Precarity: A Savage Journey to the Heart of Embodied Capitalism

Thanks Flora Worley for alerting me to this piece from the fine folk at Transversal:


Precarity: A Savage Journey to the Heart of Embodied Capitalism

Vassilis Tsianos / Dimitris Papadopoulos

A. Introduction

There is an underlying assumption to the current debates about class composition in post-Fordism: this is the assumption that immaterial work and its corresponding social subjects form the centre of gravity in the new turbulent cycles of struggles around living labour. This paper explores the theoretical and political implications of this assumption, its promises and closures. Is immaterial labour the condition out of which a radical socio-political transformation of contemporary post-Fordist capitalism can emerge? Who’s afraid of immaterial workers today?
B. Immaterial labour and precarity

In their attempt to historicize the emergence of the concept of the general intellect, many theorists (e.g. Hardt & Negri, 2000; Virno, 2004) remind us that the general intellect cannot be conceived simply as a sociological category. We think that we should apply the same precaution when using the concept of immaterial labour. This is the case especially when the studies which acknowledge the sociological evidence of immaterial work are increasing, such as research in the mainstream sociology of work which investigates atypical employment and the subjectivisation of labour (e.g. Lohr & Nickel, 2005; Moldaschl & Voss, 2003), or even conceptualisations of immaterial labour in the context of knowledge society (e.g. Gorz, 2004). A mere sociological understanding of the figure of immaterial labour is restricted to a simplistic description of the spreading of features such as affective labour, networking, collaboration, knowledge economy etc. into what mainstream sociology calls network society (Castells, 1996). What differentiates a mere sociological description from an operative political conceptualisation of immaterial labour – which is situated in co-research and political activism (Negri, 2006) – is the quest for understanding the power dynamics of living labour in post-Fordist societies.

The concept of immaterial labour is capable of delivering a diagnosis of the present contradictions of production, but who’s afraid of sociological descriptions of the present, especially when they start becoming common topos in public discourse and in mainstream social science…


Keep reading the piece HERE.


JH – my quick response is that I find lots of interesting things here, though the authors happiness with phrase-coining – biosyndicalism – and a typically anti-Leninist ossified notion of the revolutionary party, and missing analysis of imperialism, made hard to go along with everything. Then towards the end, the very narrow view of dialectics made it clear that they miss how the cunning trickster or court jester is recuperated as adjunct support to power, contained and marginalized, rather than a basis for a politics that can win. Escape yes, but where to? Sounds like a Mad Max scenario to me, and they are building a neo-imperial Tunderdome in Tripoli, and Tina – there-is-no alternative/Sakoszy/Cameron/Obama – Turner is the new Aunty Entity for the end times.

Good to see Nikos Papastergiadis cited on Migration and borders. For more see the side bar.