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A review of Biocapital by Kaushik Rajan and Network Culture by Tiziana Terranova

Organisations are organic

Gone are the days when an economy or an economic firm would be a top down affair, which relied on the strategy (or business idea or cutting edge technology of an individual) from a single source and the implementation of that strategy was the job of  the multitude of waged labour. Today, the economic space is vastly different from what it was two decade ago and interestingly the traditional distinctions between the elements of production and consumption have blurred - the consumer is an element in the production process, the strategist is waged labour and the capitalist owner  is at best a facilitator with an input in management strategy. This note looks a this modern phenomena by reviewing the works of two authors, Biocapital by Kaushik Rajan and Network Culture by Tiziana Terranova. While essentially studying the nature of capitalism in modern times, Rajan has used case studies to illustrate the functioning of modern capitalistic firms, and governments whereas Terranova has used expositions of theorists of build her case of an understanding of the linkages between the "New Economy" and the labour inputs therein, free and paid. Both these are excellent treatises on the subject  although a bit verbose.

Firms and organisations are biological in their nature and not rule bound mathematical equations (or even economic theory for that matter). Since the advent of what is euphemistically known as the knowledge age, the distances that inhibited collaboration have disappeared as have the geographical limitations to expanding business. This has resulted in organisations and even distinct business areas which are prevalent globally and work on strategies which are applicable to their entire business. The definition of exploitation too has undergone a change and the interest of the firm will tend to reflect the interest of the owners and not the workers (or Labour). In this sense the knowledge economy has not changed the traditional owner-labour relationship.

There are subtle differences between the approaches that Rajan and Terranova have used. First of course if is the methodology of the study. While it cannot be said that these studies present contrary or even differing analysis (except that Rajan uses live research and Terranova uses more theoretical models), there is some element of juxtaposed conclusions. While Rajan says owners will act in their own selfish interest which may or may not be aligned with the core, long term, economic objectives of the firm; Terranova says that the organisation will work as a whole (what she refers to as bio-turn) where the functions and objectives of the different elements (owners, internet users, web-designers, software engineers, entrepreneurs etc.) will largely remain constant.

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