- js reader version
- view hidden posts
- tags and related articles
by Brian Oliver Sheppard
Thursday, Nov. 29, 2001 at 12:13 PM
"New Oroville," a corporate labor colony, provides a total living experience for its workers.
WORKERS IN CONTROL OR WORKERS UNDER CONTROL?
Which will it be?
Brian Oliver Sheppard
Clusters of small white domes stretch across the countryside, gleaming in rows that resemble massive, neatly laid eggs. There are over 4,300 of these "eggs," and each of them are about 40 feet tall. The impression from a distance is one of an otherworldly hatchery rather than a community of humans. But New Oroville is a city, and it does not have a mayor. Instead, it has a CEO.
The "cubicle domes," as one libertarian cyberculture journal referred to them, house human beings, shops, temples, and most importantly, places of work. The co-founders of the town call it an "information technology township," and it exists to house, train, and provide leisure for at least 4,000 high tech workers. The founders of the town are three former executives of Microsoft who left to form their own company, called Catalytic Software. They needed cheap labor, and they needed it in one place, where it could be regulated, structured, compartmentalized, and renewed indefinitely, as business needs demanded. That led to the creation of this 21st century experiment just outside Hyderabad, India. "New Oroville is our place," Catalytic CEO Swain Porter declared to _Wired_. "We set the rules. We enforce them. We're not going to have a lot of discontents."
This total environment is one blueprint for workers' control. Unfortunately, it is the kind of workers' control that represents control of workers rather than control by workers. It is one possible future, and it is approaching quickly.
Another possible future is one that working people may find a little more desirable: that of their own determination, in solidarity with other workers, both manual and intellectual, skilled and unskilled, to develop communities and indeed the future history of the planet as they see fit.
TOTALIZING CORPORATE CONTROL OVER WORKERS
Far from being a cultural anamoly, New Oroville represents more clearly than many other places the attempt of corporate chieftains to establish totalizing controls over communities and their workers. Attempts to completely control the lives of community inhabitants in the First World are usually held in check by cultural dissidence. But in India and elsewhere, where many live in abject poverty, corporations have freer rein to implement their vision of a perfect, total community. This is why New Oroville serves well as an example of a community built from the ground up by those whose only consideration is maximizing profit. In an important way it is the
crystallization of the phenomenon of entire living experiences consciously planned around the exploitation of labor.
But the New Oroville model is not entirely particular to the Third World, either.
In privileged parts of the world, enlightened, New Age corporations have developed corporate "campuses" complete with well-manicured parks, fountains, libraries, and cafes. Such corporations readily admit that they structure the working and living environments of their workers thusly to keep them "happy," since happy workers are more obedient and productive. This extraordinary admission of psychological manipulation, with its revelation of a presumptuous shaping of employee behaviors to those most desirable to corporate controllers, passes with little remark. The corporate campuses and company towns of the First World are what happens when a company becomes large enough, audacious enough, to directly engineer social life beyond its 9-to-5 operations.
What we are led to, again, is a schema of controlling workers, so that they might produce reliably, efficiently, and with as little deviation from the goals of corporate managers as possible. Some employees are no doubt satisfied with this sort of relationship, as it provides a paycheck, which in turn provides the means to life. They seem to be satisfied with the power relationship between their employer and themselves in the sense that some prisoners are satisfied with prison since it comes with free food and housing.
New Oroville is a prototype for the colonization of the planet in the image of unabashed profit. Looking every bit _like_ a space colony, it is perhaps doubly appropriate this way. New Oroville and other less-developed sweatshop compounds in Asia are colonies of non-stop labor, where architecture, family, and indeed any living experience outside of work, are merely ancillary to work. New Oroville may be a "dream town" to some (as Ziff-Davis India called it), but it represents the graveyard of any meaningful movement against authoritarianism, and certainly the graveyard of any meaningful labor movement. Every new New Oroville that pops up across the face of the planet should be considered another tombstone for workers, another necropolis that houses not free humans but lifeless drones locked into a lifestyle of toil.
RESISTING CONTROL AND BREAKING FREE
The New Oroville model for the future of workers' control resembles closely the "plague city" that Michel Foucault describes in Part Three of his _Discipline and Punish_. The "plague city" is a town run under totalitarian controls, controls necessitated in Foucault's example by fear of infection and disease entering the community. The plague city, writes Foucault, "lays down for each individual his place, his body, ... his well-being, by means of an omnipresent and omniscient power that subdivides itself in a regular, uninterrupted way even to the ultimate determination of the individual, of what characterizes him, of what belongs to him, of what happens to him."
"A proper place for everyone, and everyone in their proper place": an array of neatly ordered cubicle domes, inside which are nested cube farms of compartmentalized human beings, babysitting servers or plugging in code, their lives inextricably tied up into the perpetuation of the corporate apparatus that surrounds them on all sides and at all times. In this world, the worker is no longer a person; he is an appendage of profit and his being is indistinguishable from that of the corporate entity in which he is immersed.
Or, alternately, resistance: the collaboration of workers not for making corporate overlords wealthier, but for making their own lives freer; cooperating to, in the first instance, withdraw their own producing power from the productive process in order to win some demands, and then, in the second instance, to wrest control of the entire apparatus from totalitarian hands, to be transferred to the democratic administration of the community at large. This second option is resistance; it is revolutionary; and the corporate process will regard it as a plague entering the community, to be eradicated.
If employees are happy living regimented lives, in perpetual receivership of whatever living conditions corporations give to them, there will be no use in convincing them to form revolutionary unions for the act of democratizing their workplaces and then society at large. If, however, working people suspect that there is something more to life than what the company provides - or allows - they may find forming revolutionary labor organizations their only hope. If what the corporation wants is diametrically opposed to the freedom of its workers, then joining a revolutionary labor organization may be the only definite way that workers can defend their autonomy and push the tide backwards towards a comprehensive social freedom.
So: a planet dotted with congeries of corporate labor colonies, mining earth and human alike for the resources needed to perpetuate the rule of impersonal profit? Or a global force of workers organized industrially to resist this exploitation, and to eventually take for the workers of the world what they themselves created?
Which will it be?
Brian Oliver Sheppard is the author of _Exploitation and How it Affects You_ (Barricade Books: Melbourne, Australia, 2000). He is an anarchist writer & poet who writes regularly for the _Industrial Worker_. His work has appeared in _Anarcho-Syndicalist Review_, _Onward!_, _Kontrapunkt_, _San Francisco Bay View_, _Black Business Journal_, and many others. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (972) 993-2020 x1943.
Report this post as:
Change Links 2018 July posted
More Pix: "Families Belong Together," Pasadena
"Families Belong Together" March, Pasadena
Short Report on the Families Belong Together Protest in Los Angeles
Summer 2018 National Immigrant Solidarity Network News Alert!
Watch the Debate: Excluded Candidates for Governor of California
Change Links June 2018 posted
The Montrose Peace Vigil at 12 Years
Unity Archive Project
Dianne Feinstein's Promotion of War, Secret Animal Abuse, Military Profiteering, Censorshi
CA Senate Bill 1303 would require an independent coroner rather than being part of police
Three years after OC snitch scandal, no charges filed against sheriffs deputies
California police agencies violate Brown Act (open meetings)
Insane Company Wants To Send Nuke Plant Waste To New Mexico
Change Links May 2018
Worker-Owned Car Wash on Vermont Closed
GUIDE TO REBEL CITY LOS ANGELES AVAILABLE
lausd whistle blower
Help KCET and UCLA identify 60s-70s Chicano images
UCLA Luskin: Casting Youth Justice in a Different Light
Change Links April 2018
Nuclear Shutdown News March 2018
Join The Protest Rally in Glendale on April 10, 2018!
Spring 2018 National Immigrant Solidarity Network News Alert!
Anti-Eviction Mapping Project Shows Shocking Eviction Trends in L.A.
Steve Mnuchin video at UCLA released
Actress and Philanthropist Tanna Frederick Hosts Project Save Our Surf Beach Clean Ups
More Local News...
Fbi fears this post
Disabled Folks among the extreme poorest in US counts
Banks Enriched By Trump Deficit Increase Of 4 to 5 Trillion $
Illegal Russians Receiving Land and Homes in West Bank 2018
Un monde de pauvreté
14 Disturbing Facts About Scott Gottlieb, Trump's FDA Head
Behind the scenes at fbi National Academy
Treasury Takes Aim at Shell Companies
Paraphysique de l'intelligence
Oklahoma GOP Senator Jim Inhofe's Bloody Record
Globalization: hope on the horizon despite Fake Liberals.
Sorry President Trump,Ted Cruz Texas Judicial System,is Worse Than Many Shithole Countries
The Shortwave Report 07/20/18 Listen Globally!
The System Question as a Survival Question
Nation's Largest Voting Machine Co., ESS, Admits Lying Re Having Installed Remote Control
Du pain et des jeux
Paraphysique de martyrologie
Children Incorporated Earns 4-Star Rating on Charity Navigator
Democratic Socialists of America
Leonard Peltier Non Violent Native American Political Prisoner since 1970's
Paraphysique miscellanées de l'aggiornamento
FBI Investigated LA County Sheriff Baca,Why Not Hank Skinner's Persecution?
Updated Partial List Of Famous Vegetarians, Vegans, & Fruitarians
The Shortwave Report 07136/18 Listen Globally!
Social Policy as Social Infrastructure
Vol I: 84 Varieties Of GOP Election Fraud
Texas Can Call it An Execution,But It is A State Sponsored Murder of Hank Skinner..
June 2018 Honduras coup update
More Breaking News...