Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Immaterial labour links

Some of these articles may be of interest if you'd like to look into the issue of 'immaterial labour' and its relation to autonomia, and indeed to Marx's own labour theory of value.

Immaterial labour is a concept used to explain the sense in which much of the produce of labour under contemporary capitalism does not involve producing physical things, but rather knowledge, 'affects' (the production of emotions, well being, etc.), and conducting communication. As these are intangible it can seem hard to consider them under the rubric of Marx's account.

Some writers - and I'm thinking mainly of Negri here, as he's the one I'm most familiar with - argue that this corresponds to a potential emancipation of labour from the 'tyranny' of 'measure', i.e. from regulating it and ordering it according to fixed economic laws (the implication being that any militant form of Marxism that did not ditch the labour theory of value would end up replicating a form of capitalism, or at least a form of social domination). According to this view, 'labour' should not be thought solely in terms of the workplace or in terms of physical products; rather, it should be considered as the production of the very life of society itself (Negri adopts Foucault's notion of 'biopolitics' here). This means that labour is in a position to simply shrug off the 'parasite' of capitalism and produce social life according to its own needs and desires (you can see the influence of autonomia here in the primacy given to labour over capital).

A pretty useful summary of the idea, presented via a critique, can be found here. This article may be useful as it argues against the concept on the basis of Marx's own account.

An example of Negri's rejection of the imposition of measure on labour can found here - well worth a look

...and you may also be interested in David Graeber's excellent commentary on the Art and Immaterial Labour conference held at the Tate a few years ago (more to do with the role of radicalism within art and academia than anything else if I remember righhtly, but it's a great text nonetheless).

Criticisms of the related Italian Marxists Virno and De Angelis, and of their use of the now famous concepts of 'multitude' and 'the commons' respectively, can be found here and here.

Finally, the whole of Hardt and Negri's Empire is available online here


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