Gee, James Paul, and Colin Lankshear.”The New Work Order: Critical Language Awareness and ‘Fast Capitalist’ Texts.” Discourse 16 (1995): 5‐19.

  • “Fast capitalist” texts are texts written by business managers and consultants.  These texts attempt to ease workers into the order of fast capitalism or the distributed workplace that Shoshanna Zuboff anticipates, others celebrate, and Deleuze and Haraway decry.  These texts stress workplace collaboration, active problem-solving, learning in context, alternative assessment, communities of practice, and the heavy integration of technology (5).  Because this emergent capitalism is distributed, G/L note that fast capitalist texts often appropriate a lot of the terms deployed in postmodern critical theory (an irony considering that theory is typically very critical of capitalism).
  • G/L want to draw attention to language through “critical language awareness” in order to critique and engage this latest emergent capitalist constellation.  Specifically, they consider “self-directed learning” and “empowerment” as two key words in the fast capitalist discourse.  [1. To see work you’ve done on this topic before check out your post on distributed capitalism.]
  • Fast capitalism is the distributed “net work” that Spinuzzi describes in his works.  It is also the kind of antinomianist celebration of the dissolution of hierarchies and workplace structures that folks at The Baffler described (Thomas Frank) during the 1990s.  In other words, this is the “Do the Dew” version of capitalism – innovate, make relationships, be local, be distributed, be deskilled.
  • Of course, as others have noted, fast capitalism results in the dissolution of workplace and home boundaries.  In the case of knowledge workers, it also results in the precarious labor situation of being constantly partially employed via contractual agreement (10-11); however, if you’re not a knowledge worker there really isn’t a space for you in the new order.
  • G/L argue that we need to understand the complex systems that constitute the fast capitalist order in order to protect ourselves from the dangers they pose.  This “meta-level” understanding can be deployed toward productive ends when individuals engage “critical language awareness” to critique the fast capitalist system (or at least the texts that characterize it) (10).
  • Gee’s definition of “Discourses” : “ways of thinking, believing, acting, interacting, speaking, listening, valuing (sometimes, too, reading and writing) at appropriate times and places with appropriate objects so as to signal membership in a particular social group” (11).
  • Central critique: when fast capitalist texts appropriate contested terms by resituating them in particular (capitalist) discourses they align the terms and the discourse with particular ideologies. . . ideologies that can often times be destructive and deceptive.

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