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The Laws of CoolKnowledge Work and the Culture of Information$
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Alan Liu

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780226486987

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: February 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226487007.001.0001

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(p.81) Chapter 2 Automating
The Laws of Cool

Alan Liu

University of Chicago Press

To understand the fate of alienation in the first half of the twentieth century, it is useful to review the “Estranged Labour” fragment of Karl Marx's Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, where he defined alienation. Drawing on a Romantic metaphysics of identity, Marx first characterized alienation as the estrangement of object from subject: “The object which labour produces—labour's product—confronts it as something alien, as a power independent of the producer. The product of labour is labour which has been embodied in an object.” “Estranged Labour” is Marx's dramatization of fate as agon (man versus self) as well as antagonism (man versus man). To change the scene to twentieth-century automation, we need then only take all the drama out of alienation. When we contemplate the cultures of modern production and consumption in their convergence rather than fetishistic isolation, we witness the birth of twentieth-century cool proper. Subculture appropriated from the mainstream the paradox of hot versus cold.

Keywords:   alienation, Karl Marx, identity, subject, object, automation, production, consumption, subculture, cool

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