Californian Ideology
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Richard Barbrook
Andy Cameron
Californian Ideology
John Perry Barlow
Louis Rossetto

Forward Into the Past
part 7

Despite the eventual emancipation of the slaves and the victories of the civil rights movement, racial segregation still lies at the centre of American politics - especially on the West Coast. In the 1994 election for governor in California, Pete Wilson, the Republican candidate, won through a vicious anti-immigrant campaign. Nationally, the triumph of Gingrich's Republican party in the legislative elections was based on the mobilisation of 'angry white males' against the supposed threat from black welfare scroungers, immigrants from Mexico and other uppity minorities. These politicians have reaped the electoral benefits of the increasing polarisation between the mainly white, affluent suburbanites - most of whom vote - and the largely non-white, poorer inner city dwellers - most of whom don't vote [33].

Although they retain some hippie ideals, many Californian ideologues have found it impossible to take a clear stand against the divisive policies of the Republicans. This is because the hi-tech and media industries are a key element of the New Right electoral coalition. In part, both capitalists and well- paid workers fear that the open acknowledgement of public funding of their companies would justify tax rises to pay for desperately needed spending on health care, environmental protection, housing, public transport and education. More importantly, many members of the 'virtual class' want to be seduced by the libertarian rhetoric and technological enthusiasm of the New Right. Working for hi-tech and media companies, they would like to believe that the electronic marketplace can somehow solve America's pressing social and economic problems without any sacrifices on their part. Caught in the contradictions of the Californian Ideology, Gingrich is - as one Wired contributor put it - both their 'friend and foe' [34].

In the USA, a major redistribution of wealth is urgently needed in the long-term economic well-being of the majority of the population. However, this is against the short-term interests of rich white folks, including many members of the 'virtual class'. Rather than share with their poor black or hispanic neighbours, the yuppies instead retreat into their affluent suburbs, protected by armed guards and secure with their private welfare services [35]. The deprived only participate in the information age by providing cheap non-unionised labour for the unhealthy factories of the Silicon Valley chip manufacturers [36]. Even the construction of cyberspace could become an integral part of the fragmentation of American society into antagonistic, racially-determined classes. Already 'red-lined' by profit-hungry telephone companies, the inhabitants of poor inner city areas are now threatened with exclusion from the new on-line services through lack of money [37]. In contrast, members of the 'virtual class' and other professionals can play at being cyberpunks within hyper-reality without having to meet any of their impoverished neighbours. Alongside the ever-widening social divisions, another apartheid is being created between the 'information-rich' and the 'information-poor'. In this hi-tech 'Jeffersonian democracy', the relationship between masters and slaves endures in a new form.

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