Leaving the Twenty-First Century: A Conversation with McKenzie Wark (2019)
In this conversation, the acclaimed writer and media scholar McKenzie Wark discusses critical theory, global climate change, the future of the university, the capitalist labor process, and more. Drawing on books such as General Intellects (Verso, 2017), Molecular Red (Verso, 2015), The Beach Beneath the Street (Verso, 2011), and A Hacker Manifesto (Harvard, 2004), Wark argues that the university is a troubled, multi-layered institution, containing elements both neoliberal and feudal. The future prospects of critical theory will hinge on the twin mobilization of a transformed university and various para-academic and virtual spaces. Intellectual labor, which Wark has previously described as constituting a distinctive “hacker class,” is increasingly commodified, but intellectual laborers often control the immediate means of production, meaning that their labor process bears the hallmark of both capitalist and pre-capitalist relations of production. Returning to the question of writerly style, Wark enjoins us to read classics of critical theorizing, such as Marx’s Capital, not first and foremost as works of philosophy but works of literary art, capable of provoking a visceral response to the calamities of contemporary capitalism. If capitalism is not an “eternal essence,” as Wark convincingly argues, then much work remains to be done in dissecting and analyzing its present-day features and mutations. The success of this labor will shape our chances of transcending capitalism in the twenty-first century.
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