The Computer is a Moron: Gender and Work in the Information Age
Kwelina Thompson, Cornell University
By the 1980s, firms as disparate as Xerox, American Express, Citibank, and McGraw-Hill saw themselves ushering in the “Information Economy.” What did the turn to information mean for the labor practices of late 20th century global capitalism? This paper investigates the turn to information as a lens through which to view shifting regimes of work and productivity. In framing information as a commodity, these firms viewed the office as a key site of production. Ideas about gender, race, and place shaped this new imperative to “discipline information” and structured the growing debates about work in the New Economy. This paper points to the rhetorical and technological routes through which the “data conglomerate” emerged and the management practices that came to govern the workplace during the age of information capitalism.
Flexible Accumulation, Flexible Organization, Flexible Masculinity: Silicon Valley and the Birth of a New Subjectivity, 1957-1998
Charles Petersen, Cornell University
Through an archivally based reconstruction of the corporate culture of three firms, Fairchild Semiconductor, Intel, and Apple, and three executives, Robert Noyce, Andy Grove, and Steve Jobs, this paper shows how white male managers both navigated and produced the post-1970s transformations in capitalism and bureaucracy known as "flexible accumulation" and "flexible organization" through a new managerial subjectivity I call "flexible masculinity." Defined both by claims of rigorous rationality and extravagant displays of emotion, extraordinary aggression and supposed sensitivity, early Silicon Valley managers, I show, found ways to preserve their prerogatives through an ostensibly universal but highly gendered and racialized arrangement of affect, identity, and day-to-day practice.
Respondent: Daniel Horowitz, Smith College
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About the History of Capitalism Seminar
The History of Capitalism Seminar provides a works-in-progress forum for work from scholars at all levels. Proposals may consider a variety of subjects, including the history of race and racism, gender and feminist studies, intellectual history, political history, legal history, business history, the history of finance, labor history, cultural history, urban history, and agricultural history. Elizabeth Tandy Shermer (Loyola University Chicago) and Andrew Hartman (Illinois State University) are the co-coordinators of the seminar.