One thing that the left and right now seem to agree on is that the society in which we live is capitalism. And strangely enough, both now seem to agree that it is eternal. Even the left seem to think there is an eternal essence to capitalism, and only its appearances change. The parade of changing appearances yields a series of modifiers: this could be late capitalism or communicative capitalism or cognitive capitalism or neoliberal capitalism. But short of an increasingly allegorical or messianic leap into something other—it is as if this self-same thing just went on forever. The task of this talk is thus a provocation: to think the possibility that capitalism has already been rendered history, but that the period that replaces it is worse. That it could be worse gets us away from the happy narratives in which capitalism gave way to a postindustrial society or some other happy land free from contradiction and class struggle. Rather, in this thought experiment, I propose to think the present as a new kind of class conflict, including new kinds of class arising out of recent mutations in the forces and relations of production. By putting this pressure on our received ideas and legacy language, perhaps we can begin to see the outlines of the present afresh, estranged from our habits of thought.
McKenzie Wark is the author, among other things, of A Hacker Manifesto (Harvard 2004) and Molecular Red (Verso 2015). Wark teaches at The New School for Social Research and Eugene Lang College The New School for Liberal Arts in New York City.