CS009: Computers and Human Values
Department of Computer Science, Brown University
Notes, October 25th -- Roger B. Blumberg

Manifestos Old and New

Introduction: What is a "Manifesto"?
"1. a. A public declaration or proclamation, written or spoken; esp. a printed declaration, explanation, or justification of policy issued by a head of state, government, or political party or candidate, or any other individual or body of individuals of public relevance, as a school or movement in the Arts."
b. In extended use: a book or other work by a private individual supporting a cause, propounding a theory or argument, or promoting a certain lifestyle.
The Oxford English Dictionary, Draft Revision 2000

We'll begin by looking closely at the OED definition of the word "manifesto", and discuss the senses in which Marx's pamphlet and Negroponte's book fit the definition. We'll try to identify the "cause, theory or argument" in both works.

Marx's Manifesto of the Communist Party

"The transition from an industrial age to a post-industrial or information age has been discussed so much and for so long that we may not have noticed that we are passing into a post-information age. The industrial age, very much an age of atoms, gave us the concept of mass production, with the economies that come from manufacturing with uniform and repetitious methods in any one given space and time. The information age, the age of computers, showed us the same economies of scale, but with less regard for space and time. The manufacturing of bits could happen anywhere, at any time, and, for example, move among the stock markets of New York, London, and Tokyo as if they were three adjacent machine tools." Nicholas Negroponte, Being Digital, 1995

"The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionising the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society. Conservation of the old modes of production in unaltered form, was, on the contrary, the first condition of existence for all earlier industrial classes. Constant revolutionising of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his, real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind." Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto, 1848.

This afternoon at 3 p.m. there will be a reading of a play by Howard Zinn called Marx in Soho. The play imagines what Marx would make of (our) contemporary life, and we'll begin our discussion of Marx's text by trying to do this same sort of imagining. For starters:

For Next Time: Finish The Communist Manifesto if you haven't already done so and, for Friday prepare a Marxian interpretation of any of the events reported in Risks (any issue is fine).

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