on synchronisity of art and culture, technology and environment

Immaterial Labour – Maurizio Lazzarato

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“Immaterial Labor” in the Classic Definition
All the characteristics of the postindustrial
economy (both in industry and society as a whole) are highly present
within the classic forms of “immaterial” production: audiovisual
production, advertising, fashion, the production of software, photography,
cultural activities, and so forth. The activities of this kind of immaterial
labor force us to question the classic definitions of work and
workforce, because they combine the results of various different
types of work skill: intellectual skills, as regards the cultural-informational
content; manual skills for the ability to combine creativity, imagination,
and technical and manual labor; and entrepreneurial skills in the management
of social relations and the structuring of that social cooperation of
which they are a part. This immaterial labor constitutes itself in forms
that are immediately collective, and we might say that
it exists
only in the form of networks and flows. The organization of the cycle
of production of immaterial labor (because this is exactly what it is,
once we abandon our factoryist prejudices—a cycle of production) is
not obviously apparent to the eye, because it is not defined by the
four walls of a factory. The location in which it operates is outside
in the society at large, at a territorial level that we could call “the
basin of immaterial labor.” Small and sometimes very small “productive
units” (often consisting of only one individual) are organized
for specific ad hoc projects, and may exist only for the duration of
those particular jobs. The cycle of production comes into operation
only when it is required by the capitalist; once the job has been done,
the cycle dissolves back into the networks and flows that make possible
the reproduction and enrichment of its productive capacities. Precariousness,
hyperexploitation, mobility, and hierarchy are the most obvious characteristics
of metropolitan immaterial labor. Behind the label of the independent
“self-employed” worker, what we actually find is an intellectual
proletarian, but who is recognized
as such only by the employers who exploit him or her. It is worth noting
that in this kind of working existence it becomes increasingly difficult
to distinguish leisure time from work time. In a sense, life becomes
inseparable from work.This labor form is also characterized by real
managerial functions that consist in (1) a certain ability to manage
its social relations and (2) the eliciting of social cooperation within
the structures of the basin of immaterial labor.

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August 20th, 2008 at 5:11 pm

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