Against Social Determinism by McKenzie Wark

Vladimir Lenin and Alexander Bogdanov playing chess during a visit to Maxim Gorky (April 1908)Getting anything done generally requires the collaboration of people who do different kinds of work, and whose various kinds of work has shaped various kinds of thinking. It calls for some kind of translation or code switching. It can be hard enough getting people who do different kinds of intellectual labor aligned towards a common task. Collaborations between mental and manual labor, not to mention affective labor, rather complicates the whole endeavor.

So perhaps it would be a start for those of us who do some kind of intellectual labor to practice some code switching. How, for example, are those of us training in the use of language, to collaborate with those who work with code? Both kinds of work involve staring at computers and imbibing too much coffee. How hard can it be? Plenty hard, as it turns out. The division of labor divides also our thinking. We make a fetish of the part of what we organize as if it was the key to the whole.

This was a key insight of a now little-known thinker who has preoccupied me a lot lately: Alexander Bogdanov. He was Lenin’s rival for the leadership of the Bolsheviks, before Lenin forced him out. He spent a chunk of the rest of his life working on the problem of how different kinds of labor might collaborate. He wrote a utopian novel about it, and also something like a philosophy.

via Against Social Determinism.

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