All of these puns suck. I apologize. Please excuse my ailing sense of humor, exacerbated by the fact that I have so much fucking stupid work to do. Damn it. Actually, I have very little stupid work to do. I have a lot of work I’m actually interesting in doing that I need to do, in the next four days. Then this weekend my special someone (who is awesome) has a birthday (which is awesome), and monday through sunday I’m in England (which is awesome). So less blogging for the now. Just this once, maybe, to … to do whatever it is blogging does for me.
Anyhoo – my friend Stevphen is editing a collection on autonomist kinds of stuff, activist research and the like. He asked for people to contribute to a glossary attached to the thing. I wrote some definitions based on what I know of the relevant literature. Since they’ve been put on the interweb at the site of this conference he’s helping organize, I figure I can put them up here in my notebook.
Class composition : Class composition analysis is a mode of intellectual practice that aims to both understand and intervene politically on the composition of the working class. There are two moments that make up the composition of the working class: the technical composition and the political composition, which roughly correspond to the distinctions of class-in-itself and class for-itself elsewhere in the Marxist tradition. The technical composition of the working class refers primarily to the organization of the labor process when it functions relatively normally in the production of surplus value. In this sense technical composition includes machinery, the skills of workers, disciplinary practices in the workplace, everything that enters into how the spaces and times of work are distributed. The political composition of the working class refers to the organizations of workers, formal or informal, by which workers act in and against the labor process: the union, the party, the affinity group, the informal work group, etc. Political composition also includes the tactics or practices that workers make use of in conflicts in and against work: absenteeism, strikes of various types, mutual aid, marches, demonstrations, etc. Class composition analysis makes use of a range of types of inquiry that resemble social and oral history, ethnography, journalism, and others. See co-research, militant research.
Co-research : Co-research is a practice of intellectual production that does not accept a distinction between active researcher and passive research subjects. At its best co-research aims for a productive cooperation that transforms both into active participants in producing knowledge and in transforming themselves. There is a long history of co-research in Italy and elsewhere, but not always under the name co-research. See Militant Research.
General Intellect : General intellect is a term used by Marx in the Grundrisse in a section referred to as “The Fragment On Machines.” In this section Marx speculates on the role of intellect, specifically scientific knowledge and technical expertise, in present and possible future versions of capitalist production. For Marx general intellect essentially resides in fixed capital, in machines and objective factors of production. Thinkers of the late 20th century onward have expanded the concept to refer to the role of intellect within variable capital, that is, skills and knowledges within the bodies and brains of workers and how these capacities relate to capitalist production and radical possibilities. In some accounts general intellect effectively means that the old Marxist project of seizing the means of production has already partially occurred: for workers such as graphic designers, translators, teachers, etc, important aspects of the material required for the performance of labor are owned by the worker in their own person.
Immaterial labor : Immaterial labor refers to the production of the immaterial content of commodities such as media and art as well as the role of information and communication in sectors of material production and the production of affect in service work and elsewhere. Immaterial labor produces and/or manipulates signs and symbols, data, information, knowledges, affects and biological life. Teachers, graphic designers, computer programmers, translators, retail clerks, prostitutes, nurses, nannies, and housewives are all examples of immaterial laborers. This labor occurs in and out of recognized workplaces in remunerated and unremunerated modes. Oftentimes immaterial labor, particularly its more traditionally feminine forms, occurs in conditions of precarity. See precarity.
Militant research : Militant research has many meanings. It can be research carried out with the aim of producing knowledge useful for militant or activist ends. Militant research can also be research that is carried in a fashion in keeping with the aims and values of radical militants. In some parts of the Marxist tradition militant research is a moment of class composition analysis, and is sometimes referred to as workers’ inquiry, after a document written by Marx in 1880. See co-research, class composition analysis.
Precarity : Precarity is the subject of growing debate and political mobilization in Europe at the time of this writing, partly in response to changes in the regimes of labor and welfare policy as well as labor practices. Precarity has several related meanings. With regard to work, precarity refers to a variety of so-called ‘nonstandard’ work arrangements: times of work (night and weekend work), quantities of work time (flexible or variable hours, part-time work, demands for overtime), and durations of work assignments (temporary work, non-contract work, freelance work). Precarity also refers to the legal status of work: whether work is legal or illegal, and which customary labor rights do and do not apply to which workers. Precarity also refers to instability of income, linked to precarious work arrangements, and to access to needed services such as healthcare and housing. All of these meanings of precarity indicate a general unpredictability of access to needed goods and services whether via a welfare state or private sector and a lack of control of work which in turn imposes less control over the rest of one’s life. In this sense precarity has historically been the general condition of the proletariat globally with moments of relatively less precarity being exceptions resulting from a number of political factors.
Real subsumption : Marx defined real subsumption of labor in the “Results of the Immediate Process of Production,” the so-called unpublished sixth chapter of Capital Volume One . Real subsumption is defined in contrast to formal subsumption of labor. Formal subsumption occurs when capitalists take command of labor processes that originate outside of or prior to the capital relation via the imposition of the wage. In real subsumption the labor process is internally reorganized to meet the dictates of capital. An example of these processes would be weaving by hand which comes to be labor performed for a wage (formal subsumption) and which then comes to be performed via machine (real subsumption). Real subsumption in this sense is a process or technique that occurs at different points throughout the history of capitalism. For some thinkers, such as Antonio Negri, real subsumption of labor is transfigured into real subsumption of society such that all of society becomes a moment of capitalist production. In this version real subsumption is an epoch, a stage of capitalism within a historical periodization, analogous to postmodernity. This sense of real subsumption is very similar to the social factory when read as a historical periodization. See social factory.
Self-valorization : Self-valorization, also translatable as auto-valorization, refers to the capacity of individuals and groups to autonomously produce different values other than that of capitalist value production and to produce social relationships and organizational forms in keeping with these other values. Both self-valorization and auto-valorization are imperfect translations: the former connotes a type of individualism, and the latter connotes a mechanical, automatic, or predetermined process. In Italian and Spanish the phrase has neither of those connotations. For more on this concept readers can consult the works of Antonio Negri and Harry Cleaver.
Social factory : The social factory is a term developed within the operaismo tradition of Marxism in Italy. There is an ambivalence in the term, between being a conceptual optic and being a narrative of historical periodization. The social factory as a conceptual optic argues that the techniques and practices of power deployed within the factory also impact life outside the factory, and vice versa. In other words the walls of the factory are a semi-permeable membrane across which passages take place and across which lines of force operate. The basic point of the concept is that value production and resistance to value production do not occur only in determinate and recognized workplaces and in activity by waged workers. This concept of the social factory has a polemical force against the factory-ist political and organizational model that centers on workplaces and waged work. As a type of historical periodization the social factory is a narrative in which the inside and the outside of the factory become contiguous over a period of time such that capitalist command now comes to reach across the inside and outside of the factory. See also real subsumption.
Socialized worker : The socialized worker, also translated as social worker, appears in the work of Antonio Negri among others. Negri has most recently begun to refer to the socialized worker using the term ‘multitude.’ The socialized worker is a figure in a history of changing class compositions that runs from ‘the professional worker’ to ‘the mass worker’ to the socialized worker. The socialized worker has the following general characteristics: work may occur at a number of different and sometimes varying sites within society rather than in one designated workplace. Work may occur at different and sometimes varying times, and the work involves social capacities such as speaking, caring, writing, and so forth. The labor of the socialized worker is the set of activities that Negri and others refer to by the term immaterial labor. See class composition, immaterial labor.