The new information and communications technologies are changing not just entertainment and leisure pursuits but, potentially, all spheres of society: work (robotics, office technology); political management; policing and military activities (electronic warfare); communication; education (distance learning); consumption (electronic funds transfer, new retailing technologies). If the combined, though disaggregated, forces of corporate capital and political interests succeed in the systematic introduction of these new technologies-from robotics and data banks to the Internet and virtual reality games, then social life will be transformed in almost all aspects. The strategic development of ICTs will, then, have reverberations throughout the social structures of advanced capitalist societies.
The real meaning and significance of this can be more fully grasped if we situate the so-called information revolution in its historical context. But in terms of what kind of history? The history of 'technological revolutions'? The economic history of 'long waves' in capitalist growth (as theorised by Kondratieff and Schumpeter)? Neither of these, in fact. We prefer to draw upon the work of Jean-Paul de Gaudemar, 1 who periodises capitalist development in terms of the ways in which capital uses labour power and how populations are 'mobilised'. Gaudemar refers to the early nineteenth century as the period of 'absolute mobilisation'. At this time the traditional way of life of rural populations was systematically undermined in order to create a factory workforce. This process involved disciplinary efforts, both within the factory and across the fabric of everyday life: on the one hand, the division of labour, waged employment, time-thrift, and the discipline of the 'factory-prison'; on the other hand, the undermining of traditional culture (fairs, sports, etc.), the control of social space, and the moralisation of the workforce through religion and schooling.