Lecture | February 22 | 5-7 p.m. | 470 Stephens Hall
In January 1951, R.S. Hunta British technical editor and former chemist without any university degree or diplomasent a manuscript titled Two Kinds of Work to the mathematician Norbert Wiener, who did not read it. Hunts manuscript promises to put metaphysics within the scope of physics. And it claims to do so by making such quantities as beauty, virtue, and happiness, as well as all manual and intellectual labor tasks, intelligible as electronic circuits. In other words, Hunts text anticipates the wildest fantasies of digital culture and the concepts of affective and immaterial labor associated with post-Fordism.
Two Kinds of Work centers on a concept that Hunt names G-energy. This force, Hunt argues, defies the second law of thermodynamics by moving material systems from less to more probable states. In other words, it represents all processes that give form or pattern. The discovery of G-energy, Hunt insists, necessitates a radical new ontology; humans, nonhuman animals, machines, materials, and concepts all hold and transmit G-energy, and are thus connected in networks of exchange. Hunts formulation predicts the current methodological formulations of matter and bodies as vital networks. But, crucially, Hunts underlying motivations are not philosophical but economic: G-energy is for him the essence of value, a natural phenomenon that is represented by money. It is what employers are really paying for when they think they are paying for time.
By reading Two Kinds of Work in the light of current theoretical concerns, this paper identifies historical and conceptual connections between theories of digitality and value.
Seb Franklin is Lecturer in Contemporary Literature at Kings College London, where he co-convenes the MA in Contemporary Literature, Culture and Theory. He is the author of Control: Digitality as Cultural Logic (MIT Press, 2015).
This event is co-sponsored by The Program in Critical Theory and the Berkeley Film & Media Seminar.