By Jim McGuigan
Advent: on 'cool' -- The spirits of capitalism -- the good refusal -- client tradition -- marketplace values -- operating existence -- Anti-capitalism revisited
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In this respect, Microsoft is the classic case. It deals in patented software. Great wealth, in point of fact, derives from ownership of intellectual property, the cardinal form of intangible property, which somewhat contradicts the thesis of a transition from ownership to access as the distinguishing feature of the age. Policing valorisation, though, can be irksome for intellectual property holders, when unscrupulous pirates rip off American corporations around the world. Additionally, Rifkin stresses the general growth of ‘informational’, ‘cultural’ and ‘creative’ industries in the global economy.
In this respect, Nike is an exemplary company. 95 In reality, it is a research, design and marketing outfit. The actual manufacture of sportswear is outsourced to factories around the world, including ‘anonymous manufacturers in Southeast Asia’, whose employment practices, working conditions, long hours and low pay would not normally be acceptable in the United States (though there are also enclaves of sweatshop labour located in the US itself, for instance, in SouthCentral Los Angeles). ’96 The most valuable assets today are intangible, argues Rifkin.
From a political point of view, then, there is a certain schizophrenia in the cultural-capitalism thesis, at least in the way it is formulated by Jeremy Rifkin. In representing its dynamism and future promise, Rifkin identifies but also exaggerates significant trends in capitalist culture today. His argument can in some ways be seen as complementary to Boltanski and Chiapello’s thesis on the new spirit of capitalism. Theirs is a much more measured and carefully documented treatment. They emphasise the legitimacy of/justification for the new capitalism, especially regarding work and career orientations.