Welcome to Coppertown!

“Just sit wherever!” a frazzled man mumbled to me while shoving a menu in my hand. Before I could politely tell him I just wanted to grab a coffee, he was already hastily shuffling his way back to the kitchen. I reluctantly gave up and decided to take a seat at the breakfast bar in the back.

From the minute I walked into the Coopertown Diner, it was hard to not be aware of the employees running around, anxiously working to maintain the diner.  I immediately thought about the Deleuze’s control society and Karl Marx.

The diner is a small control society as described by Deleuze. It is a society that has created social norms that are readily accepted and not questioned. It is clear that there is a different type of service expected in a diner that is opened for 24 hours. Just honestly think about it, what kind of service do you expect when sitting down for a quick breakfast at a diner? What kind of service do you expect when making reservations at a five star restaurant? At the Coppertown Diner, the interaction I had with my waiter was limited to his hasty greeting upon my arrival, quickly handing me my coffee, and accidently spilling some orange juice on my shoes on the way out. This is all acceptable though as part of this controlled society. Ok, maybe somewhat acceptable, the orange juice was a little much, but I thought nothing of the limited interaction with the waiter. That is one of the norms in a diner.

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The orange juice. Not that I’m bitter.

I’m not trying to even paint a negative picture of diners opened for 24 hours – since I can safely say I enjoy grabbing a quick meal there– but I wish to explore how this society is controlled by a different set of norms. What is interesting about this scenario is not so much that it is controlled by some form of technology among the workers, but it is controlled by the fact that they lack certain technologies. They did not have anything electronic and their cash register literally looked older than I am. And in a sense, that shows how much they are controlled by technology, or the lack of it. They are forced to catch up, provide fast service with a lack of technological help. I watched them answer the phone, scribble down an order, deliver the paper to the chef, and then take the order to the customer by bike. Like so many other diners, they attempt to provide the expected fast service with a lack of technology.

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The factory itself!

Everything was moving in hyper speed at the diner.  Despite their lack of technology, the diner was it’s own little factory machine. When considering Heidegger who talks about how humans oversee technology and supervise it, Coppertown diner really doesn’t follow that idea. Rather than the workers supervising of overseeing the production of this machine that is the diner, they are the cogs and gears that make up that various parts of the machine. They are delivering food, making food, taking orders, and cleaning up. In essence, they are what really makes up the diner.

With all that being said, how could I so heavily discuss workers without bringing up Marx? This diner has Marx written all over it. The obvious ideas come to mind about the workers possibly being fixed capital in this factory setting, but what intrigues me more is what their role as laborers is. Marx talks about alienated and non alienated labor.  He described alienated labor as basically factory work where laborers spend their time in a factory for money and aren’t exactly creating anything pertinent to their own survival. On the other hand, Marx talks about non alienated labor where one works for themselves and gathers all the food they need and creates their own shelter. So we can obviously argue that this is an example of alienated labor, as the majority of work in America is. However, once I started to think about it more carefully, I thought about how I saw the workers making their own food and drinking the coffee they made. Could that possibly be an example of non alienated labor? Even though they are using resources of the factory, they are still providing food for themselves within the diner. Or is that just the diner factory operating with the laborers as cogs of the machine supplying energy to themselves to continue the operation of the factory?

 -Ashley Flor

Deleuze, Gilles. “Postscript on the Societies of Control.” Gilles Deleuze. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Sept. 2013.

Heidegger, Martin. “The Question Concerning Technology.” The Question concerning Technology, and Other Essays. New York & London: Harper & Row, 1977. 3-35. Print.

Marx, Karl. “The Fragment on Machines.” The Grundrisse. New York: Harper & Row, 1971. 690-712. Print.

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~ by ashleyflor on September 25, 2013.

One Response to “Welcome to Coppertown!”

  1. I would read this because of the orange juice picture with the “not that I’m bitter” caption. I want to know what the story behind that is.

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