In the fifteen years since its publication, this triangulation has become even more evident. The expansion of the Internet has given ideological and material support to contemporary trends toward increased flexibility of the workforce, continuous reskilling, freelance work, and the diffusion of practices such as "supplementing" bringing supplementary work home from the conventional office. Advertising campaigns and business manuals suggest that the Internet is not only a site of disintermediation embodying the famous death of the middle man, from bookshops to travel agencies to computer stores , but also the means through which a flexible, collective intelligence has come into being.
This essay does not seek to offer a judgment on the "effects" of the Internet, but rather to map the way in which the Internet connects to the autonomist "social factory. It is fundamental to move beyond the notion that cyberspace is about escaping reality in order to understand how the reality of the Internet is deeply connected to the development of late postindustrial societies as a whole. Cultural and technical work is central to the Internet but is also a widespread activity throughout advanced capitalist societies.
I argue that such labor is not exclusive to the so-called knowledge workers, but is a pervasive feature of the postindustrial economy. The pervasiveness of such production questions the legitimacy of a fixed distinction between production and consumption, labor and culture. It also undermines Gilroy's distinction between work as "servitude, misery and subordination" and artistic expression as the means to self-fashioning and communal liberation. The increasingly blurred territory between production and consumption, work and cultural expression, however, does not signal the recomposition of the alienated Marxist worker.
The Internet does not automatically turn every user into an active producer, and every worker into a creative subject. The process whereby production and consumption are reconfigured within the category of free labor signals the unfolding of a different rather than completely new logic of value, whose operations need careful analysis. In discussing these developments, I will also draw on debates circulating across Internet sites.
On-line debates in, for example, nettime, telepolis, rhizome and c-theory, are one of the manifestations of the surplus value engendered by the digital economy, a hyper-production that can only be partly reabsorbed by capital. The term digital economy has recently emerged as a way to summarize some of the processes described above. As a term, it seems to describe a formation that intersects on the one hand with the postmodern cultural economy the media, the university, and the arts and on the other hand with the information industry the information and communication complex.
Such an intersection of two different fields of production constitutes a challenge to a theoretical and practical engagement with the question of labor, a question that has become marginal for media studies as compared with questions of ownership within political economy and consumption within cultural studies. In Richard Barbrook's definition, the digital economy is characterized by the emergence of new technologies computer networks and new types of workers the digital artisans. Josephine Bosma et al. Brooklyn, N.
According to Barbrook, the digital economy is a mixed economy: it includes a public element the state's funding of the original research that produced Arpanet, the financial support to academic activities that had a substantial role in shaping the culture of the Internet ; a market-driven element a latecomer that tries to appropriate the digital economy by reintroducing commodification ; and a gift economy element, the true expression of the cutting edge of capitalist production that prepares its eventual overcoming into a future "anarcho-communism":.
Within the developed world, most politicians and corporate leaders believe that the future of capitalism lies in the commodification of information Yet at the "cutting-edge" of the emerging information society, money-commodity relations play a secondary role to those created by a really existing form of anarcho-communism. For most of its users, the net is somewhere to work, play, love, learn and discuss with other people Unrestricted by physical distance, they collaborate with each other without the direct mediation of money and politics. Unconcerned about copyright, they give and receive information without thought of payment.
In the absence of states or markets to mediate social bonds, network communities are instead formed through the mutual obligations created by gifts of time and ideas. From a Marxist-Hegelian angle, Barbrook sees the high-tech gift economy as a process of overcoming capitalism from the inside. The high-tech gift economy is a pioneering moment that transcends both the purism of the New Left do-it-yourself culture and the neoliberalism of the free market ideologues: "money-commodity and gift relations are not just in conflict with each other, but also co-exist in symbiosis.
However, the potlatch and the economy ultimately remain irreconcilable, and the market economy is always threatening to reprivatize the common enclaves of the gift economy. Commodification, the reimposition of a regime of property, is, in Barbrook's opinion, the main strategy through which capitalism tries to reabsorb the anarcho-communism of the Net into its folds.
I believe that Barbrook overemphasizes the autonomy of the high-tech gift economy from capitalism. The processes of exchange that characterize the Internet are not simply the reemergence of communism within the cutting edge of the economy, a repressed other that resurfaces just at the moment when communism seems defeated. It is important to remember that the gift economy, as part of a larger digital economy, is itself an important force within the reproduction of the labor force in late capitalism as a whole. The provision of "free labor," as we will see later, is a fundamental moment in the creation of value in the digital economies.
As will be made clear, the conditions that make free labor an important element of the digital economy are based in a difficult, experimental compromise between the historically rooted cultural and affective desire for creative production of the kind more commonly associated with Gilroy's emphasis on "individual self-fashioning and communal liberation" and the current capitalist emphasis on knowledge as the main source of value-added.
The volunteers for America Online, the NetSlaves, and the amateur Web designers are not working only because capital wants them to; they are acting out a desire for affective and cultural production that is nonetheless real just because it is socially shaped. The cultural, technical, and creative work that supports the digital economy has been made possible by the development of capital beyond the early industrial and Fordist modes of production and therefore is particularly abundant in those areas where post-Fordism has been at work for a few decades.
In the overdeveloped countries, the end of the factory has spelled out the obsolescence of the old working class, but it has also produced generations of workers who have been repeatedly addressed as active consumers of meaningful commodities. Free labor is the moment where this knowledgeable consumption of culture is translated into productive activities that are pleasurably embraced and at the same time often shamelessly exploited.
Management theory is also increasingly concerned with the question of knowledge work, that indefinable quality that is essential to the processes of stimulating innovation and achieving the goals of competitiveness. For example, Don Tapscott, in a classic example of managerial literature, The Digital Economy , describes the digital economy as a "new economy based on the networking of human intelligence.
Human intelligence provides the much needed value-added, which is essential to the economic health of the organization. Human intelligence, however, also poses a problem: it cannot be managed in quite the same way as more traditional types of labor. Knowledge workers need open organizational structures to produce, because the production of knowledge is rooted in collaboration, that is, in what Barbrook defined as the "gift economy":.
The concept of supervision and management is changing to team-based structures. Anyone responsible for managing knowledge workers knows they cannot be "managed" in the traditional sense. Often they have specialized knowledge and skills that cannot be matched or even understood by management. A new challenge to management is first to attract and retain these assets by marketing the organization to them, and second to provide the creative and open communications environment where such workers can effectively apply and enhance their knowledge.
For Tapscott, therefore, the digital economy magically resolves the contradictions of industrial societies, such as class struggle: while in the industrial economy the "worker tried to achieve fulfillment through leisure [and] Such means of production need to be cultivated by encouraging the worker to participate in a culture of exchange, whose flows are mainly kept within the company but also need to involve an "outside," a contact with the fast-moving world of knowledge in general.
The convention, the exhibition, and the conference - the more traditional ways of supporting this general exchange - are supplemented by network technologies both inside and outside the company. Although the traffic of these flows of knowledge needs to be monitored hence the corporate concerns about the use of intranets , the Internet effectively functions as a channel through which "human intelligence" renews its capacity to produce.
This essay looks beyond the totalizing hype of the managerial literature but also beyond some of the conceptual limits of Barbrook's work. It looks at some possible explanation for the coexistence, within the debate about the digital economy, of discourses that see it as an oppositional movement and others that see it as a functional development to new mechanisms of extraction of value. Is the end of Marxist alienation wished for by the manager guru the same thing as the gift economy heralded by leftist discourse?
We can start undoing this deadlock by subtracting the label digital economy from its exclusive anchorage within advanced forms of labor we can start then by depioneering it. This essay describes the digital economy as a specific mechanism of internal "capture" of larger pools of social and cultural knowledge. It is about specific forms of production Web design, multimedia production, digital services, and so on , but is also about forms of labor we do not immediately recognize as such: chat, real-life stories, mailing lists, amateur newsletters, and so on.
These types of cultural and technical labor are not produced by capitalism in any direct, cause-and-effect fashion; that is, they have not developed simply as an answer to the economic needs of capital. This process is usually considered the end of a particular cultural formation, or at least the end of its "authentic" phase. After incorporation, local cultures are picked up and distributed globally, thus contributing to cultural hybridization or cultural imperialism depending on whom you listen to. Rather than capital "incorporating" from the outside the authentic fruits of the collective imagination, it seems more reasonable to think of cultural flows as originating within a field that is always and already capitalism.
Incorporation is not about capital descending on authentic culture but a more immanent process of channeling collective labor even as cultural labor into monetary flows and its structuration within capitalist business practices. Subcultural movements have stuffed the pockets of multinational capitalism for decades.
Nurtured by the consumption of earlier cultural moments, subcultures have provided the look, style, and sounds that sell clothes, CDs, video games, films, and advertising slots on television. This has often happened through the active participation of subcultural members in the production of cultural goods e. London: Routledge, This participation is, as the word suggests, a voluntary phenomenon, although it is regularly accompanied by cries of sellouts. The fruit of collective cultural labor has been not simply appropriated, but voluntarily channeled and controversially structured within capitalist business practices.
The relation between culture, the cultural industry, and labor in these movements is much more complex than the notion of incorporation suggests. In this sense, the digital economy is not a new phenomenon but simply a new phase of this longer history of experimentation. In spite of the numerous, more or less disingenuous endorsements of the democratic potential of the Internet, the links between it and capitalism look a bit too tight for comfort to concerned political minds. It has been very tempting to counteract the naive technological utopianism by pointing out how computer networks are the material and ideological heart of informated capital.
The Internet advertised on television and portrayed by print media seems not just the latest incarnation of capital's inexhaustible search for new markets, but also a full consensus-creating machine, which socializes the mass of proletarianized knowledge workers into the economy of continuous innovation. See the challenging section on work in the high-tech industry in Bosma et al. After all, if we do not get on-line soon, the hype suggests, we will become obsolete, unnecessary, disposable. If we do, we are promised, we will become part of the "hive mind," the immaterial economy of networked, intelligent subjects in charge of speeding up the rhythms of capital's "incessant waves of branching innovations.
Multimedia artists, writers, journalists, software programmers, graphic designers, and activists together with small and large companies are at the core of this project. For some they are its cultural elite, for others a new form of proletarianized labor. According to Andrew Clement, information technologies were introduced as extensions of Taylorist techniques of scientific management to middle-level, rather than clerical, employees.
Such technologies responded to a managerial need for efficient ways to manage intellectual labor. Clement, however, seems to connect this scientific management to the workstation, while he is ready to admit that personal computers introduce an element of autonomy much disliked by management. Accordingly, the digital workers are described as resisting or supporting the project of capital, often in direct relation to their positions in the networked, horizontal, and yet hierarchical world of knowledge work. Any judgment on the political potential of the Internet, then, is tied not only to its much vaunted capacity to allow decentralized access to information but also to the question of who uses the Internet and how.
- Account Options?
- Aristotle on the Apparent Good: Perception, Phantasia, Thought, and Desire.
- Marx Beyond Marx: Lessons on the Grundrisse - AbeBooks - Antonio Negri: X.
If the decentralized structure of the Net is to count for anything at all, the argument goes, then we need to know about its constituent population hence the endless statistics about use, income, gender, and race of Internet users, the most polled, probed, and yet opaque survey material of the world. If this population of Internet users is largely made up of "knowledge workers," then it matters whether these are seen as the owners of elitist cultural and economic power or the avant-garde of new configurations of labor that do not automatically guarantee elite status.
As I argue in this essay, this is a necessary question and yet a misleading one. It is necessary because we have to ask who is participating in the digital economy before we can pass a judgment on it. It is misleading because it implies that all we need to know is how to locate the knowledge workers within a "class," and knowing which class it is will give us an answer to the political potential of the Net as a whole.
If we can prove that knowledge workers are the avant-garde of labor, then the Net becomes a site of resistance; Barbrook, "The High-Tech Gift Economy. Jon Dovey London: Lawrence and Wishart, Even admitting that knowledge workers are indeed fragmented in terms of hierarchy and status won't help us that much; it will still lead to a simple system of categorization, where the Net becomes a field of struggle between the diverse constituents of the knowledge class. The question is further complicated by the stubborn resistance of "knowledge" to quantification: knowledge cannot be exclusively pinned down to specific social segments.
Although the shift from factory to office work, from production to services is widely acknowledged, it just isn't clear why some people qualify and some others do not. The "knowledge worker" is a very contested sociological category. A more interesting move, however, is possible by not looking for the knowledge class within quantifiable parameters and concentrating instead on "labor.
Such an understanding of class also freezes out the flows of culture and money that mobilize the labor force as a whole. In terms of Internet use, it gives rise to the generalized endorsements and condemnations that I have described above and does not explain or make sense of the heterogeneity and yet commonalities of Internet users.
I have therefore found it more useful to think in terms of what the Italian autonomists, and especially Maurizio Lazzarato, have described as immaterial labor. For Lazzarato 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 On the other hand, as regards the activity that produces the "cultural content" of the commodity, immaterial labor involves a series of activities that are 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.
Karl for the Polygraph collective London: Routledge, , Immaterial labor, unlike the knowledge worker, is not completely confined to a specific class formation. Lazzarato insists that this form of labor power is not limited to highly skilled workers but is a form of activity of every productive subject within postindustrial societies.
In the highly skilled worker, these capacities are already there. However, in the young worker, the "precarious worker," and the unemployed youth, these capacities are "virtual," that is they are there but are still undetermined. This means that immaterial labor is a virtuality an undetermined capacity that belongs to the postindustrial productive subjectivity as a whole. For example, the obsessive emphasis on education of s governments can be read as an attempt to stop this virtuality from disappearing or from being channeled into places that would not be as acceptable to the current power structures.
In spite of all the contradictions of advanced capital and its relation to structural unemployment, postmodern governments do not like the completely unemployable. The potentialities of work must be kept alive, the unemployed must undergo continuous training in order both to be monitored and kept alive as some kind of postindustrial reserve force. Nor can they be allowed to channel their energy into the experimental, nomadic, and antiproductive life-styles which in Britain have been so savagely attacked by the Criminal Justice Act in the mids.
The Criminal Justice Act CJA was popularly perceived as an antirave legislation, and most of the campaign against it was organized around the "right to party. See Andrea Natella and Serena Tinari, eds. However, unlike the post-Fordists, and in accordance with his autonomist origins, Lazzarato does not conceive of immaterial labor as purely functional to a new historical phase of capitalism:.
The virtuality of this capacity is neither empty nor ahistoric; it is rather an opening and a potentiality, that have as their historical origins and antecedents the "struggle against work" of the Fordist worker and, in more recent times, the processes of socialization, educational formation, and cultural self-valorization. Lazzarato, "Immaterial Labor," This dispersal of immaterial labor as a virtuality and an actuality problematizes the idea of the "knowledge worker" as a class in the "industrial" sense of the word.
As a collective quality of the labor force, immaterial labor can be understood to pervade the social body with different degrees of intensity. This intensity is produced by the processes of "channeling" a characteristic of the capitalist formation which distributes value according to its logic of profit. The decoding forces of global capitalism have then opened up the possibilities of immaterial labor. If knowledge is inherently collective, it is even more so in the case of the postmodern cultural economy: music, fashion, and information are all produced collectively but are selectively compensated.
Only some companies are picked up by corporate distribution chains in the case of fashion and music; only a few sites are invested in by venture capital. However, it is a form of collective cultural labor that makes these products possible even as the profit is disproportionately appropriated by established corporations. From this point of view, the well-known notion that the Internet materializes a "collective intelligence" is not completely off the mark.
The Internet highlights the existence of networks of immaterial labor and speeds up their accretion into a collective entity. These activities fall outside the concept of "abstract labor," which Marx defined as the provision of time for the production of value regardless of the useful qualities of the product.
They witness an investment of desire into production of the kind cultural theorists have mainly theorized in relation to consumption. This explosion of productive activities is undermined for various commentators by the minoritarian, gendered, and raced character of the Internet population. However, we might also argue that to recognize the existence of immaterial labor as a diffuse, collective quality of postindustrial labor in its entirety does not deny the existence of hierarchies of knowledge both technical and cultural which prestructure but do not determine the nature of such activities.
These hierarchies shape the degrees to which such virtualities become actualities; that is, they go from being potential to being realized as processual, constituting moments of cultural, affective, and technical production. Neither capital nor living labor want a labor force that is permanently excluded from the possibilities of immaterial labor.
But this is where their desires stop from coinciding. Capital wants to retain control over the unfolding of these virtualities and the processes of valorization. The collective nature of networked, immaterial labor has been simplified by the utopian statements of the cyberlibertarians. Kevin Kelly's popular thesis in Out of Control , for example, is that the Internet is a collective "hive mind.
The Internet is the material evidence of the existence of the self-organizing, infinitely productive activities of connected human minds. From a different perspective Pierre Levy draws on cognitive anthropology and poststructuralist philosophy to argue that computers and computer networks are sites that enable the emergence of a "collective intelligence. According to Levy, we are passing from a Cartesian model of thought based on the singular idea of cogito I think to a collective or plural cogitamus we think.
What is collective intelligence? It is a form of universally distributed intelligence , constantly enhanced, coordinated in real time, and resulting in the effective mobilization of skills The basis and goal of collective intelligence is the mutual recognition and enrichment of individuals rather than the cult of fetishized or hypostatized communities. Levy, Collective Intelligence , Like Kelly, Levy frames his argument within the common rhetoric of competition and flexibility that dominates the hegemonic discourse around digitalization: "The more we are able to form intelligent communities, as open-minded, cognitive subjects capable of initiative, imagination, and rapid response, the more we will be able to ensure our success in a highly competitive environment.
In Levy's view, the digital economy highlights the impossibility of absorbing intelligence within the process of automation: unlike the first wave of cybernetics, which displaced workers from the factory, computer networks highlight the unique value of human intelligence as the true creator of value in a knowledge economy.
In his opinion, since the economy is increasingly reliant on the production of creative subjectivities, this production is highly likely to engender a new humanism, a new centrality of man's [ sic ] creative potentials. Especially in Kelly's case, it has been easy to dismiss the notions of a "hive mind" and a self-organizing Internet-as-free-market as euphoric capitalist mumbo jumbo. One cannot help being deeply irritated by the blindness of the digital capitalist to the realities of working in the high-tech industries, from the poisoning world of the silicon chips factories to the electronic sweatshops of America Online, where technical work is downgraded and worker obsolescence is high.
How can we hold on to the notion that cultural production and immaterial labor are collective on the Net both inner and outer without subscribing to the idealistic cyberdrool of the digerati? We could start with a simple observation: the self-organizing, collective intelligence of cybercultural thought captures the existence of networked immaterial labor, but also neutralizes the operations of capital. Capital, after all, is the unnatural environment within which the collective intelligence materializes. The collective dimension of networked intelligence needs to be understood historically, as part of a specific momentum of capitalist development.
The Italian writers who are identified with the post-Gramscian Marxism of autonomia have consistently engaged with this relationship by focusing on the mutation undergone by labor in the aftermath of the factory. The notion of a self-organizing "collective intelligence" looks uncannily like one of their central concepts, the "general intellect," a notion that the autonomists "extracted" out of the spirit, if not the actual wording, of Marx's Grundrisse.
The "collective intelligence" or "hive mind" captures some of the spirit of the "general intellect," but removes the autonomists' critical theorization of its relation to capital. In the autonomists' favorite text, the Grundrisse , and especially in the "Fragment on Machines," Marx argues that "knowledge - scientific knowledge in the first place, but not exclusively - tends to become precisely by virtue of its autonomy from production, nothing less than the principal productive force, thus relegating repetitive and compartmentalized labor to a residual position.
Here one is dealing with knowledge In the vivid pages of the "Fragment," the "other" Marx of the Grundrisse adopted by the social movements of the s and s against the more orthodox endorsement of Capital , describes the system of industrial machines as a horrific monster of metal and flesh:. The production process has ceased to be a labor process in the sense of a process dominated by labor as its governing unity. Labor appears, rather, merely as a conscious organ, scattered among the individual living workers at numerous points of the mechanical system; subsumed under the total process of the machinery itself, as itself only a link of the system, whose unity exists not in the living workers, but rather in the living, active machinery, which confronts his individual, insignificant doings as a mighty organism.
Karl Marx, Grundrisse London: Penguin, , The Italian autonomists extracted from these pages the notion of the "general intellect" as "the ensemble of knowledge Unlike Marx's original formulation, however, the autonomists eschewed the modernist imagery of the general intellect as a hellish machine.
They claimed that Marx completely identified the general intellect or knowledge as the principal productive force with fixed capital the machine and thus neglected to account for the fact that the general intellect cannot exist independently of the concrete subjects who mediate the articulation of the machines with each other. The general intellect is an articulation of fixed capital machines and living labor the workers.
If we see the Internet, and computer networks in general, as the latest machines - the latest manifestation of fixed capital - then it won't be difficult to imagine the general intellect as being well and alive today. The autonomists, however, did not stop at describing the general intellect as an assemblage of humans and machines at the heart of postindustrial production. If this were the case, the Marxian monster of metal and flesh would just be updated to that of a world-spanning network where computers use human beings as a way to allow the system of machinery and therefore capitalist production to function.
The visual power of the Marxian description is updated by the cyberpunk snapshots of the immobile bodies of the hackers, electrodes like umbilical cords connecting them to the matrix, appendixes to a living, all-powerful cyberspace.
Beyond the special effects bonanza, the box-office success of The Matrix validates the popularity of the paranoid interpretation of this mutation. To the humanism implicit in this description, the autonomists have opposed the notion of a "mass intellectuality," living labor in its function as the determining articulation of the general intellect. Mass intellectuality - as an ensemble, as a social body - "is the repository of the indivisible knowledges of living subjects and of their linguistic cooperation An important part of knowledge cannot be deposited in machines, but As Virno emphasizes, mass intellectuality is not about the various roles of the knowledge workers, but is a " quality and a distinctive sign of the whole social labor force in the post-Fordist era.
The pervasiveness of the collective intelligence within both the managerial literature and Marxist theory could be seen as the result of a common intuition about the quality of labor in informated societies. Knowledge labor is inherently collective , it is always the result of a collective and social production of knowledge. These indications should not simplify Negri' s definitions of revolutionary agent. The revolutionary worker class, indeed, could also be assumed as the multitude of unskilled or basically trained mass-workers of assembly lines, as well as multitudes could became a revolutionary subject because of individuals recovering and practice of their creative, living labor.
Empire would make clearer this point. In Empire, the immanence of the capitalist mode of production went far beyond the simple, materialist productive process. In this book, a more abstract and immanent category of living labor would seem to conciliate the previous differences between revolutionary subjects.
Through her critiques of Social Democratic reformism, which aimed at a gradual strategy of changes in sight of the capitalism end, and of the Leninist parties of professional revolutionaries, which aimed at accelerating or causing social crises, Luxemburg also showed as analyses and strategies could diverge or converge. Her interpretation of capital accumulation, indeed, led to a sort of compromise between the long-term perspective of reformism and the short-term goals of Leninism.
In this way, she wanted to preserve the spontaneity of masses that should come through the ineluctable laws of historical materialism, while dialectic materialism, i. It was a first approach to the dilemma that would grip Marxists between the two World Wars. Had the First World War and its consequences provided, for example, a unique opportunity to take advantage of a capitalist crisis, as Lenin had realized it for Russia, or should Social Democratic parties wait for the final and inevitable crisis of capitalism?
This is not the moment or the place to extricate from the history of Marxism political reasons, strategies or analyses that would explain, for example, the non-aggression pact between Hitler and Stalin, or the national fronts of Communists and Antifascist parties. Following Negri' s critique of historical materialism and the negative formulation of dialectic, instead, there is a different understanding of the relation between Soviet revolution and capitalist development.
According to Negri, in capitalist societies technological innovations and Keynes' economic policies avoided capitalist cyclical crises and defeated worker organizations that had led the first Revolution against capital: the Soviet Revolution. The Russian event was the beginning of a new phase of capitalist accumulation. Instead of historical materialism that explained capitalist final collapse, Negri' s dialectic proposes a continuous reorganization of opposite poles within capitalist development.
On the opposite sides of dialectical confrontation, capital and labor are continuously reorganizing by assuming the political and economic changes that reciprocally define their power relations. The worker class of Soviet Revolution, for example, was organized through a capitalist process that gave it a privileged role. To the extent that those workers could directly rule over factories by their skills and knowledge over the productive process, they opposed capital by reproducing their hierarchical position from that productive process into the leadership of workers by Leninist parties, and carried out their revolution.
Marx Beyond Marx: Lessons on the Grundrisse
That worker "aristocracy", in other words, could be the vanguard of the revolutionary process at that time, in those power relations between capital and living labor. Later, power relations between capital and labor changed. Soviet Revolution, capital subsumption recovered its supremacy over living labor by its no living forms of reproduction and accumulation: technology and money. On one hand, the capital renewed its capacity of subsumption and increased production through the Taylorist technological revolution.
The previous need of highly trained workers, in this way, became superfluous, and the vanguard of Leninist parties of workers was replaced with mass workers, i. On the other hand, State intervention in economy by Keynesian policies increased the control over money circulation to reduce the danger of cyclical crises of overproduction.
If Luxemburg's analyses mostly departed from Marx's theories of the Capital, and did not realize the full comprehension of capital capacity to overcome accumulation crises, a group of Italian scholars, including Negri, aimed at elucidating the content of Grundrisse and develop a new interpretation of Marx's notes on capital cycles of accumulation, reproduction, and crisis.
From those studies and the militant researches on workers at Turin's Fiat factory in the late s and early s,11 Operai e capitale Workers and Capital of Mario Tronti12 remains a firm reference to understand Workerism. Through those experiences, Negri discovered a trend that still orients his philosophy. Indeed, it would even not be exaggerated to say that Negri's Post-Marxist principles come from Marx' s Grundrisse, while Workers and Capital introduces the whole theoretical structure of Negri's earlier thinking. Through Grundrisse, Negri understood how Marx's writings could be read in another way.
Einaudi, , Ristampa della nuova edizione accresciuta. Workerism wanted to update and renew historical and dialectical materialisms. Not being capitalism only a historical phase or stage before Socialism, as the most orthodox Marxists ended up to assert with Stalin,14 Workerism wanted to update historical materialism by analyzing the structural changes of relations between capital and labor after Soviet Revolution. At the same time, Workerism indicated how new struggle forms such as the "wild cat strike" identified a revolutionary subject, the mass- worker, whose combative refusal of alienated labor and indiscriminate claim for everything Vogliamo tutto!
Negri, however, was not worried about it. He rather assumed these rebellions in a revolutionary continuity from the opposition to transcendent forms of power after Renaissance16 to the struggle of living labor against the capital, which included worker class as well as the birth of modern multitudes.
In the fiction, the book Vogliamo tutto: romanzo We Want Everything: Novel of Nanni Balestrini, Milano: Feltrinelli, that simply gathered the direct testimony of a southern immigrant working at the FIAT factory of Turin became the literary manifesto of Workerism. See, for example page in his 'Postilla' at the last edition of Operai e capitale. This last passage introduces a second stage of Negri' s reflections on capital development and political power.
On one hand, the real capitalist subsumption is no longer circumscribed into the essential productive process of the factory but extended to the overall society. On the other hand, the rise of political power since the beginning of capitalist era was seen as the deploying of anti-humanist contents against the creativity of multitude.
Highlighting the importance of State intervention in reorganizing capital subsumption, Workerism had indicated a different relation between the economic structure and political superstructure. According to Workerism, State should not be considered as an external element of capitalist accumulation. With the State correction of the critical cycle of accumulation, a political component directly contributed to the formation of value. The ideological justification and functional organization of this intervention involved larger and deeper controls over civil society and individual lives.
The waves of European students protest in and American youth rebellion "against the system", hence, were not a surprise. The refusal of the most important socialization processes, such as education and "functional" behavior rules, showed how the deepening of ideological and social controls became unbearable for larger sectors of society. The rebellion of mass workers, students and youth coincided, above all in Italy, in political struggles that developed outside from the institutional arena. According to a political slogan of , students claimed for the "impossible" and mass workers wanted everything.
Although those demands could appear as utopian, they seemed the only "real" ways to fight against the "system" or the capital subsumption. Negri, then, proposed to go beyond the Workerism by the autonomy theory 18, in which not only worker class but also 18 The autonomy concept, however, had also been partially developed in Workerism by identifying a type of new factory worker:. Loosely connected groups of students and workers, thus, would claim their autonomy from capitalist society, leftist official parties and unions, to create a mass support for revolution.
Again, another phase of real capital subsumption, the socialization of capital exploitation, identified another, more generic however, revolutionary subject, the operaio sociale social laborer , whose desire of self-fulfillment and self-assertion repudiated the alienated labor in the whole society.
In this way, pursuing a wider perspective to analyze contemporary politics and organize different political strategies, the Marxist-Leninist class struggle began to be left behind. Obviously, some Negri's conclusions are similar to those of the Frankfurt School or French philosophers such as Michel Foucault.
Starting from the Hegelian-Marxist perspective, Adorno and Horkheimer studies on capitalist society, for instance, had criticized the rise and reification of instrumental capitalist rationality. Later, Marcuse's popularization of Adorno's and Horkheimer's critique became a sort of ideological paradigm for the protests of American, youth movements. On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, by providing the difference between disciplinary society and society of control, Foucault also introduced an alternative interpretation of norms and behaviors to explain diversity and rebellion.
Yet, the relying on Marx's most insightful critique of economic laws differentiated Negri's approach; but was the autonomy theory already Post-Marxism? Possibly, the same "factory" with an advanced mechanization, which already had went through decades of Taylorist work organization and functional organization of the firm. Within this "factory" it should be politically enhanced the organizational action of new minorities bringing in what we right then started to call "the worker autonomy".
Alquati, Sulla Fiat, Negri today would not even accept the definition or label? Yet, it would be more difficult to say from which standpoint Post-Marxism should be distinguished from Marxism. Certainly, Negri's book Marx beyond Marx: lessons on the Grundrisse,19 was a decisive step in organizing his interpretation of Grundrisse according to, at least, a Post-Marxist perspective However, leaving back the ontological certainty that the working class is the agent of historical transformations has generally been accepted as the substantial difference between Marxism and Post- Marxism.
This last element is not completely new in the history of Marxism. Starting from the Marxist critique of capitalism, several forms of individualist or collective anarchism also ended up to abandon the reference to working class, but Post-Marxism would seem more concerned about ideological changes after modernity.
If the - sometimes romantic - anarchist rebellions fought against the advent of the modern capitalist society, Post-Marxism, instead, would involve a problematic perception of the postmodern era. Many Italian Neo-Marxists, instead, were more worried about the lack of a clear political perspective in the absence of parties able to organize new political movements.
In the previous phase that of formal subsumption , capital operated a hegemony over social production, but there still remained numerous production processes that originated outside of capital as leftovers from the precapitalist era. Italian New Left groups, including the same Negri's group of Potere Operaio Worker's Power , had failed in becoming parties after In the s, the Autonomy movement kept a loose organization to follow Negri' s theoretical dictate and guarantee mass spontaneity in starting the revolution, but it could even appear as a simple excuse to obviate its evident organizational incapacity.
Luxemburg's dilemma of organizing masses without sacrificing their revolutionary spontaneity, in other words, was back. From pure capital reproduction to capital accumulation on world scale, as more and more subjects were identified as revolutionary, their organization appeared more and more difficult without falling in the excesses of Leninist centralism or mass spontaneity. Pursuing the identification and organization of new political subjects, not only Negri but also other Italian Marxists and Neo-Marxists had to focus more on politics leaving aside the old reassuring political interpretations based on historical materialism.
Tronti, who was a member of the reformist Italian Communist Party, intervened polemically on this topic. Perhaps, even worse, that reference implicitly acknowledged that Italian Marxists and Neo-Marxist did not have a solid theory to cope with the deep political crisis of their country in the s. Leftist scholars, then, started a quick theoretical updating that led them to the reevaluation or discovery of European and American authors and theories previously condemned by the Marxist orthodoxy.
See Hardt's and Negri's brief comments on the autonomy of the political, Empire, Niklas Luhmann, for example, were reread, republished or translated for completely new editions and, above all, avidly studied.
Alienation, the Social Individual, and Communism: Marx in the 21st Century - ONCURATING
John Rawls' theory of justice surprisingly converted Marxist scholars to Liberalism. Games, Rational Choice, and System theories revived in Italian studies of political science. Negri, however, followed another direction. Looking at the Workerist background he shared with Tronti, his theoretical and political interests and scholar formation, Negri's choice is less surprising than it could appear at first sight.
Related Marx beyond Marx: lessons on the Grundrisse
Copyright 2019 - All Right Reserved