***EDIT: quickly in response to skunk’s comment and the “fun with Emerson” idea. Here some R.W. I think everyone should be able to quote at random occasions:
“I rejoice that there are owls. Let them do the idiotic and maniacal hooting for men. It is a sound admirably suited to swamps and twilight woods which no day illustrates, suggesting a vast and undeveloped nature which men have not recognized. They present the stark twilight and unsatisfied thoughts which all have.”
Yes, the unconscious is productive indeed and nothing yields more productive force for the accumulation of capital than the undeveloped twilight woods of our minds. Let us then surrender our brains to the owls, let’s follow Emerson’s advice and escape the productive agency of misguided hooting and live forever freely in ignorance. Strange logic? Yes/no. Thus here the beginning of the strand on affective labor: ***
As promised, here a brief introductory post on the concept of immaterial labor. I do not have tons of time, so I figured I would keep posting details on the issue (which is rather complex) over the next few days and we can discuss them as we go along. This is something that is very interesting to me and in my dissertation I am trying to formulate an account of the precise effects this change in the economic and social organization of capitalism has had/is having on cultural production.
A VERY broad intro into the subject: the concept of immaterial labor is mostly associated with the economic writings of Maurizio Lazzarato, which have recently been picked up and further developed by people such as Michael Hardt, Antonio Negri, Paulo Virno, or Antonella Corsani. Most of the discussions surrounding this topic are primarily carried out in the Italian and French context, but there are also a few German economists who have begun to write about this. The general argument is that we have transitioned into what could be called the third stage of capitalism (the first two being mercantile and industrial in nature). Lazzarato claims that it is not sufficient to talk about “post-industrial” capitalism. Instead we must also examine this on the level of subjectivity–in other words on the level on which the subject is included in the production process. Lazzarato’s assertion is that we have entered a stage of capitalist accumulation in which the immaterial labor processes are almost more important than the material ones–this precisely has been taken up by Hardt in his formulation of “affective labor,” or by Corsani in her analysis of what she calls “cognitive capitalism.” The realization that the main productive forces are internalized, what D&G would call the desiring machines, as well as the understanding of affect as the primary force behind the positive dissemination of information must the include the necessity to articulate precisely the ways in which the individual subject is (often unconsciously) involved in a production process that is assumed to exist in an exteriorized relation to the subject. Hence here the link to Baudrillard’s assertion that we have indeed passed the age that can be analyzed from a Foucauldian angle, as discipline and surveillance do not serve the purpose of rigorous categorization any more. Instead what we find is the internalization of labor processes and the abolition of centrally regulating structures in the attempt to create a decentralized, anarchic and semi-autonomous production process that should precisely not be perceived as production, but as an exercise in democracy, freedom and rhizomatically liberating information exchange.
Here a short section from Lazzarato that introduces the general concept. Let me kow what you think and we can begin a basic discussion of the implications of this. I will then continue to add more detailed info and theoretical arguments as we go along.
An initial synthesis of these results – framed in terms of an attempt to define the technical and subjective-political composition of the working class – can be expressed in the concept of immaterial labor, which is defined as the labor that produces the informational and cultural concent of the commodity. The concept of immaterial labor refers to two different aspects of labor. On the one hand, as regards the “informational content” of the commodity, it refers directly to the changes taking place in workers’ labor processes in big companies in the industrial and tertiary sectors, where the skills involved in direct labor arc increasingly skills involving cybernetics and computer control (and horizontal and vertical communication). On che other hand, as regards the activity that produces the “cultural content” of the commodity, immaterial labor involves a series of activities that arc not normally recognized as “work” – in other words, the kinds of activities involved in defining and fixing cultural and artistic standards, fashions, tastes, consumer norms, and, more strategically, public opinion. Once the privileged domain of the bourgeoisie and its children, these activities have since the end of the 1970s become thedomain of what we have come to define as “mass intellectuality.” The profound changes in these strategic sectors have radically modified not only the composition, management, and regulation of the workforce – the organization of production – but also, and more deeply, the role and function of intellectuals and their activities within society.