|In the best of all capitalist worlds, the
stock market is supposed to provide resources for industrial
development, through a speculative game that pays off
later in the "real economy." What about the
Internet then? From 1995 to 2000, huge amounts of infrastructure
were financed throughout the world; now the oversupply
crisis is accounted a disaster. But history is cunning,
and the result of the dotcom boom may have been to free
up vast amounts of private money for the development of
a virtual public space, where people can confront the
major corporations on their home turf - that is to say,
in the realm of transnational exchanges. The speculators
of the late twentieth century asked: "Is there any
limit to the profit we can make off the Internet?"
Those who work for the virtual economy, or who suffer
its effects, are tempted by a wilder speculation: "Can
we really build a networked resistance to corporate capitalism?"
While dissenting movements face up to the new "anti-terrorist"
campaigns, that last question is more timely than ever.
Among the answers that emerge will be changes in the
law, and in the course of technological development.
 But the primary
responses are cultural and artistic. They have everything
to do with subjective capacities for resistance. And
resistance itself has a history, with many different
ruses. Those are what I'll be looking at here, to answer
what might turn out to be the most important question:
"Can the virtual class really escape the domination
of the flexible personality?"
From Taylor and Ford to Stalin and De Gaulle, the major
adversary of the radical Left in the twentieth century
was rationalizing authority. Whether on the factory
floor or in the military ranks that gave the orders,
regimentation and the hierarchical pyramid were the
archetypes of oppression. From the 1930's onward, authoritarianism
developed in both the East and the West, with a logic
that brought together war, work and bureaucracy. The
first to analyze this situation were the Frankfurt School.
The originality of the Frankfurt School was to combine
Marx and Freud, to explore the industrial economy's
masochistic libido. But to do so was not just to go
beyond the pleasure principle. What the Frankfurt School
studied from the 1930's onward was a paradigm shift:
a new form of political-economic command that stretched
its social fingers deeply into the psyche. The liquidation
of nineteenth-century bourgeois individualism and the
emergence of a central-planning state, along with a
totally mobilized factory society, were pursued on the
subjective level by what they called the authoritarian
personality. They understood this fascistic character
structure as a "new anthropological type."
Its traits were rigid conventionalism, submission, opposition
to everything subjective, stereotypy, an exaggerated
concern with sexual scandal, emphasis on power and the
projection of unconscious impulses. 
The Frankfurt School writers pursued their analysis
of authoritarian behavior in the 1940's and 50's, in
the face of American state capitalism. Exiles in the
land of freedom, they denounced a deepening enslavement
to instrumental reason, particularly through the soft
coercions of the culture industry. By the mid-1960's,
critiques of the disciplinary society became widespread.
We know the new forms of revolt that arose against the
standardizing forces: everything from free speech campaigns
and draft resistance to Reichean group-sex, Provo events,
situationist drifting and LSD, what Marcuse called "outbreaks
of mass surrealism." On a deeper level there was
an assertion of subjectivity, of identity, of sexuality,
the personal that is the political. A poetics of resistance
spread through society and helped bring the decline
of regimentation, welfare-state bureaucracies, mass-consumption
models and factory discipline. But are we even aware
how that transformation helped shape today's political-economic
The social order responded to the crisis the 1960's
and 70's, accepting selected elements of the old critique.
A new paradigm has arisen in the developed countries
in the past twenty years, with a specific production
regime, consumer ideology and social control mechanism,
all integrated into a geopolitical order. For almost
two decades this development remained largely unconscious,
invisible, unnamable. During that time, vanguard movements
were obsolete, intellectuals were useless, there was
no alternative. Now the cracks have suddenly started
to open up everywhere. People begin realizing that the
New World Order is not just oppressive on its edges,
in the so-called developing countries. It has created
a new regime of flexible labor that exploits and alienates
broad swathes of the population, even in the places
that are supposed to be rich. And it's at the very heart
of casual freelance culture, replete with PCs, mobile
phones and general nomadism, that the technology of
control is continuously recreated. Winning the economic
game today brings a high reward. You get to be the inventor
of the flexible personality.
New paradigms are adopted because they work. Only in
retrospect can we see them becoming modes of control.
Flexibility was an extremely positive idea, in California
in the 1970's when the culture of microelectronics was
invented. It was the polar opposite of the rigid 1950's:
openness to others, embodied experience, self-expression,
improvisation, refusal of hierarchies and discipline.
These were the utopian days of Bucky Fuller, Gregory
Bateson and the Whole Earth Catalog: no-one would
have dreamt that An Ecology of Mind could become
a management tool. But the looser, more creative lifestyle
did not just mean the emergence of a whole new range
of products, useful for stimulating consumption. In
California, and ultimately in much of the developed
world, the new culture seemed to promise a way out of
the social conflicts that had stalled the Fordist industrial
Consider the way things looked to the Trilateral Commission,
in their 1975 report on The Crisis of Democracy.
 Not only were
Third World countries using the powers of national liberation
to demand higher prices for their resources, while the
US lost its war in Indochina. Not only were the capital
returns plunging, while wildcat strikes multiplied and
the big ecological standoffs began. But worst of all,
the huge postwar investments into socialized education,
conceived to meet the knowledge needs of the techno-economy,
were backfiring and producing resistance to capitalism
and bureaucracy, alternative values, demands for further
benefits and socializations. These new claims on the
welfare state had to be added to the traditional demands
of the working class; and then the crisis began. In
the eyes of the elites, the Trilateral countries were
becoming "ungovernable," there was an "excess
of democracy" - in the infamous phrase of Samuel
Huntington. The kind of systemic critique that the Frankfurt
School had pioneered reached its height in the mid-1970's.
From that point forth, the authoritarian system had
to start learning from the enemy within.
The transformation took a decade. The golden age of
neo-management began in the mid-1980's, while unionized
workers were replaced with robots and unskilled labor
was sought overseas. Corporate operations and financial
flows expanded outside nations, where regulation and
redistribution were called excessive. The triple challenge
for the managers was to keep tabs on a distant work
force, to open up global marketing and distribution,
and above all, to create a culture - or an ideology
- that would make significant amounts of younger people
want to run this new machine. The key word of the age
The social system had to accept and divert the demands
for autonomy, self-expression and meaning; it had to
turn those very demands into a new mode of control.
The French sociologists, Boltanski and Chiapello, have
shown the importance in this process of the cooptation
of what they call "artistic critique," which
demanded mobility, spontaneity, the reduction of hierarchy,
in short, disalienation - at least for the "creatives."
 The hierarchical
pyramid would therefore be replaced, whenever possible,
by the social form of the network. But an important
aspect of the solution was directly technological. The
magical answer to the questions that faced the governing
elites of the 1970's turned out to be a communications
device, a language-and-image machine: the networked
personal computer. For the critical theorists of the
1960's, IBM had been the instrument and symbol of a
disciplinary bureaucracy. Now the computer was going
to set you free.
Freedom has always been the great neoliberal watchword,
from Hayek and the Chicago economists to the right-wing
libertarians and the Cato Institute. In their theories,
it is constantly identified with economic initiative.
On the left, the economy had traditionally been seen
as the opposite of art, just as the act of selling is
the opposite of the spontaneous gift. But the aesthetic
strategies of the "counter-culture" - difference
and otherness, the rhizome, the proliferation of subjectivities
- could be exalted and set to work in a semiotic economy,
where what you sell are images and signs. Such an economy
had been rendered possible by telematics. Networked
interactivity promised to place a whole new alchemy
of cooperative production in the same kinds of global
channels that were already working for the finance economy.
Research and invention could happen directly within
the circuits of production and distribution.
The laptop computer freed up individuals for physical
and psychic mobility; it could also be used as an instrument
of control over distant labor. It miniaturized access
to the remaining bureaucracy, while opening private
channels into entertainment, media and the realms of
"fictitious" capital - the speculative economy
that feeds off the dismantling of the public sphere.
Best of all, it recoded every kind of cultural production
as commodities, multimedia. Here was a mode of development
that might solve or at least gloss over the full set
of problems inherited from the 1960's, particularly
the struggles around the welfare state. Small wonder
that the governments and the corporations started actively
promoting a myth of flexibility. The emerging "virtual
class" - including cultural producers, digital
artisans, prosumers, what are now called "immaterial
laborers" - stumbled more or less blindly into
How does the culture/ideology work? War is popular
these days, so let's take the military point of view.
The weapon of choice during the Cold War was the ICBM:
a huge, never-used giant, endlessly deconstructed by
the critiques of phallo-logo-centrism. The New World
Order takes off with a smaller, more practical device:
the cruise missile. This kind of weaponry gets constantly
used, and not just on the battlefield. Since the heyday
of Star Wars - both the Strategic Defense Initiative
and the Lucas movie - the military-entertainment complex
has become part of everyday experience.
"It seems that retailers will go to any length
to capture customers," reads a 1997 article called
"Star Wars turns on to Shoppers" (quoted by
Sze Tsung Leong in The Harvard Guide to Shopping).
"Witness Safeway, which has recently used an artificial
intelligence system from IBM called AIDA (artificial
intelligence data architecture) - which was initially
developed to detect and identify Russian missiles in
space, but is now used... to analyze information on
buying patterns with details of purchase from loyalty
cards." When consumer desire is "turned on"
and encouraged to proliferate, the ultimate control
fantasy becomes that of tracking the flexible personality.
"Mass marketing, for all intents and purposes,
is dead," writes business guru Art Weinstein, in
Market Segmentation. "Precision target marketing...
has taken over. By focusing on ever smaller yet profitable
market segments, stronger company-customer relationships
transpire. With technological products, users can practically
invent markets for companies - customers become customizers."
When feedback devices are built directly into the distribution
circuits, the sources of desire are directly available
to corporate monitoring. So you can help perfect your
own internal guidance system.
Until recently, such trends seemed comfortably ambiguous
- just the irritating price for increased freedoms.
But with security-fever rising after September 11, everything
starts to look different. The incitement to perform,
to find creative ways of deploying the new equipment,
reveals its hidden face, the fear of the excluded other,
the imperative to ruthlessly extend and perfect the
system. And the system really is threatened, not only
by suicidal terrorism: the collapse of the "new
economy," the growing protests against neoliberal
globalization, the revolution against the IMF in Argentina...
The perfect solution is total mobilization, the shift
to a wartime footing. September 11 was a chance just
waiting to be taken - the chance to consolidate the
new paradigm, on every level.
The American artist Jordan Crandall has made the military
compulsions of the networked system visible. His work
began with the heritage of the 1970's: experimentation,
cooperation, networked performance, adjustment to the
presence of others in virtual space. But in 1998, he
hired a freelance military contractor to help him develop
movement-predicting software, whose algorithms show
up as eerie green tracery around bodies in a video image.
The following exhibitions, "Drive" and "Heat-Seeking,"
were full-fledged explorations of the psychosexual relations
of seeing and being seen, through the new technologies
in both their civilian and military uses. 
A text recently published on Nettime, "Fingering
the Trigger," recounts the use by the CIA of an
unmanned, camera-and-missile-equipped Predator drone
to fire upon a suspicious Afghani man who, it turns
out, was probably just scavenging for metal. "We
align eye, viewfinder, and target in an act of aiming,"
Crandall writes. "But we are aimed at, we are constituted
in other acts of looking. These are analysis and control
systems in which the body is situated.... It sees us
as a nexus of data, materiality, and behavior, and uses
a language of tracking, profiling, identifying, positioning
and targeting.... Within the circuitous visualization
networks that arise, one never knows which 'side' one
is truly on, as seer switches to that which is seen;
as targeter switches to that which is targeted."
Crandall thinks a new sexuality lodges in the body-machine-image
complex; hence the image of the soldier-man "fingering
This work helps us see what the easy money and pluralism
of the Clintonian years kept hidden: the outlines of
a social pathology. It has an authoritarian cast, like
everything that involves the military. But it does not
produce unthinking, stereotyped behavior, of the kind
we associate with 1930's fascism (or today, with Le
Pen). What Crandall describes is an extremely intelligent
process that, precisely by individualizing - tracking,
identifying, eliciting desire, channeling vision and
expression - succeeds in binding the mobilized individual
to a social whole. The new fascism discovers a complex,
dynamic order for subjective difference, perspectival
analysis, jouissance, even schizophrenic ecstasy.
It integrates networked individualism.
Ghosts in the Machine
Arthur Kroker had an inkling of these things. Almost
a decade ago, he and Weinstein wrote about the "liberal
fascism" of the "virtual class": a technological
elite, driven by possessive individualism, whose interests
lay with the financial establishment, the military state
and the big corporations. But like all neo-situationists
in Baudrillard's wake, Kroker is obsessed by "the
recline of the West" and the hypnotic power of
the digitized image: "The virtual class is populated
by would-be astronauts who never made it to the moon,"
reads a passage from Data Trash. "They do
not easily accept criticism of this new Apollo project
for the body telematic."
No doubt that was true, in 1994 when Kroker's text
was written. But the massification of Internet access,
pushed by the needs of globalized management, and hailed
everywhere as a catalyst of technological development,
has brought about the opening of the virtual domain
to political critique, and to social movements. At the
close of the millennium ordinary citizens began exploring
transnational space, which had formerly been the sole
preserve of the elites. One of major efforts since the
late 1990's has been to map out the new modes of domination,
in order to identify the planetary division of labor,
beyond the spectacular flux of images (and of financial
information). Another attempt, less accessible to the
general public perhaps, but decisive for the struggles
that became visible in 1999 in Seattle, has been to
create a poetics of resistance: a virtual class struggle,
alongside the embodied one that never disappeared.
Consider the AAA, founded in 1995 with a five-year
mission: establishing a planetary network to end the
monopoly of corporations, governments and the military
over travel in space. The Association of Autonomous
Astronauts is a kind of multiple name, a freely invented
identity. Forget about the moon: "Reclaim the Stars"
they said on June 18th, 1999, during the Carnival against
Capital. The idea was to create not an art group, but
a social movement - a collective phantom acting on a
global scale. "Unlike a multiple name that is restricted
to art practices, a collective phantom operates within
the wider context of popular culture, and is used as
a tool for class war," says an astronaut of the
South London AAA, in a text called "Resisting Zombie
One aspect of the project was infrastructural mapping,
identifying the satellite hardware that links up the
world communications network. But another was what Konrad
Becker calls "e-scape": "Cracking the
doors of the future means mastering multidimensional
maps to open new exits and ports in hyperspace; it requires
passports allowing voyages beyond normative global reality
toward parallel cultures and invisible nations; supply
depots for nomads on the roads taken by the revolutionary
practice of aimless flight." Ricardo Balli gives
a further idea of what the galactic phantom might do:
"We are not interested in going into space to be
a vanguard of the coming revolution: the AAA means to
institute a science fiction of the present that can
above all be an instrument of conflictuality and radical
The ideas sound fantastic, but the stakes are real:
imagining a political subject within the virtual
class, and therefore, within the economy of cultural
production and intellectual property that had paralyzed
the poetics of resistance. Consider Luther Blissett,
an obscure Jamaican football player traded from Britain
to Italy, who fell short of stardom but became a proliferating
signature, the "author" of a book called Mind
Invaders: Come fottere i media. There, between tales
of Ray Johnson and mail art, Blissett takes time out
for some political-aesthetic theory: "I could just
say the multiple name is a shield against the established
power's attempt to identify and individualize the enemy,
a weapon in the hands of what Marx ironically called
'the worst half' of society. In Spartacus by
Stanley Kubrick, all the slaves defeated and captured
by Crassus declare themselves to be Spartacus, like
all the Zapatistas are Marcos and I am all we Luther
Blissetts. But I won't just say that, because the collective
name has a fundamental valence too, insofar as it aims
to construct an open myth, elastic and redefinable in
a network...." 
The "open myth" of Luther Blissett is a game
with personal identity, like the three-sided football
played by the AAA: a way to change the social rules,
so a group can start moving simultaneously in several
directions. This "fundamental valence" lies
at the prehistory of the counterglobalization movement.
Just think of the way names like Ya Basta, Reclaim the
Streets, or Kein Mensch ist Illegal have spread across
the world's social networks. One can see these names,
not as categories or identifiers, but as catalysts,
departure points, like the white overalls (tute bianche)
worn initially in north-eastern Italy: "The Tute
Bianche are not a movement, they are an instrument conceived
within a larger movement (the Social Centers) and placed
at the disposal of a still larger movement (the global
movement)," writes Wu Ming 1 in the French journal
Multitudes (#7). This "instrument"
was invented in 1994, when the Northern League mayor
of Milan, Formentini, ordered the eviction of a squatted
center and declared, "From now on, squatters will
be nothing more than ghosts wandering about in the city!"
But then the white ghosts showed up in droves at the
next demonstration. And a new possibility for collective
action emerged: "Everyone is free to wear a tuta
biancha, as long as they respect the 'style,' even
if they transform its modes of expression: pragmatic
refusal of the violence/non-violence dichotomy; reference
to zapatismo; break with the twentieth-century
experience; embrace of the symbolic terrain of confrontation."
Yet a strange thing happened, explains Wu Ming in another
text: "Some rhetorically opposed the white overall
and the blue overall, and the former was used as a metaphor
for post-Fordist labor - flexible, 'precarious,' temporary
workers whom the bosses prevent from enjoying their
rights and being represented by the unions." 
Between politics, class uncertainty and sheer word play,
the Tute Bianche got into full swing. The technique
of "protected direct action" - allowing ludicrously
padded protestors to face blows from the police - was
a way to invade, not just the media screens, but above
all the minds of hundreds of thousands of other people.
They converged in Genoa in July 2001, to open a real
political debate in a country stifled by a neofascist
Another example of the effects created by a confusion
of identities are the Yes Men, in their cameo or "chameleo"
appearances as representatives of the World Trade Organization.
Here we're talking about two artists, whose names aren't
hard to discover. But the uncertainty over language
is no less interesting. To say "yes" to neoliberal
ideology can be devastatingly satirical, as when the
self-elected WTO representative "Hank Hardy Unruh"
displayed the logical fiction of the Employee Visualization
Appendage, a telematic worker-surveillance device
in the shape of a yard-long golden phallus. No one has
yet imagined a better caricature of the flexible personality.
But what kind of satire is at work when Kein Mensch
ist Illegal takes the neoliberal ideology seriously,
and declares all the world's borders open, for everybody?
Like the fire-colored masks worn by thousands in Quebec
City, today's networked protests have two faces: the
laughter of open communication, or the violence of a
gagged mouth behind a chain-link fence. Both faces are
the truth of the contemporary political confrontation.
Voice and Exit
No doubt millions of the world's "flexible"
workers remain largely gagged - mute - with no voice
and no hope of escaping. But as use of the Internet
has increased, and as people have seized its communicational
power for both organization and subversion, a metamorphosis
has invaded the "transnational public sphere,"
which formerly was only open to corporations and their
governments. Electronic e-scape - a new form
of the exit strategy, an exodus from the national space
- has been a condition for the access to political voice,
far from being its contrary. 
It is in the Deleuzian sense that dissent became virtual
in the late 1990's: virtuality as latency, as unmanifest
reality, potential flight-lines towards other spaces
The virtual class in this sense, or the immaterial
laborers - I've always preferred to say networkers
- cannot stand in for the rest of the world's
population. There is no universal subject to represent,
when the individual, the supposed bearer of human rights,
increasingly becomes a target for technological and
ideological manipulations. But an active indistinction
of identity has begun to spread, like a new departure
point; and the artistic experience of multiple names
points to one of the possible paths to a renewal of
collective autonomy. In a recent text, the Italian philosopher
Paolo Virno locates the universal in pre-individual
aesthetic and linguistic experience, in the impersonality
of perception and circulating language. The chaotic
dissension of public space then becomes the landscape,
not of defensive individualism, but of evolving paths
to individuation: "Far from regressing,
singularity is refined and reaches its peak in acting
together, in the plurality of voices, in short, in the
public sphere." 
The kinds of conflict that began in the universities
in the 1960's have crossed over into the global knowledge-space,
whose nature as a public domain is now intensely at
issue. To what extent will these networks form a space
of cooperation, and to what extent a space of intensified
control? If new political voices confirm an exit from
the flexible personality, and a refusal of liberal fascism,
then there will have been no waste in the wild speculations
of the late 1990's - whatever the multiple names of
This text was initially published in Mute magazine.
 On the closely intertwined
relation between legal and technical aspects of the
net, see Lawrence Lessig, "The Internet Under Siege,"
 Cf. Theodor Adorno
et. al., The Authoritarian Personality, (New
York: Harper, 1950). For a more thorough treatment of
the theories of authoritarianism and their dialectical
reversal in our time, see my text on "The Flexible
 The European
rapporteur of The Crisis of Democracy was the
French sociologist Michel Crozier, author of an important
book entitled La société bloquée (The Stalled
Society). The American rapporteur, Samuel Huntington,
has not ceased to make his views known since then.
 See Luc Boltanski
et Eve Chiapello, Le Nouvel esprit du capitalisme
(Paris: Gallimard, 1999).
 For the work
of Jordan Crandall, see his book Drive: projects
and writings 1992-2000 (Cantz Verlag/ZKM, 2002),
as well as his website, <http://jordancrandall.com>.
 Written in the
name of Boris Karloff, <www.uncarved.demon.co.uk/turb/articles/karloff.html>.
 The two quotes
are taken from a French anthology of the AAA, edited
by Ewen Chardronnet: Refuser la gravité (Nîmes:
L'éclat, 2001); online at <www.lyber-eclat.net>.
 Luther Blissett,
Mind Invaders, Come fottere i media: manuale di guerriglia
e sabotaggio culturale, chap. 1, "Ray Johnson
e Reggie Dunlop tra i Tamariani," <www.lutherblissett.net/archive/215-02_it.html>
(note: the "translations" of this text on
the website are incomplete and very free; and the Italian
book it not the same as the one published by Stewart
Home under the same title).
 Wu Ming I (alias
Roberto Bui), "Tute Bianche: The Practical Side
of Myth Making," <www.wumingfoundation.com/english/giap/giapdigest11.html>.
 The opposition
between the functions of "exit" and "voice"
in social conflicts was theorized by Alfred O. Hirschman,
in a book to which the Italian theorists of exodus frequently
refer: Exit, Voice, and Loyalty: Responses to Decline
in Firms, Organizations, and States (Cambridge,
Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1970).
 It is in this
sense that the "multitudes" are still before
us, emerging through exchanges and acts, unlike the
prepolitical multitude described by Hobbes. Cf. Paolo
Virno, "Multitudes et principe d'individuation,"
in Multitudes #7.