I will firstly point out five issues that could enlighten, in a stenographic way, the genealogy and meaning of co-research, its political peculiarity, and the how it is different from workers’ inquiry.
The call for the Politics of Workers' Inquiry conference asked specifically for methodological contributions. I told a kind of ghost story about a tribe of phantoms who occasionally reappear. It concerned an organization called the Art Workers Coalition (AWC), formed in early 1969 after a spectacular protest in the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Through its regular open meetings akin to the peoples' assemblies of recent times, the AWC aired grievances against museums and markets of art. A bill of particulars was drafted called the Ten Points.
If one would like to trace back to the beginnings of social sciences he or she should search for the objects or phenomena which first allowed these disciplines to anchor their initial concepts and guide their empirical research. For such phenomena serve both as objects of inquiry in their own right and as openings to investigations reaching far beyond the initial domain. Such phenomena were (which is quite uncontroversial) the division of labour and religion.
At a first glance brands would seem to be the opposite, or indeed the negation of ethics. Built on superficial sign values instead of substance; glitzy surfaces instead of depth, and vacuous promises in lieu of bounding commitments, brands are part of the edifice of post-modern consumer society that, as Zygmunt Bauman (2008) and many others before him have argued, tends to negate the very possibility of ethics.