[iDC] Immaterial Labor

davin heckman davinheckman at gmail.com
Sun Aug 5 13:45:03 UTC 2007


You give me a great deal to think about.  I will have to do some
reading and thinking over the next couple days.

I'm going to say something that might verge upon meaningless...  But
maybe there never is "life beyond utility."  To wax Heideggerian, we
are always caught up in being.  Any way around the fundamental
pleasures/struggles/preoccupations of being would to shift into some
form of life that is outside of human being (Like abjection?  Is
abjection another form of "posthumanism"?).

On the other hand, I do recognize that "human rights" as they are more
or less recognized by states (and especially in the way the U.S.
applies its power) do seem to arrange themselves precisely along these
lines: Making the case that the abject do not possess the fundamental,
inalienable rights that a corporation certainly enjoys.  Yet, the
dispossessed do have some value insofar as they can be harnessed to
generate goods and services on the cheap.

Which makes me wonder if there isn't another problem here:  The way
that profit has been successfully yoked to questions of utility.  And
I know that this formulation doesn't really stand up, given the old
arguments over exchange- and use-value.  But it there are many
situations in which the useful isn't exactly profitable (for example,
child-rearing in our dual income economy), but which is often much
more meaningful to the people involved than wage labor.

I think that one of the problems is that we tend to associate "excess"
with meaning.  People are so used to the idea of doing one thing for
money and another thing for themselves, that this alienation has
become the standard by which we judge meaningful lives.  But once
"consumerism" introduces itself as the definitive means by which we do
"another thing for ourselves," does Bataille's assertion make sense
any more?

I really enjoyed Matthew Waxman's discussion of "urbs" and "civitas,"
and I think that what we talk about when we talk about the this idea
is this fundamental question.  What happens inside an economy and what
happens outside of an economy (not unlike deCerteau's discussion of
"everyday life.")

The danger that I see with things like MySpace, YouTube, etc., not is
that they make money.  Nor is it that people have fun doing it.
Rather, it is just another aspect of "civitas" being drawn into the
realm of the "urbs," of the wild and wooly fabric of life routed
through structures and woven into something that can be packaged,
reproduced, and sold for profit.  And we see this happening
everywhere: sex, sleep, grieving, forgiveness, happiness, aging,
etc.....  all these great and incredibly useful areas of human life
are being standardized and turned into profitable things.

But, as I've said, I'll read more this week.

Davin Heckman

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