You can learn a lot from the future of capitalism by asking capitalists. It sounds obvious, but many radical European media studies types who embrace the disruptive force of the internet in roughly the same terms as the average Silicon Valley venture capitalist haven’t thought about it.
The conventional view of the success of India and China’s manufacturing sector is wage rate arbitrage - they pay their workers much less than US workers. But Hagel says their real advantage is their sophistication in networked approaches to business, which allow them to respond much more rapidly to shifting consumer preferences. It’s clear that these network forms are crucial for overcoming the Frankfurt School critique from the 1950s that associates capitalism with homogeneity.
Hagel says that most companies view the internet as a place for customer transactions, but they are missing out on what he calls “deeper, trust-based relationships” with customers. The feel-good rhetoric obscures the fact that this entails keeping huge, detailed databases of information on customers.
In the last video, he talks about what he calls the dark side of the internet:
The internet basically in economic terms is a device to intensify competition. Not just at the company level, but for all of us at an individual level, we’re increasingly competing in a global talent market where are talents today have a diminishing shelf life. Anything we know or any skill we have today has roughly a shelf life of about 5 years. So if we’re not continually learning and improving our performance, we’re going to get marginalized. We’re going to burn out and drop out. I think the only way you proceed in this kind of environment as an individual is to figure out a way to connect your passion with your profession. If you’re really passionate about the work your doing, you treat this mounting pressure actually as an excitement. It means you’re going to be constantly challenged to get to that next level of performance. That’s exciting, it drives you to connect to others to help you figure out how to get to that next level. Now what used to be stress becomes an exciting opportunity.
I thought this was quite a nice insight. Passion and self-reinvention are essential to worker subjectivity under capitalism, partial solutions to our ever increasing precarity, competition and skill obsolescence.