Foucault News

Activity relating to the work of French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

Life at the Nowhere Office

New Republic, September 6, 2016

Today’s workplace design asks us to be permanently on call—and demands that we vanish at a moment’s notice.

If we want to get any work done, we can only do so on the terms afforded by technology, which includes our ever-dispersing workspaces.

Gilles Deleuze envisioned a transition from Michel Foucault’s enclosed disciplinary societies to “societies of control” that superficially appeared more open and amenable to free movement. Power is no longer only exercised through the top-down power structures, but is increasingly manifested in the cloud’s capacity to include or exclude. In an excellent analysis of round-the-clock capitalism, Jonathan Crary argues that while indeed now that our lives are organized by machines, a perfect storm awaits us; rather than one evil (technological determinism) replacing another (the boss), Deleuze’s society of control actually enhances Foucault’s disciplinary society and accelerates us towards a hyper-monitored world, where the all-seeing, all-knowing managerial dashboard keeps us in check by making use of computerized panopticons.

Jen Pan astutely notes that the cost of having a flat, or bossless, work environment is that the work of management (and attendant surveillance) spreads throughout the workforce; when no one is the boss, everyone is. The office as a cyberized version of Hotel California: You can clock-in anytime you like but you can never clock-out.

Miya Tokumitsu is a lecturer of art history at the University of Melbourne and a contributing editor at Jacobin. She is the author of Do What You Love. And Other Lies about Success and Happiness.

Joeri Mol is a senior lecturer of organization studies at the University of Melbourne.

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