[iDC] Critique (?) of immaterial labour

brian.holmes at wanadoo.fr brian.holmes at wanadoo.fr
Sat Aug 4 14:27:25 UTC 2007

Hi all -

Chris Byrne wrote:
> I stress that I find the critique  wanting, in that it relies too heavily
on Baudrillard to dismiss  Scholz and Krysa: yet what intrigues is that it
finds an alternative  source within post-Marxist theory to address the
question of  'sociable web media' (Scholz).

The Leisure Arts blog has no substantial discussion, so I get the
impression of someone finding a clever quote and admiring THEMSELVES in the
mirror! However, among people who do actually work on these ideas, the
Marxist category of labor is a major issue. Baudrillard is not necessarily
the only reference here. Lazzarato who coined the notion of "immaterial
labor" has more recently proposed to replace the whole concept of
"production" with that of "invention," so as to recognize the major input
to the contemporary economy that comes through scientific discovery,
cultural creation and technological and other kinds of innovation
(something Schumpeter was suggesting a half-century ago, with his focus on
the entrepreneur as the inventor of new forms of organization). Hardline
Marxists insist that physical labor is still the root of value production,
and that it has just been shifted to sites on the capitalist periphery such
as China. They also say that the hourly wage still provides the only
bedrock measure of value, everything else being calculated on the basis of
what can be extorted from industrial workers. I think the situation is in
flux, and that expanded role of what you might as well call "invention
power" really has upset the hierarchy of values: nobody really knows why a
particular thing is worth what it is, with the dangerous result that people
can be paid almost nothing for their work, and symbolic attributes (exacly
what Baudrillard focused on) can become way too valuable. Trebor and Josia
are probably too quick to use the word labor; what people are providing the
web 2.0 magnates with is their attention, their desire, their
inventiveness, their charisma, and above all, their valuations. The
greatest human capacity is probably that of bestowing value on something or
someone through the expression of your intimate desire. To hand that over
to corporations is like consenting to voluntary servitude of your finest
faculties - something like giving them free labor but maybe worse actually.
And yet also something very common in our world today.

freely yours, BH 

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