[iDC] Immaterial Civil War

Stmart96 at aol.com Stmart96 at aol.com
Fri Oct 16 11:31:04 UTC 2009

Thanks  for the Lazzarato  on Tarde    It is a  great read.  Patricia 
In a message dated 10/15/2009 11:58:11 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time,  
jbeller at pratt.edu writes:

Hi all,  

Thanks to Kristian Lukic for the great introduction as well as the  mention 
of the important work of Matteo Pasquinelli. 
For some reason, often when I read posts by certain members on this list  
who render theories of value without recognizing value's continued 
imbrication  in capitalist dynamics a little voice in my head intones the old dictim: 
"you  can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink." It seems so 
clear to  me that despite references to socialism and industrialization, 
when it came to  trying Marx, some of us didn't inhale. But Pasquinelli, who 
has inhaled  deeply, takes the reins and heads on down to the river of 
dialectics once  again. 

At the risk of mixing metaphors I have excerpted here from his essay  
"Immaterial War: Prototypes of Conflict Within Cognitive Capitalism" a fine  
draught... or is it a toke. Partake at your own risk.


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 
sociologist Tarde in his book  Puissances de l'invention4  [Powers of 
and in his article “La  psychologie économique contre l’economie politique”
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 
2) puts innovation as the  driving force instead of monetary accumulation 
(Smith, Marx and Schumpter did  not really understand innovation as an 
internal force of capitalism, a  vision more concerned about re-production 
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 
(Lazzarato: “The economic  psychology is a theory of the creation and 
constitution of values, whereas  political economy and Marxism are theories 
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 
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 ‘
attraction’ on other brains, to  mobilise their desires and beliefs through 
process of social communication.  […] Tarde figures out an issue crossing 
his work: the constituent power  of the public.”7 We could say: any  
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 
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 
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 

But  wait, if you've gotten this far, one good hit deserves another.  

4. Enzo Rullani and the “law  of diffusion” 

Rullani was among the first to  introduce the term cognitive capitalism8. 
most, he does not point out the  process of knowledge sharing, but above 
the process of cognitive  valorisation. He is quite clear about the fact 
competition still exists (is  perhaps even stronger) in the realm of “
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 
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 
and behind the success of a  software. The digital revolution made the 
reproduction of immaterial  objects easier, faster, ubiquitous and almost 
However, as Rullani points out,  “proprietary logic does not disappear but 
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, 
keeping a part of the advantage  under the form of: 1) a speed differential 
the production of new knowledge  or in the exploitation of its uses; 2) a 
of the context stronger than  others; 3) a network of alliances and 
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 
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 
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”
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 
a jungle – in a constant  guerrilla warfare – and cognitive workers follow 
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 
Moreover, in the society of  white noise the rarest commodity is attention. 
economy of scarcity exists even  in the cognitive capitalism as a scarcity 
attention and related  attention economy. When everything can be duplicated 
everywhere, time becomes more important than  space.

from Matteo  Pasquinelli, "Immaterial War: Prototypes of Conflict Within 
Cognitive  Capitalism." This essay and others available at 


While one might want to insist contra-Lazzarato as  cited above that 
Marxism and political economy are also theories of the  creation of value as well 
as the measure of value (and that the shift in the  protocols of production 
are the material shifts that occasion a reworking of  the categories of 
value and valuation), the above synthesis is correct in  seeing the 
(contemporary) fusion of material and immaterial (industrial and  psychological) 
production. Pasquinelli's article, focusing on Harvey's work on  the parasitism of 
rent, also details certain strategies of capture that were  alluded to in a 
previous post by Andrejivic where he citied  Clough: 

It's hard,  when looking at these developments, not to be struck by 
Patricia Ticineto  Clough's observation that, "this is a dynamic background, a  
probablisitc, statistical background which provides an infra-empirical or  
infra-temporal sociality, the subject of which is, I want to propose, the  
population, technologically or methodologically open to the modulation of its  
affective capacities. Sociality as affective background displaces sociality  
grasped in terms off structure and individual; affective modulation and  
individuation displace subject formation and ideological interpellation as  
central to the relation of governance and economy" (from The New Empiricism:  
Affect and Sociological Method, European Journal of Social Theory 2009).  .

The article also, interestingly enough, proposes a  theory of Immaterial 
Civil War, a brief plan for forms of semiotic (and  affective) activism.

Jonathan Beller
Humanities and Media Studies
and Critical and Visual Studies
Pratt Institute
_jbeller at pratt.edu_ (mailto:jbeller at pratt.edu) 
718-636-3573 fax

On Oct 14, 2009, at 5:29 PM, Kristian Lukic wrote:

Hi all,

Trebor kindly asked me to introduce myself on the list,  although Im 
following and lurking for a several years now,

Im  writer, curator, artist, curently working as curator in Museum of  
Contemporary Art in Novi Sad, Serbia and also active in Institute for  
Flexible Cultures and Technologies - Napon. Before I was working in New  
Media Center kuda.org in Novi Sad as program manager (still  
collaborating on some projects...).

The topic of the conference  is quite close to something what I was 
involved recent years. To the  play/work/leisure I came mostly through 
computer games (was and  still active in Eastwood group, playing with 
laws and natures of  computer games...) and MMO worlds which is most 
obvious relation between  play and work.

Also in 2007 in Novi Sad, Serbia we organized  exhibition and conference 
called Play Cultures in 2007, and also  exhibition and conference in 
2008, Territories & Resources (about  play/work connection in web 2.0 and 
social networks).

_www.napon.org_ (http://www.napon.org/) 

Currently Im  finishing MA thesis at Theory of Art and Media at Belgrade 
University of  Arts (before that finished MA Art History at the same  
under the name "Commodified Play" which is mixture of  lectures under 
the same name that I had from 2006 on several conferences  and events.

In 2007 together with Stealth group from Rotterdam we did  a one semester 
course at Piet Zwart Media Design postgradute students,  that was about 
MMO and virtual worlds called "meta.life", and one  workshop about the 
same topic in Laboral centre for arts in Gijon in  Spain.

Im mostly interested in conepts of play as free activity  definied by 
Huizinga and Callois and today's problems with these  definitions. Also 
how play is becoming more and more commodified human  activity, the 
concept of agon apears to be "ruling" play element,  especially in the 
notion of Virno's Negation and Inovation and what  Pasquinelli describe 
as Immaterial Civil War. In young animals, play is  mostly preparation 
for survival, learning how to efficiently defend  themselves or how to 
efficiently attack prey. Its interesting for  example how game industry 
is counting on specifically this element /  pure agon. Here is useful to 
realize concept of animal spirits that  Virno and Pasqunelli are 
reffering too, where they regard inovation and  culture as the constant 
battle, (or Immaterial civil war) and  prolongation of animal nature in 
human. In that sense culture is not  something opposite to "animal 
spirit" but rather continuation or even  amplification of animal nature 
in humans. Situationists for examply  clearly located problem of 
competition aspect in play.

On the  pure practical level its good to remind us how remote warfare is  
becoming crucial in contemporary warfare (Reapers / Predators), and how  
skilled youngsters with excellent reflexes in game playing (150-200  
operations in minute) are becoming major task force in remote combats.  
This activity is for sure blurred area between play and work, but it  
interesting how its connected to massive training and recruitment of  
youth throughout world (Currently 46 countries in the world are  
developing remote warfare). Maybe It is quite time to analyze connection  
between children/youth and militarism, the last connection on such a  
scale was youth organization Ballila in Musolini's Italy, and its  
infamous follower  Hitlerjugend...


although  I will probably physically not attend conference its great to 
follow  discussion on IDC list and I'm looking forward to see the 
outcomes  of the conference!

many greetings,
Kristian  Lukic

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