Snafu on Thu, 18 Dec 2008 22:16:50 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> No Future

> Since I've been reading a lot of (post)autonomist theory these days, this
> essay did catch my eye, but it does an odd job of advancing a few touch-ups
> on the theory of cognitive labour while, at the same time, seemingly turning
> around to grasp after a discourse that doesn't seem to accurately describe
> (or inspire) what is going on anymore.

I agree completely, this article could have been published on a journal 
such as Derive&Approdi in the 1990s and one could not tell the 
difference. His author is (or was) a member of Sapienza Pirata, a 
Negrian collective of the University of Rome La Sapienza.

> There is nothing 'central' to cognitive labour save for knowledge production
> itself, which both Negri (in Porcelain Workshop) and Marx muse is 'in the
> brain' of the worker. What is central is each and every individual, which is
> where Negri's theory of the multitude draws its strength: resistance is
> everywhere. 

Exactly and resistance is everywhere because we have entered the phase 
of what Hardt and Negri call "biopolitical production," i.e. every 
aspect of social life is becoming productive, including what used to be 
called "free time." In particular the author is identifying cognitive 
labor and immaterial labor without noticing that Hardt and Negri have 
rejected this identity at least since the Labor of Dionysus (1994).

As a matter of fact, H&N have included in their definition of immaterial 
labor the production of affects--a line of analysis they have borrowed 
from the Italian feminist critique of the Marxian theory of value (Dalla 
Costa, Fortunati, Federici, and others). Ephemeraweb has dedicated an 
interesting issue to this line of thought, which, it is worth 
remembering, posed itself as alternative to Workerism since the early 1970s:

This line of analysis may not be understimated because here we find one 
of the major reasons why Workerism evolved into a post-Marxist set of 

Marx saw the domestic sphere as unproductive because, as many other 
services, it did not result in the production of material goods that 
could generate exchange values. In the 1970s feminist theorists begun to 
argue that Marx's definition of productive labor had to be revised to 
include those domestic and affective activities such as care labor, kin 
work, and sexual work, which were oriented towards the reproduction of 
the most precious commodity to capital: the work force.

In this way, the feminist movement questioned the Marxian definition of 
necessary labor as a rigid category that takes for granted what kind of 
labor is socially recognized as a value-creating practice. As I said, 
Hardt and Negri begun acknowledging the relevance of this line of 
inquiry in the early 1990s: "The point again is that the very concept of 
labor is mobile and historically defined through contestation. In this 
sense the labor theory of value is equally a value theory of labor."
(1994: 9)

Now, if we accept that value-generating practices are constantly 
shifting and growing (due both to the real subsumption and the formal 
subsumption of labor under capital) it is clear that the university is 
no less relevant as a site of struggle than any other societal site. In 
my view, this approach has the merit of doing away with the old Leninist 
obsession of looking for an elected site of struggle and for an elected 
social subject (in 1917 the industrial working class, today in Do's 
reductive reading of immaterial labor, the cognitive workers organized 
in and around the university) which is invested with the mission of 
acting as a political vanguard in the revolutionary process. (And as 
history i hope has taught us, this is a recipe for disaster.)

> To say that the university is central mistakes the smoke for the fire,
> pinpointing one rather minor site, even, in the global network of capital
> (I'm not even sure 'capital' is the right term anymore).

i think that the concept of biopolitical production is worth looking in. 
What i find disappointing in H&N analysis is their quite vague statement 
that the locus of value and of the production of wealth, would today lie 
in the common, that is, in the complex of social activities. If this 
statement may be valid from a philosophical viewpoint is way too general 
to initiate a meaningful political practice.

>> How are we to articulate the organizational practice of self-education
>> when a physical outside does not exist? From where do we organize the
>> threat? We need to find a new and public line of escape: a way to
>> invent new weapons as Deleuze and Guattari (2004: 445) said, in a
>> scenario that is no longer physical but becoming more and more time
>> bound. We need to organize self-educational practices and workers
>> self- management at a new level: at the level of the institution.
> Yes, we all want self-education. But usually one needs resources: places,
> spaces, connections, archives, access. The internet can't solve the problem
> of collective radical education.

even here, i could not agree the least. furthermore, if the humanities 
can self-organize to a certain extent how do you self-manage a physics 
or a biology laboratory? The amount of fixed capital that is necessary 
to start off and maintain research in the hard sciences is completely 
out of the reach of social movements. If we all agree that the struggle 
against the corporatization of the university is a struggle for keeping 
knowledge in common, i think that the FOSS community has more to teach 
to contemporary social movements than the 1968 or the Italian 1977.


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