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Automatic Society: The Future of Work, Volume 1

Automatic Society: The Future of Work, Volume 1

Bernard Stiegler, Daniel Ross (Translated by)

ISBN: 978-1-509-50634-7

Jan 2017, Polity

280 pages



In July 2014 the Belgian newspaper Le Soir claimed that France, Belgium, the United Kingdom, Italy, Poland and the United States may lose between 43 and 50 per cent of their jobs within ten to fifteen years. Across the world, integrated automation, one key result of the so-called ‘data economy’, is leading to a drastic reduction in employment in all areas - from the legal profession to truck driving, from medicine to stevedoring.

In this first volume of a new series, the leading cultural theorist Bernard Stiegler advocates a radical solution to the crisis posed by automation and consumer capitalism more generally. He calls for a decoupling of the concept of ‘labour’ (meaningful, intellectual participation) from ‘employment’ (dehumanizing, banal work), with the ultimate aim of eradicating ‘employment’ altogether. By doing so, new and alternative economic models will arise, where individuals are no longer simply mined for labour, but also actively produce what they consume.

Building substantially on his existing theories and engaging with a wide range of figures - from Deleuze and Foucault to Bill Gates and Alan Greenspan - Automatic Society will appeal to students and scholars across the social sciences and humanities, as well as anyone concerned with the central question of the future of work.

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Introduction: Functional Stupidity, Entropy and Negentropy in the Anthropocene

1 The Industry of Traces and Automatized Artificial Crowds

2 States of Shock, States of Fact, States of Law

3 The Destruction of the Faculty of Dreaming

4 Outpaced by the Automatic Generation of Protentions

5 Within the Electronic Leviathan in Fact and in Law

6 On Available Time for the Coming Generation

7 Energies and Potentials in the Twenty-First Century

8 Over and Above the Market

Conclusion: Noetic Pollination and the Neganthropocene


"As Stiegler shows in this important work, there is a glaring and dangerous absence of critical thinking about automation and its effects on political and economic life. His argument is profoundly important: we must interrogate the production and maintenance of automatisms in contemporary life in order to prepare the way for what he calls a dis-automatization of society. Stiegler’s vision for the future calls for the foundation of a new human order in the midst of the Anthropocene, against the entropic violence of capitalism in its current algorithmic guise." - David Bates, UC Berkeley

"At once a bracing critique of algorithmic governmentality, with its accompanying specter of mass unemployment as automated labor displaces humans, and a hopeful call for reversing the ecological devastation of the Anthropocene, Stiegler lays out a blueprint for catalyzing our entry into what he calls the Neganthropocene, an era where knowledge trumps information and human well-being comes before capitalist profits. This provocative book will be of interest to anyone worried about where we are headed and eager to embrace a more positive future." - N. Katherine Hayles, Duke University