, it wanders restlessly through
the liquid circuitry of wired culture. Renouncing its interest in
property- relations, it yields fealty only to the empire of speed: the
new polity of pure process (economy). Abandoning the tired dialectic
of use- value and exchange-value, the recombinant commodity finally
discloses itself as a fatal doubling of abuse value: process-abuse for
the organic body, and a fatal register of the coming abuse of the
standing-reserve of surplus-flesh, surplus labor, surplus populations,
and surplus states. The recombinant commodity must abandon use-value
because the rest position of the referential signifier is death; and
it must renounce the (alienated) pleasures of exchange-value because
recombinant culture occupies the mirrored world of recursive space.
Refusing both the alienation of the laboring body in capitalist market
exchange and the reificaation of the fungible body inthe promotional
phase of the high-intensity market setting, the recombinant commodity
works the (fibre optic) vein of the ecstasy of disappearance.

        Politically fascistic, culturally a cynic, relationally a
sociopath, and psychologically an exponent of object-relations theory,
the recombinant commodity is the operating system at the (algorithmic)
centre of virtual economy. All the rest is a (computer) application:
TV channels as abstract vectors of data entry-points into the
electronic body; designer fashion as digitally coded applications of
technology outreach by promotional culture; body model types (the
"waif look" so fashionably cachet in the 1990s) as bionic constructs
straight off the shelf of wired culture; and sudden audience mood
shifts as psychological registers of the channeled flows of the media

        As the operating system of virtual economy, the recombinant
commodity functions as a *circulating medium of virtual exchange*.
Think of Marx's (virtual) theory of the fetishism of the commodity-
form in (re)combination with Talcott Parsons' perceptive, but as yet
theoretically unappreciated, analysis of a full-fledged cybernetic
system (Virtual America as the world hologram) consisting of dynamic
homeostatic exchanges among "symbolic media of exchange."  Here, the
organic body vanishes into its electronic other as the recombinant
commodity works to impose a virtual system of moral economy as the new
world cybernetic grid.  Driven by the dynamic language of the will to
virtuality, the cybernetic grid has as its underlying logic the
enhancement of (its own) adaptive capacity by the continual definition
and resequencing of virtual (value) patterns: virtual debt, virtual
populations, virtual labor, virtual money, virtual resources, virtual
wars. The conquest anew of the disappearing zone of the organic as the
human remainder is processed through the violent circulatory system of
virtual exchange. Certainly not static, the medium of virtual exchange
undergoes accelerated phases of radical expansion and contraction. Its
expansionary phase is the will to virtuality; and its deflationary
phase is marked by direct action forms of neo-fascism. Neither purely
virtual nor essentially fascistic, the circulating medium of virtual
exchange is *both, and simultaneously so*. The will to virtuality is
typified by the over-authorization of cybernetic logic (the moral
value-principle of virtual economy), and by the delegitimation of
economic "resourcing." At its extreme, this results in a virtual
credibility crisis: a crisis of confidence on the part of virtualized
populations in the ability of the technological class "to deliver the
goods" (the debt liquidity crisis as purchasing power contracts and
consumption taxes interpellate the consumer body). The fascistic turn
of virtual exchange is marked by recurrent patterns of direct-action
interventions in the world situation (from the officially authorized
murders of the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas, to the bombing of the
Iraqui "spy headquarters" and suburbs while Clinton attended Sunday
church services) as certain sign of the disappearance of power from
the empire of virtual reality. Taken to its extreme, the contraction
of virtual exchange towards fascist direct action threatens to
dissolve the recursive logic of *cybernetic primitivism* towards its
most fundamentalist code-elements. Technotopia crashes: burnout is
signalled by the brilliant luminosity of final flareouts of a
reclining empire.

High-Speed Backbone

        The virtual economy is a bio-economy: a living species coming
alive at that point where capitalism has been eaten by technology. If
bio-engineering can be an object of such fascination (nano-technology,
retinal screening for heads-up body scanners, recombinant genetics) it
is because it is already a mise-en-scene, presenting in the form of
futuristic fiction that which has already happened to us as we are
fast-sequenced through a processed world.  Consequently, the steady
announcement of new telematic "discoveries"-- molecular computer
chips, cell-sized *nano* bio- engines for "invisible travel" through
the blood stream, new genetic hybrids from the labs of all the
recombinant geneticists-- can attract not a ripple of discontent nor a
muted cry of ideological discord because these manifestations of
"technology outreach" into the body electronic are less in the way of
a brave new horizon of telematic wilderness clear-cutting than already
nostalgic signs of our (wired) past. In virtual economy, we have
always lived though a specious present of nano-subjectivity: the
disappearing body doing fast dissolves into relational networks;
retinal scanning as an objectification of a scanning procedure that
the imaging-systems of the electronic body have long demanded as their
fateful dispensation; and molecular computers as late-comers to a
post-human scene where the recombinant body has long ago been uprooted
from its earthly ground, and compelled to re-enter the sea of floating
data. Ours is that curious age of *future-nostalgia*: that point where
the screenal economy of the electronic body registers in advance the
spreading shock waves of the will to technology. The much-hyped
culture of new wetware at the body/machine interface, then, as but
object-displacements of a massive (telematic) reconfiguration that is
always already post-history to the post-human body. A high-speed
backbone, the virtual economy is always on over-drive as a spinal tap
grid for the matrix of virtualized flesh.

        The speed of immediacy is the prevailing logic of virtual
economy. Always moving on fast forward, the recombinant commodity
smashes national barriers, drains off the surplus energies of local
economies, and resequences regional trading zones (ECC, NAFTA) until
they synch with the strategic objectives of transnational capitalism.
Following a space vector that approaches the speed of light, the
ideological rhetoric of the recombinant commodity is always the same:
virtual boosterism (technological euphoria) mixed with a dash of
technological determinism (virtual necessitarianism).

        In the wake of the violent passage of the recombinant
commodity, social detritus remains: post-(human)-bodies for quick
electronic assimilation into the neural network of virtualized
exchange; post-(jobs)-economy for a virtual technology that works to
disappear the working class; post-(immigrant)-culture for
technological societies that garrison the fading benefits of social
security in the bunker state; and post (leisure) culture for a virtual
time where nothing is more active than the electronic body that, like
brownian motion, is maintained in a constant state of turbulence. The
high-speed backbone of the recombinant commodity, therefore, as
anticipating the age of post-capitalism: a perspectival trompe l'oeil,
capitalism can exist now only as a vanishing-point whose dynamic
energy masks the disappearance of the product-economy, and the
triumphant emergence of process- economy.

Alt. Bondage..Alt.Sex..Alt..Fetishes:On Growing a Cyber-Body

        Simply switch on your Mac/Dos screen, and the ideology of
virtualized capitalism is brilliantly displayed. Everything is there:
the reduction of bodily flesh to a digital servomechanism, the
displacement of the centering-point of organic perspective outside
normal ocular vision to the nowhere space of virtual optics in the
Net, the crash of individual subjectivity as it swiftly merges with an
info- economy of data bytes, the filtering of the mind by organs
without a body, and the illusion of misplaced (virtual) facticity
where the body is suspended in the illusion that digital reality
maximizes the zone of freedom, whereas what is actually happening is
simply that we are (finally) growing a cyber-body. Those flickering
screens of personal computer "work stations," therefore, as fantastic
sites of embedded flesh for virtual capitalism: the personal computer
as performance art for the body electronic, a densely encrypted
ideogram as virtualized flesh zooms across digitalized space. Switch
on the power, and the electronic grid is immediately activated
(RUA-CYBERSPACE); switch off the energy and the field-force of the
cyclotron instantly falls into high-voltage inertial ruins. Crash and
inertia, (global) immediacy and (territorialized) localness,
hyperspace and bounded time: this is the mirrored world of the
endlessly recursive virtual flesh.

        Indeed, what if "Windows" were not a computer application, but
a form of elevated (telematic) consciousness? In this case, we could
speak of the sequencing of the body electronic as a switching-
station: a multi-platform site for downloading and uplinking data.
Hard-wired to the speed-backbone of the universal BBS and addicted to
a diet of fibre-optics, the "windowed" body would become that which it
always thought it was only using: a file-transfer function.  Bodies
with plugged-in, high-performanceediting studios for cutting, pasting,
and copying the mutating scenes of the imaging system.  "Windowing"
memories for filing the event-scenes of post-history in the matrix of
quick-access folder flesh. Utility-functions for re-energizing the
recline of the body with organs with new android menus: Adobe
Illustrator speech, Pagemaker writing, Micro-Mind Director for re-
editing visual reality, and Real-Time Digital Darkroom for a
substitute sleep-function. Double click...delete...It's now safe to
switch off your machine: the slip-stream rhetoric of the android

        Forget philosophy: all the super-charged debates among
nominalism, sensationalism, analytical positivism, and critical theory
have been abruptly displaced by the emergence of MS-DOS as the ruling
epistemology of virtual reality. Virtual positivism for the era of
windowed culture: a recursive space of ambivalent signs that slips
away into an infinity of mirrored, fractalized elements. And not only
a gateway culture, but a windowed process economy as well as the
terminus ad quem of virtualized capital: occupying no fixed
geographical space, but colonizing the imaginary landscape of digital
dreams. A screenal economy put into the command-function by an elite
of sysop's manipulating the language of internal disk drives, but
containing nonetheless an indeterminate array of file menus: a perfect
act of homeostatic exchange between code-functions and emergent value-
principles. And certainly not a closed cybernetic universe of input-
output functions as envisioned in positivist sociology, but an
imploding universe at the violent edge of an impossible refraction
between opposing tendencies towards crash and systematicity.

        Crash is the open secret of virtualized economy, and on behalf
of which capitalism mutates into the will to technology and the latter
into the will to virtuality. Capitalism in its windowed phase
*demands* the crash experience: scenes of primitive energy where the
fibre optic backbone of the system as a whole is strengthened by the
sudden reversals at the vanishing-centre of crash. Crash capitalism is
the desired-object haunting the imagination of virtualized flesh: in
that impossible reversal between primitive direct-action and windowed
data exchanges, between abuse value and virtualized exchange, is to be
found the driving momentum of virtual economy as disappearance. When
we can speak of money as suddenly put on hyper-drive and flipped into
virtual, twenty-four hour data exchanges, of the slip-streaming of
consciousness, of feeling as software to the hardware of the
electronic brain, and of spooled politics, then we can also finally
know virtual economy as a fatal, delirious crash-event. The organic
body shatters into mirrored fractals, vision explodes into a delirium
of virtual optics, speech dissolves into the ecstasy of the rhetoric
machine, and the sex organs happily vote for the alt. bondage file of
future sex.

        In the windowed world, we pass time by slipping into our
electronic bodies, deleting for a while the body with (terminal)
organs and becoming alt. subjectivity in the ether-net of organs
without a body. The drag of planetary time eases, and we flip into the
hyper-role of "lurkers" wandering through the virtual rooms of the
city on the digital hill. Voyeurs to our own disappearance into a
recombinant subject-position: perfectly relational and positionless,
and fascinated for this reason all the more. All twitching fingers as
we become a computer keyboard, all burning sex as we stand around the
dark edges of virtual bondage dungeons, all drifting feelings as we
slip from node to node on the electronic net, all virtual intelligence
as we actually dissolve into a mouse cursoring across hyperspace.  Our
technological future has never been more transparent: alt.bondage,, alt.fetishes, alt.conspiracy, alt.TV Simpsons,
alt.nano-technology, alt.politics, alt.Star Trek, alt.Bosnia, alt.
jokes, alt. vacant beach...

The Virtual Class

        The *universal* interests of the recombinant commodity are
carried forward by the *particular* interests of the technological
class.0 Itself a virtual class because its historical interests are linked
to hyperspace and its economic relations are (globally) coextensive
with the world network of technocratic elites rather than bounded in
local space, the technological class fuses with the high-speed
backbone of the Net. Its expression as the emergent class of post-
history is coterminous with the sovereignty of the recombinant

        Having no social origins, the technological class is a bionic
product of that vast, and demonstrably successful, experiment in
economic eugenics unleashed by the merger of technology and biology in
the post-historical form of the will to virtuality. A mutant class
born at that instant when technology acquired organicity and became a
living species being, the technological class is itself a product of
combinatorial logic. It stands as the first, self-conscious class
expression of the universal net of post-human bodies.  Alternatively
therapeutic in its cultural outlook, because it believes fervently in
technology as coeval with the life principle itself, and vicious in
its defense of the political interests of the will to virtuality, this
class uniformly, globally, and at the same historical moment flees the
closed boundaries of the nation-state, going over to the side of a new
eschatology: the interfacing of cybernetics and flesh as the (post)-
human good. In its bitter struggle to break free of the fetters of
local politics and to differentiate its univeral (virtual) interests
from the particular interests of the disappearing working class and
inertial public sector bureaucracies, the technological class must
mobilize on behalf of the ontological claims of the will to
virtuality. Consequently, its political aim: the virtualization of
economic space with the abandonment of products, and the sovereignty
of process economy. Its territorial ambitions: to colonize hyperspace
as voyagers exploring the stellar regions of the electronic frontier.
Its really existent community: co-relational and co-extensive networks
of cyberneticized knowledge. And its prevailing ideology: an
ambivalent, but no less enthusiastic, doubled rhetoric of
technological fetishism and technological determinism.

        Not a passive class, but aggressive and predatory, the
technological class has an immanently global strategy for its swift
coronation as the leading class of post-capitalism. The Virtual
Manifesto, with its associated war strategy, proceeds as follows:

        1. Tactical Envelopment:

        On a global basis, work to install supra-national trading blocs
(EEC, NAFTA, the newly emergent South-East Asia Economic Co-
Prosperity Zone) as a political strategy for undermining state
sovereignty, and of freeing up the speed of virtual economy from the
gravitational pressure of local regulatory "circuit-breakers" (local state
subsidies for particular class interests in the production economy,
environmental standards, tariff barriers to the unfettered movement of
the process economy, nationalist coalitions around social agendas on
the part of labor and its representative political parties). Here,
suborned technocratic state elites work hand in hand with the virtual
class to ensure, by law and trade agreements, the unhampered
movement and statuatory protection of "intellectual property"
(relational networks of cybernetic knowledge) through the permeable
walls of local political space.1

        2. The Disappearing State:

        Under cover of the GATT negotiations with their ideological
recuperation of the obsolete dogma of "free trade" (itself a mise-en-
sc ne for the disappearance of merchandise capitalism), a struggle is
waged to destroy the internal integrity of the interventionist state
and to free up labor as a fully mobile, fungible and, hence,
virtualizable commodity.2 Here, the liberal-democratic compromise of
the "welfare state" is swiftly and decisively pushedaside in the
interests of the virtualization of economic space. The state that
cannot plan in the interests of its own social economy and that cannot
act on behalf of its own political economy is also the disappearing
state: a perfect subordination, therefore, of the manufacturing phase
of capitalism before the transnational interests of process economy,
of (local) property before relational knowledge, and of bounded
political sovereignty before the primogeniture of the recombinant

        3. Definition of the Virtual Situation:

        Resequence the ruling rhetoric of particular political
communities by the global ideology of technological liberalism: that
political consensus which holds that the dynamic, and unimpeded,
expansion of the will to virtuality is the superordinate aim and
justificatory condition for the state policy-making apparatus. Witness
the evangelical appeals for a "high-speed digital superhighway" across
the United States as both the aim of a technologically renewed America
and its ethical raison d'etre (for a technocratic USA "capable of
competing on an even playing-field with the rest of the world"); the
building of a new high-tech transportation infrastructure (the famous
"Chunnel," the modelling of the "new Europe" on the super-quick train
network of the French TVA); the construction of the Canadian National
Railway across the Canadian frontier as a vaunted act of
"nation-building" (long before Western Europe was "Canadianized" by
technological liberalism); and the downloading of Tokyo, floating
airport and all, into a virtual cyberspace, complete with neon libidos
and pulsing video screens on every (telematic) street corner.

        4. Ideological Delegitimation:

        Finally, through concerted public policies that speak the
language of technological necessitarianism struggle to delegitimate
unions and their political defense of the working class. Under the
onslaught of technocratic elites occupying the heights of right-wing
governments across the OECD, union leadership and their working class
membership are continuously ridiculed as nostalgic defenders of an
already superseded economic order. And not just unions, but the
unemployed as well.  In Canada, federal and provincial governments
enact socially sadistic policies towards the jobless and the homeless
because from the moral viewpoint of the technological class, these are
fully surplus bodies, accidental spillover from a virtual system that
must result in growing social inequalities and the creation of a
permanent underclass. With its inherently religious commitment to
virtualization, the technological class would find it irrational, and
thus immoral, to speak to social issues that are endemic to
production. As in Cronenberg's Dead Ringers, the bodies of the
technological class may look normal on the outside, but on the inside
something has gone terribly wrong. They are mutants:
half-flesh/half-wired, fascists in virtual guise who work to
liquidate, by absentee mindlessness, the working class, the homeless,
and the powerless. And, of course, if "benign indifference" doesn't
work, then there is always recourse to the deterrence violence of the
security state. In the United States, employment in the security
security is a growth industry.

        As David Cook states in a brilliant reflection on Thurow,
Galbraith and Reich as emblematic signs of the recline of the
American mind:

"With the satisfaction of desire (contentment) comes the growth of the
military and the private security industry. The controlling mood is
one of violence and force... In America there are no longer, if there
ever was, 'Good Americans', or 'Toquevillean citizens', or the
'fortunate' who are going to look into the future. America is in the
process of disappearing, dispersed across the world in a continuing
sacrificial spiral. America now as reengineering itself via
technological processes that create the culture, work, competition and
self that is no longer 'made in America' or made anywhere other than
in technological space and whose future may well be played out in the
only realm that America still holds the edge-- violence both inside
and outside the nation."3

Virtual Class War

        The technological (virtual) class must liquidate the working
class. It does so through alliances forged with political
representatives of the global technocratic class. The working class is
grounded in localized space; the technocratic class wills itself to
float away in the virtual zone of hyperspace. The working class has an
objective interest in maintaing steady-state employment in the
production machine of capitalism; the technological class has a
subjective interest in transcending the rhetoric of employment to
"creative participation" in virtual reality as an ascendent life-form.
The working class depends for its very existence on shielding itself
from the turbulence of the nomadic vector of the recombinant commodity
by securing its political foundations in the sovereignty of the
nation-state; the technological class, politically loyal only to the
virtual state, thrives on the violent passage of the recombinant
commodity. The working class, grounded in social economy, demands the
sustenance of the "social welfare net;" the technological class flees
the inertial drag of taxes on its disposable income by projecting
itself onto the virtual matrix.

        Deeply antagonistic and immanently warring interests, the
working and technological classes are the emblematic historical signs
of the beginning, and ending of the twentieth century. The modern
century might have begun with the great historical struggles of the
working class, sometimes revolutionary (Marxist-Leninism) and
sometimes reformist (the welfare state with its trade and business
unionism), but it certainly ends with the political victory of the
technological class, and with the global retreat of the working class,
like a tide running out to the postmodern sea. Lenin in ruins and
Capitalism in ruins as the mirrored signs of the disappearing working
class, and the triumphant ascendancy of the technological class as the
post-historical embodiment of the will to virtuality. Consequently,
the collective gloating of the technological class and the diffusion
everywhere of virtual reality as the implacable horizon that welcomes
us to the twenty-first century.

        And what of the relationship of the technological and
capitalist classes? They are not the same, since the capitalist class
has an interest in an old value-form of production (surplus-value),
and the technological class has its interest in a new relation of
process economy (virtualized exchange). The capitalist class seeks to
ride the whirlwind of virtual economy by quick translations of process
into products (consumer electronics); the technological class
parasites surplus-value as a way of actualizing the virtualized body.
The capitalist class desperately seeks out new digital technologies as
investment strategies for conquering the mediascape, and with it, all
the welcoming orifices of the electronic body; the technological class
puts its research at the behest of capital accumulation, while it
awaits the inevitable vanishing of capitalism into the will to
virtuality.  Refusing in the end to accede to its own historical
liquidation at the hands of (an already obsolescent) fealty to the
production machine, the capitalist class goes over to the side of the
processed world of virtual economy. It puts capitalism in the service
of the will to technology. In return for providing the material
conditions necessary for allowing the machines to speak and to have
(cybernetic) sex, the virtual world responds by rewarding this new
class of virtual capitalists beyond its most feverish dreams: the
robber barons of primitive capitalism are replaced at the end of the
century by the pinhead egos of software barons. Capital is
virtualized. Property remains in place and workers are sequestered,
but resources are virtualized and redistributed from the virtual
population to the elite. But, of course, capital has always been
virtualized, always a matter of transforming material reality into a
floating world of surplus-exchange. This process of alchemical
transmogification of nature and social nature finds its most abstract,
and essential, expression in virtual reality.  Virtual economy is a
way of finally coming home for the liquid, circulating rhythms of the
recombinant commodity.

        Consequently, our actual situation is this: the state remains
behind to sequester those who cannot, or will not, achieve escape
velocity into hyperspace-- wage-earning workers, salaried employees,
broad sectors of the old middle class. The political model here is
simply, "If in doubt, tax," because the Carceral State energizes its
fading energies by randomly selecting among the virtualized population
for objects of abuse value. And the territorially imprisoned virtual
population responds in kind: it initiates a form of popular
counter-terrorism by transferring all political leaders into liquid
targets for the pleasures of abuse. Abuse and counter-abuse, then, as
the doubled codes of territorially bounded space and its sequestered
virtual population.

        As for the technocrats? They have long ago blasted off into
hyperspace, filled with sad, but no less ecstatic, dreams of a
telematic history that will never be theirs to code. An evangelical
class, schooled in the combinatorial logic of virtual reality and
motivated by missionary consciousness, the technological class is
already descending into the spiralling depths of the sub-human. It
wills itself to be the will to virtuality. In return for this act of
monumental hubris, it will be ejected as surplus matter by the gods of
virtuality, once its servofunction has been digitally reproduced. In
Dante's new version of the circling rings of virtual reality, this
class operates under the sign of an ancient curse: it is wrong, just
because it is so right. For not understanding virtual hubris, it is
condemned to eternal repetition of the same data byte.

Slaved-Functions: The Political Economy of Virtual Colonialism

        Virtualized capitalism is about cynical power, not
profitability. Here, the virtual order of capitalist exchange is a global
grid for the terminal division of the world into the shifting order of
sadism. The truth-sayer of virtual capitalism as power is to be found in
those dispossessed countries and surplus regions that are fully surplus
to the telematic requirements of the will to technology. Residual
spaces outside the operating system of the recombinant commodity,
the surplus-economies scattered around the globe are preserved as
sites of pleasureable abuse value, doubled scenes of what might
happen to us if we fail the will to virtuality, and as potential sources of
surplus flesh. If the electronic body is  neither a privileged citizen of
the dialectic of technology (the spiralling network of
programmer/consumers across the neural network of hardware,
software and wetware economies) nor a cursor in a clonal economy
(the "five tigers") for quick simulations of the telematic order, then it
can only be a "slaved-function": a detrital site of surplus body parts for
the fatigued organic bodies of the "master-functions" as they await
processing into virtualized nervous systems. Master-functions, slaved-
functions, and clonal economies, therefore, as the classificatory
power grid of virtualized capitalism.

        Consider, for example, the countries of Africa, Haiti, or
Bangladesh: slaved-economies that are maintained as standing reserve
for the "master-functions" of the ruling sim/porium of Japan, Western
Europe and North America. Not really part of a global welfare system
administered by the UN/US, but surplus nations that are sites of novel
experiments in body vivisectioning and vampirism in its late
capitalist phase. A whole underground global trade, then, in body
parts (livers, hearts, blood) surgically cut out of the surplus flesh
of the virtualized population of slaved-nations. And how could it be
otherwise? The organic body knows that it will die before it can be
morphed into a virtualized state, and so it desperately scans
slaved-bodies, particularly of the young, for the elexir of life:
kidneys, pancreas, eyes, and hearts. And why not scenes of mass
innoculation as first-cut film scripts for the future of the body
electronic? That's the mass injection of the AIDS virus into the blood
streams of Africans, before an officially approved and hyper-charged
AIDS virus could be downloaded into the bodies of gay men in New York
and San Francisco under the cover of a "hepatitis vaccine." And
slaved-nations, too, as marketing sites for the chronic diseases
expelled from the aestheticized culture of North America: the
aggressive promotion of cigarettes to the citizens of the
slaved-nations under the always seductive sign of the "Marlboro
economy" as providing symbolic, if not actual, membership in the
master android cultures. Or, for that matter, why not copy the
discarded cultural kitsch of America (Disney World) to the modernist
cultures of Western and Eastern Europe as symbols of their clonal
status in the lead societies of virtualized capitalism? No longer,
then, the division of political economy into first and third worlds,
but a more grisly dissolution of the virtualized globe into a sadistic
table of sacrificial value: master-functions, clones, and
slave-functions. When capitalism disappears into a power grid, then
economy remains only as an illusional space, disguising the more
sadistic ruse of technology as abuse value.

        Virtual colonialism is the end game of post-capitalism. Just
when we thought that the age of European colonialism had finally come
to an end, suddenly we are copied into the second age of virtual
colonialism: a reinvigorated recolonization of planetary reality that
reduces human and non-human matter to a spreading wake of a cosmic
dust-trail in the deepest space of the blazing comet of virtual
capitalism. A recolonization of everything: the virtualization of
labor as jobs in the productive sector are downloaded around the
globe, attracted only by the virtual scent of a slaved-work force; the
virtualization of culture as the planetary noosphere, from Canada to
Romania and China, are caught up in the deep-space drift-net of CNN
and MTV, beaming out the pulsar code of America to the clonal cultures
of the world; the virtualization of fashion as, for example, Benetton
resequences the (recombinant) color and style of clothing into a
designer Internet, producing surplus-virtualized exchange (for itself)
by transforming the "The United Colors of Benetton" into a digital
sequencer, linking child labor in the slaved- nations with the
high-intensity market setting in the master triad (Japan, Europe, and
America). And virtualized transportation, too, as transnational
automobile producers flip into process economy: robotizing production
by copying and pasting parts manufacturing to pools of cheap labor,
while maintaining virtualized populations as holding pens for (ad)
stimulated desire. If there could be such a fantastic display of
publicity about 1992 as five hundred years after the conquest of
(aboriginal) America by Europeans, it is probably because 1993 is Year
One of the reconquest of the world by virtual capitalism.


  1. In addition to studying the political strategy of the Trilateral
Commission and deciphering the (side)texts of the Canada/US "Free
Trade" Agreement and NAFTA, there is also an excellent anonymously
posted analysis of the International Business Roundtable circulating
on the Canada-L BBS on the Internet. While this text does not draw out
the implications for the technological class of politicized "trade"
agreements or situate the analysis in light of the recombinant
commodity-form, it focusses critically on the fungibility of the
international labor-market and the undermining of local state
sovereignty by a resurgent American empire. Here, the politics of
"free trade" are forced to the surface of the seemingly-transparent
background of international economics.

2. Ibid.  International Business Roundtable: anonymously posted
analysis circulating on the Canada-L BBS on the Internet.

3. David Cook, "Farewells to American Culture, Work and Competition,"
Canadian Journal of Political and Social Theory, Vol.16,no.1. p.5. In
this review article, Cook argues eloquently, and convincingly, that
Lester Thurow (Head to Head), Robert B. Reich (The Work of Nations)
and John Kenneth Galbraith (The Culture of Contentment) are the
leading representatives of the recline of the American mind. While
Reich focusses on the spatial recovery of the disappeared working
class (at the behest of the "technological class') and Thurow talks
about engineering the new "European beast," Galbraith closes his eyes
to the brilliant sun of Crash America.

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