The genealogy of the concept of immaterial labour is thus Marxist and is an innovative development of Marx’s notion of the ‘general intellect’ as described in the Grundrisse, in a section entitled ‘Fragment on Machines’ (1973). As summarized by Paolo Virno (1996), Marx identifies a future…
That is a pretty good description. The point of using “general intellect” as a term is to indicate how the “real subsumption” of everyday life under capital generates this redemptive force, the general intellect, that might be brought to bear to end capitalism.
As I read it, the general intellect is only possible in a capitalist society that has developed means of production and associated modes of social organization to connect people in this hyperproductive way, so that social relations are always relations of production, and nothing more. Usually in the moments that this becomes clearer to me, I get filled with depair — the measure of the value of my relationships is always going to be referred in the end to the prerogatives of capital! I am measuring the value of my life on capital’s terms, even when I am focusing on the sorts of relationships that are supposed to transcend it — the kinds of “love” capitalist ideology elevates as a compensation for capitalism’s otherwise unmitigated immiseration.
But that’s just the reason to be optimistic, perhaps; the general intellect concept makes social productivity more explicit, more tangible, and perhaps more subject to an alternative way of being coordinated rather than through the profit motive. Yet the ubiquity of the general intellect means we can’t return to sociality that is not underwritten by productivity (if ever there was one). No pure relations, if “pure” is defined as uncalculating, unproductive, for its own sake.