Friday, November 19, 2010

To Bartleby, or not to Bartleby


AS WE JOIN MIDGE AND CINDY, CINDY HAS RELUCTANTLY AGREED TO CONSIDER JOINING THE WORKFORCE...

john zerzan work cartoon

john zerzan work cartoon

john zerzan work cartoon

john zerzan work cartoon

john zerzan work cartoon

john zerzan work cartoon

john zerzan work cartoon
(from a poster produced by John Zerzan and Dan Todd, which originally
appeared in the booklet Adventures in Subversion: Flyers & Posters, 1981-85)


* * *

BARTLEBYING

"Based on the fictional character Bartleby, this is a game played between two temps, which the full-time members of the staff can bet on. The objective is for both temps to remain entirely inactive for the duration of their assignment. They achieve this by maintaining an inscrutable 'poker face' whenever asked to do anything. Any actual work done loses points and the stakes can be raised by taking extremely long lunch breaks. These can be matched by their opponent taking monumental tea or cigarette breaks. The winner is the temp who has not done a stroke of work yet possesses a time sheet that will generate a full day's pay." --from The Chap Manifesto by Gustav Temple and Vic Darkwood


bartlebying chap manifesto bartleby work


* * *

"Offices have the distinct advantage of providing fiscal recompense somewhat greater than the minimum wage, which in turn reduces the period of hard labor that you are obliged to endure. But beware, many pitfalls await the unsuspecting. The modern business employs various tactics to break down the spirit of its employees. These include the offer of permanent positions, promotions and bonuses, and sending their staff on 'motivational weekends' in order to brainwash them into thinking that what they are doing is 'team-oriented' and 'worthwhile'. A high level of concentration must be maintained at all times to avoid being corrupted by such frippery. As long as you keep your wits about you, you will soon realise that the world of work simply involves shuffling the world's matter about from A to B and back again, at somebody else's behest and for somebody else's benefit. This 'matter' may take form of pieces of paper, electrical pulses on a computer screen, currency, metal ores or foodstuffs, but essentially the idea is always the same." --The Chap Manifesto


il posto olmi


4 comments:

Hectocotylus said...

In his essay Bartleby; or The Forumla, Deleuze illuminates the differences between saying "no" and "preferring not to":

"I would prefer nothing to something: not a will to nothingness, but the growth of a nothingness of the will. Bartleby has won the right to survive, that is, to remain immobile and upright before a blind wall. [...] Being as being and nothing more. He is urged to say yes or no. But if he said no (to collating, running errands...), or if he said yes (to copying), he would quickly be defeated and judged useless, and would not survive. He can survive only by whirling in a suspense that keeps everyone at a distance. His means of survival is to prefer not to collate, but thereby also not to prefer copying. He had to refuse the former in order to render the latter impossible. The formula [I would prefer not to] has two phases and continually recharges itself by passing again and again through the same states. This is why the attorney has the vertiginous impression, each time, that everything is starting over again from zero."

[...]

"If Bartleby had refused, he could still be seen as a rebel or insurrectionary, and as such would still have a social role. But the formula stymies all speech acts, and at the same time, it makes Bartleby a pure outsider to whom no social position can be attributed. This is what the attorney glimpses with dread: all his hopes of bringing Bartleby back to reason are dashed because they rest on a logic of presuppositions according to which an employer "expects" to be obeyed, or a kind friend listened to, whereas Bartleby has invented a new logic, a logic of preference, which is enough to undermine the presuppositions of language as a whole."

Andrew said...

I've always thought of Bartelby of the inversion of Kafka's studious paper-pushers. Two sides of the same coin where a greater understanding of the system lies in between. I've never read Deleuze and I guess I should revisit Bartelby. Great post by the way.

Hectocotylus said...

Bartleby; or The Forumla is the only Deleuze I've read. I've been curious about his reflections on cinema for a long time, as well as his work with Guattari. One day, one day...

I just revisited Bartleby last week myself and was delighted to (re)discover how comical it is (I either forgot - or just plain missed a lot of it - the first time around). One of my all time favorite novellas, perhaps second only to Tolstoy's The Death of Ivan Ilyich.

The 2001 film version (starring a perfectly cast Crispin Glover as Bartleby) focuses slightly too much on the strange atmosphere and absurd comedy, but it's worthwhile nonetheless. There are so many directions one could take the story... As a kind of inversion to Kafka's paper-pushers, the 2001 film -- with its strange, anachronistic decor and bright colors -- could be said to agree with you.

Hectocotylus said...

...that would be Bartleby; or The Formula in both instances, of course. (ah, the perils of copy and paste!)