Rushkoff’s Life Inc.

Chris Dierkes

Chris Dierkes (aka CJ Smith). 29 years old, happily married, adroit purveyor and voracious student of all kinds of information, theories, methods of inquiry, and forms of practice. Studying to be a priest in the Anglican Church in Canada. Main interests: military theory, diplomacy, foreign affairs, medieval history, religion & politics (esp. Islam and Christianity), and political grand bargains of all shapes and sizes.

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9 Responses

  1. Bob says:

    Rushkoff’s comment that the Renaissance was the “end of a golden age” brought to mind Ignatius J. Reilly. His yellowed seamen stained sheets. His Big Chief tablets strewn about his room, full of his thoughts concerning the heights of civilization being reached during the eleventh century papacy.

    Count me as one that will not buy his theory or book.Report

  2. Chris Dierkes says:

    yeah like I said it’s one-sided. It’s too romantic towards the Middle Ages and too critical of the Renaissance era. Both are much more good & bad mixed. Still I think his tracing of the corporation from that era to ours and asking why in the world we still work under this fiction–like the nonsense that the corporation is a legal individual? Why do we do this and expect different results than we have gotten for the last five hundred years? Namely more and more power held in the hands of the plutocracy? On that front, I think he’s got a point.Report

    • Bob in reply to Chris Dierkes says:

      I only know what you posted. I’m not enough of a historian to be certain but it seems as though he has never heard of Venice, Genoa, or the Netherlands. I hope his book is a lot better than this short flogging of it indicates.Report

  3. E.D. Kain says:

    Indeed, it can be easy to over-romanticize the pre-Renaissance era (think Chesterton, for instance) but then again it can be even easier and more widely acceptable to simply assume that because Reason and Science were good things that everything else that evolved out of that era and into this modern era were also equally good. I think the critique of corporatism is very timely. Whether people were “more” human previously I’m not sure is quite so obvious. I think share-farmers and peasants are hardly models of what we should strive for. But that is too simplistic. We are placing modern corporatism and individualism up against pre-modern peasantry. What about a different modernism altogether that eschews both?Report

  4. paul h. says:

    It’s “Marcuse,” and what does Klein have to do with the Frankfurt school?Report

  5. Chris Dierkes says:

    Klein’s No Logo owed a great deal I think to the Frankfurt School. She could be considered New Left though she is more Keynesian in economics. Still she is deeply influenced by Humanist Marxism (through her parents for one).

    Her globalization critiques owe a great deal to the attacks on mass capitalism and what the Frankfurt-ers called “Spectator society.”

    Where she differs is that for the early Frankfurt School FDR’s New Deal was really another in some ways more invidious form of control. As it appeared democratic and liberal but was just another form of social exploitation. Klein I would say applies the Frankfurt School critique to Neo-Liberalism/Globalization but not New Deal-ism.Report

  6. Joseph FM says:

    I was wondering if you guys were going to discuss this here! As soon as I started reading excerpts from it, I could see that the central ideas of the book have a lot of commonality with those proposed and discussed here, particularly in regards to localism. I’m reading the book right now, and so far I’m in agreement with you and E.D. on the strengths and weaknesses of Doug’s argument.

    (I read this post a while back, when it was first put up, but I wanted to get farther along in the book itself before commenting.)

    Two points I want to make right now are:

    1.) As someone who’s been an admirer of Rushkoff’s ideas and a member of his discussion listserv for years, I think you can trace a district throughline to the ideas in Life Inc in all of his books (even the one about Judaism) since Coercion, which was written partly in response to how his ideas in Media Virus were corrupted and co-opted by corporate marketing. (I particularly recommend the former, which combines psychology and the Frankfurt School-derived ideas you noted with his McLuhan-influenced theories about media ecology, to provide a handy guide to understanding and defending against the manipulative techniques used in advertising, “marketing”, etc. without getting bogged down like Klein in “movement” politics.)

    2.) I too noticed some of the parallels to Naomi Klein, as did The Guardian, but I think – beyond his rejection of neo-Keyesianism (and really the whole of macro-economics in general) as part and parcel of corporatism – he also has a much better grasp of just how deep this ideology goes in modern society. Klein, I think, fundamentally misunderstood neoliberalism, and as such implied connections that were not there to compensate for missing those that were. The Shock Doctrine conflated it with neoconservatism in an attempt to explicate the colonialist undertones of both. Rather than accusing monetarist libertarians of maliciously enabling things like the Iraq war, as Klein does, he points out that the typical libertarian critique of state power misses the forest for the trees, assuming corporations and modern finance as natural outgrowths of a free market, rather than the freedom-limiting, wealth-extracting state impositions that they actually are. (And he is, of course, also very critical of the New Deal and spinoff agencies – particularly the racist and anti-social policies of the Federal Housing Administration).Report

  7. Chris Dierkes says:


    thanks for the lucid comment and the recommendation. i’ll put it in more cue for books to read. The clarification between his work and Klein I think is very helpful.Report