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Kavita Phillip’s essay is ambitious. She takes both Lawrences to task on their constructions of the pirate, all while developing a theory of the pirate within the context of nationalism, gender, race, and the very nature of authorship. I’m pretty compelled by her argument, especially since the pirate-function now permits those who have degenerated from the national body to use their subjectivity against their own oppression (ding ding ding, Barthes anyone?).

I’m thinking about Phillip’s writing within the current apoplexy surrounding writing-as-paid-work among all these NYC media types, including industry doyens like Choire Sicha and Nick Denton. What has been so striking to me about the debate is its tardiness; it is perfectly clear now that the bloated managerial class of the various media industries in the US is still populated with people thinking about the new things in old ways (not a digital native among them, I guarantee you). But on the other hand, the debate is most damaging to those not included in it: the young writers trying to get their start in the industry (full disclosure, I’m one of them). Taking Phillip’s ideas into consideration, I’m wondering to what extent the young are among the oppressed classes that ought to make use of the pirate-function, if not to enrich ourselves by making cultural objects but rather to disrupt an industry that has since its beginning exploited young people as they attempt to “establish their market value.” Change, after all, is a temporal process. Generational revolution seems to me to be the only way to salvage an industry convulsed by its own confusion over its relevance.

In any case, what would enacting the pirate-function look like in a world that still operates within late capitalist logics? I mean, what would it really look like? There seems to me to be a limit to the power of the pirate-function without there being a broader societal recognition that we already live within Liang’s illegal media city, that there is more than one type of capital that can be accumulated (social vs. cultural vs. symbolic, for example).