Matteo Pasquinelli on Mon, 13 Nov 2006 01:30:26 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Immaterial Civil War

my contribution for the MyCreativity convention in Amsterdam.
print-friendly pdf here:

Immaterial Civil War
Prototypes of Conflict within Cognitive Capitalism

                     We are implicit, here, all of us, in a vast
                     physical construct of artificially linked
                     nervous systems. Invisible. We cannot touch it.
                     - William Gibson, In the visegrips of Dr. Satan

                     Conflict is not a commodity. On the contrary,
                     commodity is above all conflict.

1. A revival of the Creative Industries

In early 2006 the term Creative Industries (CI) pops up in the  
mailboxes and mailing lists of many cultural workers, artists,  
activists and researchers across Europe, as well as in the calls for  
seminars and events. An old question spins back: curiously, for the  
first time, a term is picked up from institutional jargon and brought  
unchanged into alt culture, used so far to debate other keywords  
(that may deserve an acronym as well!) and other post-structures like  
network culture (NC), knowledge economy (KE), immaterial labour (IL),  
general intellect (GI) and of course Free Software (FS), Creative  
Commons (CC) etc. The original 1998 definition adopted by the  
Creative Industries Task Force set up by Tony Blair stated: "Those  
industries that have their origin in individual creativity, skill and  
talent and which have a potential for wealth and job creation through  
the generation and exploitation of intellectual property".1 As you  
can see, social creativity remains largely left out of that  
definition: after many years Tony Blair is still stealing your ideas.  
Let's try to do another backstory.

First, there is a European genealogy. Adorno and Horkheimer in 1944  
shaped the concept of "cultural industry" as a form of "mass  
deception" in their Dialectic of Enlightenment. In the early 90's the  
Italian post-Operaism (in exile or not) introduced the concepts of  
immaterial labour, general intellect, cognitive capitalism,  
cognitariat as the emerging forms of the autonomous power of the  
multitudes (authors like Negri, Lazzarato, Virno, Marazzi, Berardi).  
In the same period Pierre Levy was talking of collective  
intelligence. Later, since 2001, the transnational mobilisation of  
the Euro May Day has linked precarious workers and cognitive workers  
under the holy protection of San Precario. Second, there is an Anglo- 
American genealogy. During the golden age of net culture the debate  
around ICT and new economy was often linked to the knowledge economy  
(conceptualised by Peter Drucker in the 60's). In 2001 the copyleft  
debate escaped the boundaries of Free Software and established the  
Creative Commons licences. In 2002 the best seller The Rise of the  
Creative Class by Richard Florida (based on controversial statistical  
evidences) pushed trendy concepts like creative economy.

After years of fetishising precarious labour and abstract gift  
economy, a Copernican turn is taking place (hopefully): attention  
shifts to autonomous labour and autonomous production. A new  
consciousness arises around the creation of meaning, that is creation  
of value and - consequently - creation of conflict. It is the  
political re-engagement of a generation of creative workers (before  
getting mixed up with chain workers) and at the same time the  
"economic" engagement of a generation of activists (as the Seattle  
movement was more concerned about global issues than their own  
income). My creativity = my value = my conflict. And backwards.

2. The most part of the value (and of the conflict)

In this essay I try to frame a missing part of the debate around  
"creative" labour. First, I point out the collective dimension of  
value creation: it is an investigation of the social processes behind  
creativity, the creative power of collective desire and the political  
nature of any cognitive product (idea, brand, media, artefact,  
event). Question: what or who produces the value? Answer: the "social  
factory" produces the greatest portion of the value (and of the  
conflict). Second, I spotlight the political space of cognitive  
competition. I do not focus on labour conditions or neoliberal  
policies within Creative Industries, but on the public life of  
immaterial objects. I put cognitive products in a space of forces,  
framing such objects from outside rather than inside. I am trying to  
answer another question: if production goes creative and cognitive,  
collective and social, what are the spaces and the forms of conflict?  
As a conclusion I introduce the scenario of an "immaterial civil  
war", a semiotic space that Creative Industries are only a small part  

So far it seems a linear scenario, but there is also a grey zone to  
take in consideration: the massification of the "creative" attitude.  
"Everyone is a creative" is a common slogan today. Many years after  
Benjamin's artwork, the mass artist enters the age of his social  
reproducibility and "creativity" is sold as a status symbol. The  
social base of Creative Industries is getting bigger (at least in the  
Western world) and unveils new scenarios. In a first period, Creative  
Industries become hegemonic (as a fact and as an concept). In a  
second one, they face an entropy of meaning and producers. Thanks to  
the internet and the digital revolution, everyday we witness the  
conflicts of the latter stage.

All the different schools previously introduced focus each on a  
different perspective. To clarify the subject we have to explode the  
question in its components. The "creative thing" could be dismantled  
in: creative labour (as autonomous or dependent work), creativity as  
faculty and production, the creative product (with all its layers:  
hardware, software, knoware, brand, etc.), the free reproducibility  
of the cognitive object, the intellectual property on the product  
itself, the social creativity behind it, the process of collective  
valorisation around it. Moreover, the social group of creative  
workers (the "creative class" or "cognitariat"), the "creative  
economy" and the "creative city" represent further and broader contexts.

The original definition of Creative Industries focus on the  
intellectual property exploitation. Richard Florida's concepts of  
creative class and creative economy are based on (controversial)  
statistics only and on the idea of a political agenda for CI fuelled  
by local governments. On another level, Creative Commons is about  
open licences, a formal solution to handle the free reproduction and  
sharing triggered by the digital revolution on a mass scale  
("building a layer of reasonable copyright"2 as they put it). Coming  
from a different (Latin) background, the post-Operaism and the  
precarious workers movement point out the social and distributed form  
of production (Tronti's "social factory"3) and ask for a guaranteed  
minimum income. Geographically close to the last ones, Enzo Rullani  
(initiator of the term 'cognitive capitalism') suggests to focus on  
the autonomous power of producers rather than on the dimension of  
dependent labour, as public welfare is a solution that transfers  
knowledge, risk and innovation capital to institutions. Such a  
disambiguation of political views around CI is needed to clarify what  
the present essay is not covering. I will not focus on the labour  
conditions of (precarious) cognitive workers, on the exploitation of  
intellectual property an on the legal protection of the public  
domain, but on the collective production of value and the strong  
competition cognitive producers face in the "immaterial" domain.

3. Lazzarato reading Tarde: the public dimension of value

Contemporary criticism does not have a clear perspective of the  
public life of cognitive products: it is largely dominated by the  
metaphors stolen from Creative Commons and Free Software, which  
support quite a flat vision with no notion of value and valorisation.  
For this reason, I want to introduce a more dynamic scenario  
following Maurizio Lazzarato and Gabriel Tarde that explain how value  
is produced by an accumulation of social desire and collective  
imitation. Lazzarato has re-introduced the thought of the French  
sociologist Tarde in his book Puissances de l'invention4 [Powers of  
invention] and in his article "La psychologie économique contre  
l'economie politique"5.

To sum up in few lines, Tarde's philosophy challenges the  
contemporary political economy because it: 1) dissolves the  
opposition of material and immaterial labour and consider the  
"cooperation between brains" a main force in the traditional pre- 
capitalist societies not only in postfordism; 2) puts innovation as  
the driving force instead of monetary accumulation only (Smith, Marx  
and Schumpter did not really understand innovation as an internal  
force of capitalism, a vision more concerned about re-production  
rather than production); 3) develops a new theory of value no more  
based on use-value only, but also on other kinds of value, like truth- 
value and beauty-value (Lazzarato: "The economic psychology is a  
theory of the creation and constitution of values, whereas political  
economy and Marxism are theories to measure values"6).

Tarde's crucial insight for the present work is about the relation  
between science and public opinion. As Lazzarato put it: "According  
to Tarde, a invention (of science or not) that is not imitated is not  
socially existent: to be imitated an invention needs to draw  
attention, to produce a force of 'mental attraction' on other brains,  
to mobilise their desires and beliefs through a process of social  
communication. [...] Tarde figures out an issue crossing all his  
work: the constituent power of the public."7 We could say: any  
creative idea that is not imitated is not socially existent and has  
no value. In Tarde the Public is the "social group of the future",  
integrating for the first time mass media as an apparatus of  
valorisation in a sort of anticipation of postfordism. Moreover Tarde  
considers the working class itself as a kind of "public opinion" that  
is unified on the base of common beliefs and affects rather than  
common interests.

The Tarde-Lazzarato connection introduces a dynamic or better  
competitive model, where immaterial objects have to face the laws of  
the noosphere - innovation and imitation - in quite a Darwinistic  
environment. Tarde is also famous for introducing the S-shaped curve  
to describe the process of dissemination of innovation, another good  
suggestion for all the digital planners that believe in a free and  
flat space.

However a dissemination process is never as linear and peaceful as a  
mathematical graph might suggest. On a collective scale a cognitive  
product always "fights" against other products to attain a natural  
leadership. The destiny of an idea is always hegemonic, even in the  
"cooperation between brains" and in the digital domain of free  
multiplication. The natural environment of ideas is similar to the  
state of nature in Hobbes. The motto Homo homini lupus [the man is a  
wolf to man] could be applied to media, brands, signs and any kind of  
"semiotic machines" of the knowledge economy. It is an immaterial but  
not often silent "war of all ideas against all ideas." If Lazzarato  
and Tarde track back the collective making of value, such a  
competitive nature is more transparent reading Enzo Rullani.

4. Enzo Rullani and the "law of diffusion"

Rullani was among the first to introduce the term cognitive  
capitalism8. Unlike most, he does not point out the process of  
knowledge sharing, but above all the process of cognitive  
valorisation. He is quite clear about the fact that competition still  
exists (is perhaps even stronger) in the realm of "immaterial"  
economy. Rullani is one of few people that try to measure how much  
value knowledge produces and as a seasoned economist he gives  
mathematical formulas as well - like in his book Economia della  
conoscenza [Economy of Knowledge]9. Rullani says that the value of  
knowledge is multiplied by its diffusion, and that you have to learn  
how to manage this kind of circulation. As Rullani puts it, in the  
interview with Antonella Corsani published on Multitudes in 200010:

"An economy based on knowledge is structurally anchored to sharing:  
knowledge produces value if it is adopted, and the adoption (in that  
format and the consequent standards) makes interdependency."

The value of immaterial objects is produced by dissemination and  
interdependency: there is the same process behind the popularity of a  
pop star and behind the success of a software. The digital revolution  
made the reproduction of immaterial objects easier, faster,  
ubiquitous and almost free. However, as Rullani points out,  
"proprietary logic does not disappear but has to subordinate itself  
to the law of diffusion"11: proprietary logic is no longer based on  
space and objects, but on time and speed.

"There are three ways that a producer of knowledge can distribute its  
uses, still keeping a part of the advantage under the form of: 1) a  
speed differential in the production of new knowledge or in the  
exploitation of its uses; 2) a control of the context stronger than  
others; 3) a network of alliances and cooperation capable of  
contracting and controlling modalities of usage of knowledge within  
the whole circuit of sharing."

A speed differential means: "I got this idea and I can handle it  
better than others: while they are still becoming familiar with it, I  
develop it further". A better understanding of the context is  
something not easy to duplicate: it is about the genealogy of the  
idea, the cultural and social history of a place, the confidential  
information accumulated in years. The network of alliances is called  
sometimes "social capital" and is implemented as "social networks" on  
the web: it is about your contacts, your PR, your street and web  

Here it is clear that a given idea produces value in a dynamic  
environment challenged by other forces and other products. Any idea  
lives in a jungle - in a constant guerrilla warfare - and cognitive  
workers follow often the destiny of their brainchildren. In the  
capitalism of digital networks time is a more and more crucial  
dimension: a time advantage is measured in seconds. Moreover, in the  
society of white noise the rarest commodity is attention. An economy  
of scarcity exists even in the cognitive capitalism as a scarcity of  
attention and related attention economy. When everything can be  
duplicated everywhere, time becomes more important than space.

An example of the competition advantage in the digital domain is the  
Wired CD included with the November 2004 issue under the Creative  
Commons licences. Music tracks were donated by Beastie Boys, David  
Byrne, Gilberto Gil, etc. for free copying, sharing and sampling  
(see: The neoliberal agenda of Wired  
magazine provides the clear coordinates for understanding that  
operation. Indeed, there are more examples of musicians and brain  
workers that associate their activity with copyleft, Creative Commons  
or file sharing on P2P networks. We only heard about the first  
runners, as it is no longer a novelty for those who came second.  
Anyway, there never is a total adherence to the Creative Commons  
crusade, it is always a hybrid strategy: I release part of my work as  
open and free to gain visibility and credibility, but not the whole  
work. Another strategy is that you can copy and distribute all this  
content, but not now, only in four months. And there are also people  
complaining about Creative Commons and Free Software being hijacked  
by corporations and majors - the point is that the world out there is  
full of bad music which is free to copy and distribute. No scandal,  
we have always suspected it was a race.

Rullani shows how competition is still present in the knowledge  
economy, even in the parallel enclave of digital commons. Competition  
is a field radical thought never attempted to enter: because it is  
not politically correct to admit such a competition and because any  
political solution is controversial. It is impossible to reconstruct  
any unified political subject (as at the times of proletariat)  
starting from such a balkanised scenario of "social factories" and  
molecular biopolitical production. However, if individual surplus- 
value is difficult to measure and reclaim, the collective  
accumulation is still something visible and tangible.

5. David Harvey and the collective symbolic capital
If Tarde, Lazzarato and Rullani are useful for framing the  
competitive habitat of ideas (dissemination, imitation, competition,  
hegemony), David Harvey's essay "The Art of Rent"12 introduces a  
clearer description of the political dimension of symbolic  
production. He manages  to link intangible production and real money  
not through intellectual property but by tracking the parasitic  
exploitation of the immaterial domain by the material one.

The key example is Barcelona, where there is the clearest connection  
between real estate economy and the production of culture as social  
capital. The success of Barcelona as an international brand has been  
created by its cultural and social roots and is continuously fuelled  
today by a cosmopolitan and alternative culture: in fact, that  
collective product is exploited first and foremost by real estate  
speculators. The kinds of gentrification processes are well known.  
Bottom-up: outsiders attract artists that attract gentry. Or, on the  
contrary, top-down: open-minded and futuristic art institutions built  
in a ghetto (like the MACBA in the Raval in Barcelona) raise rents  
and force people to move. However, Harvey wants to point out a more  
general process.

Harvey applies the concept of monopoly rent to culture: "All rent is  
based on the monopoly power of private owners of certain portions of  
the globe." There are two kinds of rent: you can exploit the unique  
quality of a wine or you can see the vineyard producing that  
extraordinary wine. You can put a hotel in a very charming city, or  
selling the land where to put hotels like that. Capitalism is always  
looking for marks of distinction. According to Harvey culture  
produces today the marks of distinction that capitalism can exploit  
selling material goods. On a city scale, real estate business is the  
biggest business triggered by knowledge economy. Any immaterial space  
has its material parasites. Think about files sharing and iPods.

If the degree of dissemination makes the value of a cognitive  
product, as Rullani points out, Harney put a limit to that  
valorisation. Dissemination that goes too far can dissolve the marks  
of distinction into a mass product. There is an entropic ending in  
any idea after its hegemonic period. Harvey highlights the first  
contradiction: the entropy of the marks of distinction:

"The contradiction here is that the more easily marketable such items  
become the less unique and special they appear. In some instances the  
marketing itself tends to destroy the unique qualities (particularly  
if these depend on qualities such as wilderness, remoteness, the  
purity of some aesthetic experience, and the like). More generally,  
to the degree that such items or events are easily marketable (and  
subject to replication by forgeries, fakes, imitations or simulacra)  
the less they provide a basis for monopoly rent. [...] therefore,  
some way has to be found to keep some commodities or places unique  
and particular enough (and I will later reflect on what this might  
mean) to maintain a monopolistic edge in an otherwise commodified and  
often fiercely competitive economy."

A second contradiction connected to the first is the tendency towards  
monopoly: if the value inflates, the only way to preserve the rent is  
to set up monopolies and avoid competition. For example, the digital  
and network revolution has attacked traditional monopoly rents (used  
to quite stable 'territories') and forced them to reinvent their  
strategies. The common reaction was to reclaim a stronger regime of  
intellectual property. On another level, capitals were forced to find  
new material and immaterial territories to exploit. Harvey notices  
that capitalism rediscovers local cultures to preserve monopolies:  
the collective and immaterial sphere of culture is a crucial  
dimension to maintain marks of distinction in a postfordist economy.

"They have particular relevance to understanding how local cultural  
developments and traditions get absorbed within the calculi of  
political economy through attempts to garner monopoly rents. It also  
poses the question of how much the current interest in local cultural  
innovation and the resurrection and invention of local traditions  
attaches to the desire to extract and appropriate such rents."

The cultural layer of Barcelona and its unique local characters are a  
key component in the marketing of any Barcelona-based product, first  
of all the real estate business. But the third and most important  
contradiction discovered by Harvey is that global capital feeds local  
resistance to promote mark of distinction.

"Since capitalists of all sorts (including the most exuberant of  
international financiers) are easily seduced by the lucrative  
prospects of monopoly powers, we immediately discern a third  
contradiction: that the most avid globalizers will support local  
developments that have the potential to yield monopoly rents even if  
the effect of such support is to produce a local political climate  
antagonistic to globalization!"

Again it is the case of Barcelona, quite a social-democratic model of  
business that is not so easy to apply to other contexts. At this  
point Harvey introduces the concept of collective symbolic capital  
(taken from Bourdieu) to explain how culture is exploited by  
capitalism. The layer of cultural production attached to a specific  
territory produces a fertile habitat for monopoly rents.

"If claims to uniqueness, authenticity, particularity and speciality  
underlie the ability to capture monopoly rents, then on what better  
terrain is it possible to make such claims than in the field of  
historically constituted cultural artefacts and practices and special  
environmental characteristics (including, of course, the built,  
social and cultural environments)? [...] The most obvious example is  
contemporary tourism, but I think it would be a mistake to let the  
matter rest there. For what is at stake here is the power of  
collective symbolic capital, of special marks of distinction that  
attach to some place, which have a significant drawing power upon the  
flows of capital more generally."

The collective symbolic capital of Barcelona is shaped more clearly  
now. The brand of Barcelona is a "consensual hallucination" produced  
by many but exploited by few. The condition of the creative workers  
(and of the whole society) is a vicious circle: they produce symbolic  
value for the real estate economy that squeeze them (as they suffer  
the housing price of Barcelona). Furthermore, Harvey helps to  
understand better Florida: the so-called "creative class" is nothing  
but a simulacrum of the collective symbolic capital to raise the  
marks of distinction of a given city. The "creative class" is the  
collective symbolic capital transformed into an anthropomorphic brand  
and a monopoly rent applied to distinctive parts of the society  
("creative class"), of the territory ("creative city"), of the city  
itself ("creative district"). The "creative class" is a parasitic  
simulacrum of the social creativity that is detached from the  
precariat and attached to the upper class.
"The rise of Barcelona to prominence within the European system of  
cities has in part been based on its steady amassing of symbolic  
capital and its accumulating marks of distinction. In this the  
excavation of a distinctively Catalan history and tradition, the  
marketing of its strong artistic accomplishments and architectural  
heritage (Gaudi of course) and its distinctive marks of lifestyle and  
literary traditions, have loomed large, backed by a deluge of books,  
exhibitions, and cultural events that celebrate distinctiveness.  
[...] This contradiction is marked by questions and resistance. Whose  
collective memory is to be celebrated here (the anarchists like the  
Icarians who played such an important role in Barcelona's history,  
the republicans who fought so fiercely against Franco, the Catalan  
nationalists, immigrants from Andalusia, or a long-time Franco ally  
like Samaranch)?"

Harvey tries to sketch out a political response questioning which  
parts of society are exploiting symbolic capital and which kinds of  
collective memory and imaginary are at stake. Symbolic capital is not  
unitary but a multiple space of forces, and can be continuously  
negotiate by the multitude that produced it.

"It is a matter of determining which segments of the population are  
to benefit most from the collective symbolic capital to which  
everyone has, in their own distinctive ways, contributed both now and  
in the past. Why let the monopoly rent attached to that symbolic  
capital be captured only by the multinationals or by a small powerful  
segment of the local bourgeoisie? [...] The struggle to accumulate  
marks of distinction and collective symbolic capital in a highly  
competitive world is on. But this entrains in its wake all of the  
localized questions about whose collective memory, whose aesthetics,  
and who benefits. [...]. The question then arises as to how these  
cultural interventions can themselves become a potent weapon of class  

The crucial question is: how to develop a symbolic capital of  
resistance that can not be exploited as another mark of distinction?  
As Harvey points this kind of vicious circle works even better in the  
case of local resistance. Global capitals need anti-global resistance  
to improve the monopoly rent. Especially in the case of creative  
workers resistance is always well-educated and well-designed: and in  
the case of Barcelona it produces a titillating and never dangerous  
environment for the global middle-class. Inspired by the history of  
Barcelona, we introduce an immaterial civil war into the space of  
symbolic capital.

6. Immaterial civil war

We suggest the term 'civil war' as conflicts within cognitive  
capitalism have no clear class composition and share the same media  
space. Moreover, if it is true that "there is no more outside" (as  
Negri and Hardt state in Empire13) and that "there are no longer  
social classes, but just a single planetary petty bourgeoisie, in  
which all the old social classes are dissolved" (as Agamben puts it  
in The Coming Community14), conflicts can only take the form of an  
internal struggle. The multitude has always been turbulent and  
fragmented. If Florida dreams of a "creative class struggle" (where  
fashion victims are the first casualties, we guess), we push for a  
civil war within that comfortable "class" (and within a comfortable  
notion of multitude). Moreover 'civil war' ties into the glorious  
resistance of Barcelona (a political background that interestingly  
fuels its current social capital) and is also a reminder of the  
internal fights of any avant-garde group (anarchists and communists  
started to shot each other then).

On the other hand, "immaterial" is the constant struggle on the stage  
of the society of the spectacle: a cruel Ballardian jungle of brands,  
pop stars, gadgets, devices, data, protocols, simulacra. Immaterial  
exploitation is the everyday life of precarious workers, in  
particular of the younger generations, quite aware of the symbolic  
capital produced by their lives "put to work" (new trends and  
lifestyles generated by what post-Operaism calls biopolitical  
production). The immaterial civil war is the explosion of the social  
relations enclosed in the commodities. In his book Les révolutions du  
capitalisme15 Lazzarato says that "capitalism is not a mode of  
production, but a production of modes and worlds" (engineered by  
corporations and sold to the people) and that the "planetary economic  
war" is an "aesthetic war" between different worlds.

Immaterial civil war is also the usual conflicts between brain  
workers despite all the rhetoric of knowledge sharing and digital  
commons. It is the joke "a friend of mine stole me my idea for a book  
on Creative Commons". It is the well known rivalry within academia  
and the art world, the economy of references, the deadline race, the  
competition for festivals, the envy and suspicion among activists.  
Cooperation is structurally difficult among creative workers, where a  
prestige economy operates the same way as in any star system (not to  
mention political philosophers!), and where new ideas have to  
confront each other, often involving their creators in a fight. As  
Rullani points out, there is almost more competition in the realm of  
the knowledge economy, where reproducibility is free and what matters  
is speed.

7. Facing the parasite

The parasite is the parallel exploitation of social creativity. There  
are indeed modes of exploitation of creative work that are not based  
on intellectual property and produce more value and conflict. As we  
have seen, Harvey introduces the framework of "collective symbolic  
capital" and suggests that "cultural interventions can themselves  
become a potent weapon of class struggle". Political activism in the  
cultural sector, creative industries and new economy have always  
remained within these fictional enclosures, making local protests and  
demanding more cultural welfare or stable contracts. Recently, a more  
radical demand to counter the exploitation of social creativity  
involves a basic income for all (see Conversely,  
Rullani notes that a welfare system transfers both innovation and  
risk to the state apparatus reinforcing it. However, what Harvey  
suggests is to take action not only on the level of collective  
symbolic capital, but also on the level of the parasite exploiting  
the cultural domain. A difficult point difficult for the radical  
thought to grasp is that all the immaterial (and gift) economy has a  
material, parallel and dirty counterpart where the big money is  
exchanged. See Mp3 and iPod, P2P and ADSL, free music and live  
concerts, Barcelona lifestyle and real estate speculation, art world  
and gentrification, global brands and sweatshops.

A form of resistance suggested by Harvey in the case of Barcelona is  
an assault on the myth of the "creative city" rather than wanna-be- 
radical reactions that can contribute to making it even more  
exclusive. If the people want to reclaim that symbolic surplus-value  
vandalised by a few speculators, all we can imagine is a re- 
negotiation of the collective symbolic capital. Here comes the option  
of a grassroots rebranding campaign to undermine the accumulation of  
symbolic capital and alter the flows of money, tourists and new  
residents attracted by specific marks of distinction (Barcelona as a  
tolerant, alternative, open-minded city, etc.). Moreover another  
field of action suggested here are the specific areas where the "art  
of rent" plays (particular districts like the Raval or Poblenou),  
where the symbolic accumulation could be reset by a less symbolic  
sabotage. In the case of Barcelona the "parasite" to spotlight is  
real estate speculation, but we could apply that insight to a broader  

Recent forms of resistance have almost always been quite  
representative and media-oriented, dreaming of the rise of a new  
cognitariat or of a repoliticization of the collective imagery and  
its producers, like in the golden 60's. Many activists and artists -  
like Harvey - are aware of the risk of overcoding of their messages  
and practices. In the end many protest actions merely succeeded in  
focusing the attention economy around their target. Traditional  
boycotts of big brands sometimes turn into free advertisement in  
their favour. What recent activism and critical thought have never  
attempted to explore is the material (and economic) dimension  
connected to the symbolic. Creative workers should start to recognize  
the surplus-value of imagery they produce beyond their immaterial  
objects and all the remote political effects of any sign. Leaving the  
symbolic, entering the economy of the symbolic. We are waiting for a  
generation of cognitive workers able to mobilise out of the imagery.

Matteo Pasquinelli, Barcelona, September 2006

1 Source: The DCMS category  
list consists of production in the following sectors: Advertising,  
Architecture, Art and Antiques Market, Crafts, Design, Designer  
Fashion, Film and Video, Interactive Leisure Software, Music,  
Performing Arts, Publishing, Software and Computer Services,  
Television and Radio.

2 Source:

3 M. Tronti, Operai e capitale, Torino: Einaudi, 1971.

4 M. Lazzarato, Puissances de l'invention: La Psychologie économique  
de Gabriel Tarde contre l'économie politique, Paris: Les empêcheurs  
de penser en rond, 2002.

5 M. Lazzarato, "La psychologie économique contre l'Economie  
politique", in Multitudes n. 7,  2001, Paris. Extentended Italian  
version "Invenzione e lavoro nella cooperazione tra cervelli" in Y.  
Moulier Boutang (ed.), L'età del capitalismo cognitivo, Verona: Ombre  
Corte, 2002.

6 [translation mine] M. Lazzarato, "Invenzione e lavoro nella  
cooperazione tra cervelli" in Y. Moulier Boutang (ed.), L'età del  
capitalismo cognitivo, op. cit.

7 Ibid.

8 E. Rullani, L. Romano, Il postfordismo. Idee per il capitalismo  
prossimo venturo, Milano: Etaslibri, 1998; E. Rullani, "La conoscenza  
come forza produttiva: autonomia del post-fordismo", in Capitalismo e  
conoscenza, Cillario L., Finelli R. (eds), Roma, Manifesto libri,  
1998; E. Rullani, "Le capitalisme cognitif: du déjà vu?", Multitudes  
n. 2, 2000, Paris,.

9 E. Rullani, Economia della conoscenza: Creatività e valore nel  
capitalismo delle reti, Milano: Carocci, 2004.

10 [translation mine] A. Corsani, E. Rullani, "Production de  
connaissance et valeur dans le postfordisme", Multitudes, n. 2, May  
2000. Paris. Original Italian version in Y. Moulier Boutang (ed.),  
L'età del capitalismo cognitivo, op. cit.
Spanish version:

11 Ibid.

12 D. Harvey, "The art of rent: globabalization and the  
commodification of culture", chapter, in Spaces of Capital, New York:  
Routledge, 2001. And as "The Art of Rent: Globalization, Monopoly,  
and the Commodification of Culture" in A World of Contradictions:  
Socialist Register 2002, London: Merlin Press, November 2001.

13 A. Negri, M. Hardt, Empire, Harvard University Press, 2000, p. 186.

14 G. Agamben, The Coming Community (Michael Hardt, trans.),  
Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1991, p. 65.

15 [translation mine] M. Lazzarato, Les révolutions du capitalisme,  
Paris: Empêcheurs de Penser en rond, 2004.

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