The Logic of Indifference
In all the preceding pages I have used the language of neutrality and indiffer-
ence, instead of the more common and readily understood term—alienation—
to highlight the problems of global labor and social life. But, isn’t call center
work a perfect example of alienated labor? As the agents perform dialer- paced
work at night in an alien language and culture, following alien laws and time,
aren’t they experiencing estrangement from their work, culture, work process,
and product and engaging in anything but “free conscious activity” proposed
by Marx as the touchstone for unalienated labor?
Let me point out several reasons for my hesitation in using the term alien-
ation or passing judgment on call center work. First, I have attempted a non-
normative analysis with a nonprescriptive ethic. One of the major points of
this book is to point out divergent tracks of global life where independent
prescriptions from different spheres preclude any universal, all- inclusive
norm for unalienated labor. Let me be clear I am not using “universal norm”
as a transhistorical absolute. I use it only in the limited sense of Haberma-
sian consensus, whereby even scientific truths are not eternal but limited to
historical periods of scientific consensus (otherwise, science would never be
able to destroy its past understandings). Even in this limited sense, I do not
see a normative consensus between autonomous discourses of different
Of course, the biased social scientist in me sees the social prescription
against night work as a universal solution: a prohibition on all night work on
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