“The Space”

Capitalism’s new word for conquest

Paul Greenberg

--

Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash

When an entrepreneur is looking to automate, privatize or otherwise devalue your job he’ll start by referring to your profession as being part of a “space.” A teacher is in the “Education Space.” A rancher is in the “Protein Space.” A nurse, a doctor — the “Healthcare Space.” Formerly those different ways of making a living would have had verbal boundaries that protected the worker from the intrepid downsizer. A teacher once found employment in the “field” of pedagogy. Doctors and nurses would tend to the sick within a “practice”; farmers brought food to market through the auspices of an agricultural “community.”

Words matter and capital knows this. Call something a “space” and you’ve suddenly freed it up from the gravity of institutional oversight, regulation and respect. Workers in an industry have irritating things like unions. Communities have people who will punch you in the face if you insult their friends and families. Practices do exactly that — practice and improve, mentor and nourish. A line of respect runs through all these words, grounding their participants in a web of mutual responsibilities.

In a space you are just that: in space. The boundaries are no longer physical, allowing the unseen hand of capital to trim and rejigger with tools upon which the former communitarian has no lever. In “The Space” the public sector that was created for the common good with your tax dollars easily elides into private oversight where investors find a way to withdraw your taxes as profit.

So next time you hear someone trying to put you or what you do into a “space” take a beat and correct them. Tell them that social security, intellectual property, medicare, public education, and good paying union jobs are not part of some vast information network that can be improved through an algorithm.

And if they don’t listen?

Well, you can always punch them in the face.

--

--

Paul Greenberg

New York Times bestselling author of Four Fish as well as The Climate Diet and Goodbye Phone, Hello World paulgreenberg.org