Lazzaurato: "From Capital Labor to Capital Life"

From this article (pdf) in Ephemera 4(3) — a more arduous articulation of immaterial labor thesis, how consumption is productive and how the distinction is ideologically sustained.

first of all, the enterprise does not create its object (goods) but the world within which the object exists. And secondly, the enterprise does not create its subjects (workers and consumers) but the world within which the subject exists.

Think this is an interesting statement with regard to social media companies, which provide the space for self-creation but make no claims to produce anything or direct production overtly toward particular outcomes (the means to achieving the companies’ preferred products/outcomes are built into the architecture, the affordances for users). These companies create conceptual space that users can inhabit and create expropriatable value while remaining ostensibly autonomous and self-directed — self-actualizing, even.

Lazzarato later elaborates:

The ‘work’ of the company and its employees consists in a one-sided capture which aims at transforming the multiplicity of ‘collaborators’ (monads) into a multiplicity of ‘customers’. Its employees (not only engineers but also marketing people, lobbyists etc. trying to guarantee its monopoly) constitute an interface with the cooperation between minds, and their work activity consists of the neutralization and deactivation of the co-creation and co-realization of multiplicity. The power of arrangement, instead of being distributed in a heterogeneous way in the cooperation between minds, is concentrated in the cooperation of the company.

The necessity to brand manufactured goods leads to a semioticization of all things, which essentially makes all goods into lifestyle services:

All production is production of services, that is, a transformation of “the conditions of activity and the capacity for future actions of customers, users, and the public”, which in the end always aims at the ‘mode of life’.6 The service does not satisfy a pre-existing demand, but it must anticipate it, it must ‘make it happen’. This anticipation takes place entirely within the domain of the virtual by mobilising resources such as linguistic resources and language, communication, rhetoric, images etc. The anticipation of services by the virtual and signs has the advantage, on the one hand, to be able to use all properties of language, thus opening up the exploration of several possibles, and, on the other hand, to enable work on sense through communication.

In the sense that they depend on mutually agreed upon sign values in a population — on immaterial labor and cooperation — the goods now made are commons: “These goods, unlike the tangible, appropriable, exchangeable, consumable products of the capital-labour relationship, are intelligible, inappropriable, inexchangeable, inconsumable…. Any consumption of a common good can lead immediately into the creation of new knowledge or new masterpieces. Circulation becomes the fundamental moment of the process of production and consumption.”

The shift in how capitalism is organized (profits dependent on intellectual property rights, not property; not selling discrete goods so much as commandeering cooperative, value producing audiences) changes the nature of production in general:

Contemporary capitalist economy follows literally the cycle of capital accumulation described by Tarde: invention, as the creation of the possible and its process of actualisation in the souls (of consumers as well as workers), is the real production, whilst what Marx and the economists call production is, in reality, a reproduction (or a manufacture of a product or a management of a service even if in this case the things are a bit more complicated)…. the power of co-creation and co-realization, instead of being divided in a heterogeneous way in the multiplicity, is divided between the invention which is assigned to the company (and to the ‘workers employed’) and the reproduction which is assigned to the public/customers. The categories of political economy impose a division between ‘production’ and ‘consumption’ which does not hold any more in the cooperation between minds.

Political economy works idelogically to maintain a difference between production and consumption to mask the productive power of cooperation that capitalist exchange of semiotically rich goods yields.

Intellectual property has thus a political function: it determines who has the right to create and who has the duty to reproduce. The enterprise and the capital-labour relation not only prevent us from seeing the social dimension of the production of wealth, but they determine the new forms of exploitation and subjugation. Unemployment, poverty and precariousness are the direct result of the action of companies (and the politics of employment): the capture of social productivity imposes a social hierarchisation, a division between what is ‘productive’ and what is not. The company exploits society above all by exploiting workers.

That seems to be the creation story of the creative class.

The upshot of all this is that the new modes of producing collectively renderes traditional jobs and titles misleading — or rather it exposes the function they have mainly had in “societies of control” of rationalizing the status hierarchy.

The paradigm of work-employment is actively involved in, and complicit to, this destruction since it legitimizes the organizing mechanisms of power and appropriation in societies of control. On the one hand, it legitimizes the appropriation (largely for free) of the multiple relations constituting the worlds without any distinction between work and non-work, between work and life. On the other hand, it legitimizes and organizes a distribution of income still bound to the exercise of employment, to the subordination to a private or public superior.


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