Kyle Cohen


The Ends of the Office: A Critique of the “White-Collar” Workplace

Advised by Ann Forsyth

Although it is arguably the primary engine of capitalist urbanization, the modern office has largely avoided critical scrutiny as a physical site of labor. In this thesis, I explore the geohistorical developments that have led to the establishment of the office as a fundamental fixture of the American landscape in order to situate it within the present neoliberal capitalist regime. I hold that the office is (and has been) incompatible with the requirements of accumulation and instead primarily serves an ideological function as an embodiment of inherited power dynamics. These conditions have left the office at risk of a restructuring, similar to what was seen with the American factory and deindustrialization but along digital rather than territorial lines. As such, the office stands at a crossroads between a continuation of the status quo of subjugation or a more pervasive form of exploitation, with implications that extend far beyond the cubicle.

Interior of a single floor of a multiple story building under construction with bare concrete walls and floors, and HVAC and fire sprinkler systems exposed.