The Tribe of Cool

Alan Liu

in The Laws of Cool

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print October 2004 | ISBN: 9780226486987
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226487007 | DOI:
The Tribe of Cool

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In his 1974 book Society against the State, the French anthropologist Pierre Clastres argues that there are societies without politics. Most Indian tribes of the Americas, Clastres says, “are headed by leaders and chiefs,” but “none of these caciques possesses any power.” The tribe of the cubicle, like the tribe of the forest, inhabits a sociality of mandatory disempowerment. The laws of this sociality—the post-industrial sociality of “neocorporatism” and informationalism—can be summarized as follows: the law of “nature,” the law of mobility, the law of modularity, the law of random access, the law of exchange, and the law of cool. These, or something very like these, are the laws of cool. These are the laws of knowledge work that now make it mandatory to be cool or at least—trained by cool consumer cultures that are really a lifelong, parallel education system teaching us how to live under the dominion of producer culture (the “corporate culture” of the new workplace)—to aspire to be cool.

Keywords: Society against the State; Pierre Clastres; societies; politics; Indian tribes; cool; sociality; knowledge work; laws; producer culture

Chapter.  5165 words. 

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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