From American Affairs Volume II, Number 4 (Winter 2018): 202–16
[but] does capitalism actually have a spirit? And what does it mean to claim that it does? Language that flirts so casually with poetic analogy demands a basis in some kind of formal definition. One can find worse sources for that clarity than Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiapello, who in their book The New Spirit of Capitalism (Verso, 2018) provide brief and maximally efficient definitions of both “capitalism” and “the spirit of capitalism.”
The purpose of the open office was always self-exploitation. It exists like some evolutionary link between the confined counting houses of the past and the dematerialized configurations of “the office” yet to come. Tracing the arc of the office’s development through time, and then anticipating its curve beyond, we could do worse than to extrapolate from existing data points like the shared workspace, working remotely, and the commodification of daily life into internet content (think here of unboxing videos or the selling of consumer preference data). Jonathan Crary writes in 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep (Verso, 2013): “As the opportunity for electronic transactions of all kinds becomes omnipresent, there is no vestige of what used to be everyday life beyond the reach of corporate intrusion. An attention economy dissolves the separation between the personal and professional, between entertainment and information, all overridden by a compulsory functionality that is inherently and inescapably 24/7.”1 What this suggests is that as the office walls come down, so will the temporal and ideological barriers separating work from nonwork. The office of the future, in other words, won’t be a place, but an identity. The office of the future will be your most intimate conceptions of self, somehow put to work.
- 1. Jonathan Crary, 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep (London: Verso, 2013), 75–76.