Spend Your Money Before it Rots: An Interview with Douglas Rushkoff

In a recent interview by new media artist Peggy Nelson, posted on Reality Sandwich, media ecologist Douglas Rushkoff talks about his new book, Beyond Life Inc. Starting with the origin of the "corporation" way back in the Middle Ages -- not as dark as we might have been led to believe -- Rushkoff traces the evolution of currency...how money was based on grain receipts, which meant it had to be spent as quickly as possible lest the grain rot or get eaten. Economies were based on local movement of money. Then currency became centralized by the king, and based on gold. In the mid-20th century, money became based on belief, which, as it turns out, has been pretty powerful.

In the midst of this discussion, Rushkoff brings up the rise of public relations, how corporations began to mediate the public's experiences beginning in the 1920s. (Although he doesn't make the connection in this interview, this mirrors the rise of modern consumer advertising, which started in the late 1800s.)

A particularly quotable part of the interview occurs in his discussion of the "science fiction" of our reality. He writes:
We've mistaken our jobs for work. We've mistaken our bank accounts for savings. We've mistaken our 401k investments for our future. We've mistaken our property for assets, and our assets for the world. We have these places where we live, then they become property that we own, then they become mortgages that we owe, then they become mortgage-backed loans that our pensions finance, then they become packages of debt, and so on and so on. We've been living in a world where the further up the chain of abstraction you operate, the wealthier you are.
An alternative to this model, he argues, is a modern barter system -- one that redefines work outside of the corporation, one where instead of money, tangible and useful actions or goods are swapped.

It's a thought-provoking piece, and the book should be interesting as well. Particularly because the book will be absent of the after-comments that do little to dispel rumors of theory's irrelevance.

Head on over to Reality Sandwich to read the interview.
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  1. Anonymous5:01 PM

    Interesting post! Using an historical approach to examine the current global financial crisis is definitely revealing. What is frustratingly obvious is that the wealthy remain wealthy and the poor remain poor. Is this the historical trajectory that humanity will forever face?


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