Network Ecologies

On Suarez-Villa’s Technocapitalism

What I find particularly salient in Suarez-Villa’s account of so-called “knowledge-driven capitalism” is that for him and his chosen designator “technocapitalism,” the features of production described by Marx in Capital and maximized by assembly-line Fordism and then post-Fordist flexible production come to apply to the process of research and development itself. [37] Particularly, the concatenated specialization by different firms takes what Marx writes on co-operative manufacture to a higher degree, without transforming it in kind. Technocapitalism refers to a tendency to divide the process of R&D into specialized compartments within an ensemble (the network) of technical ensembles or firms (the nodes). Crucially, Suarez-Villa repeatedly describes technocapitalism’s features as tendencies that heighten capital’s contradictions, rather than as a final reorganization and fundamental change to capital.

Transferred to our critical context, this helps to show that the network, or the application of the idea of the network, does not necessarily indicate a radically new mode of existence. Instead, it either pairs with another explanatory approach or it puts anterior data into new light. That firms are tending to network more has little to do with the idea of the network. Rather, it simply makes sense to disarticulate extant corporate hierarchies and to disperse specialized economic functions from the perspective of inherited forms of ownership and financial risk. A networked structure of the production process does not inherently give rise to a separately operating “experimental firm of technocapitalism” that stresses “continuous (or systematic) innovation.” [38] Not at all the same as the philosophical concept of the network, this network tendency is an ideological feature of our present capitalist conjuncture.

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