Thursday, June 28, 2012

potentially useful quote from Lazzarato on immaterial labor, de-consumerizing

This is quoted in Coté and Pybus's article for Ephemera 7:
The activation, both of productive cooperation and of the social relationship with the consumer, is materialised within and by the process of communication. It is immaterial labour which continually innovates the form and the conditions of communication (and thus of work and of consumption). It gives form and materializes needs, images, the tastes of consumers and these products become in their turn powerful producers of needs, of images and of tastes. The
particularity of the commodity produced through immaterial labour (seeing that its essential use value is given by its value contained, informational and cultural) consists in the fact that this is not destroyed in the act of consumption, but enlarges, transforms, creates the ‘ideological’ and cultural environment of the consumer. This does not produce the physical capacity of the workforce, it transforms the person who uses it. Immaterial labour produces first of all a ‘social relationship’ (a relationship of innovation, of production, of consumption); and only if it succeeds in this production does its activity have an economic value. This activity shows immediately that which material production ‘hid’: in other words, labour produces not only commodities, but first and foremost the capital relationship. (Lazzarato, 2001)

Immaterial labor produces certain sorts of measurable, value-generating social relations. And like all labor, it reproduces capitalism as a set of relations revolving around commodities.

I guess I would argue that immaterial labor fashions a commodity in the form of relationship that veils the value that can be harvested in its "circulation," which has to be understood not as a transfer of property by as networked communication. "Immaterial" commodities mask the process of commodification and value extraction precisely because there is not tangible property involved, but instead a proprietary claim to communication flows. Immaterial labor is another way of saying the commodification of communication. It allows companies to extract a rent from meaning-making and symbolic exchange. Because it involves a relation and communication, it foregrounds the ways in which consumption is productive. It's "labor" insofar as it produces harvestable value, but it doesn't make the consumer a laborer; rather it hides the value that consumers create because their value creation doesn't appear to them as labor. This is why the critique is to stress consumer's productivity, and to try to strip the pleasure from this kind of production only so that consumer-producers will make an effort to disentangle their consumption from the reproduction of capitalist forms. We mustn't be distracted by how we are paid in affect for immaterial/communictive/consumeristic labor from the ways in which this labor reproduces capitalism. The question becomes how to withdraw affect from this circuit, how to extinguish its value in the process of consumption instead of producing it in a recirculatable way (i.e. in social networks). The trend is running in the other direction: we are being subjectivized to only experience pleasure (or positive affect) when our affect is captured in networks and "shared." It's only real feeling if it is mediated, preserved, not "destroyed." Pics or it didn't happen, even for yourself.

Not sure if that is theoretically coherent. Basically, consumerism reproduces capitalist relations because the consuming process makes capitalist value. Only the consumer can intervene and de-consumerize their consumption (I wonder) through a consciousness of the value they are producing and then ... what? An effort to destroy it or deny it or claim its value for themselves?

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