Or real subsumption.
The following claims are sometimes made.
1. The postfordist class composition involves the following traits:
- immaterial labor (in at least three senses – the production of symbols and ideas, production of affect and social relations, linguistic labor) and the importance of general intellect
- blurred or absent boundary between work and nonwork
2. These traits and related activities are central to and hegemonic in the production process now (and are newly central and hegemonic, but not new as such).
3. Based on the newly hegemonic or central role of these traits and related activities, some received theoretical tools and organizational forms do not suit us in the present in the way they (may have) served prior. Other theoretical and organizational forms suit us better in the present.
Claims 1 and 2 are about the technical composition. Claim 3 is about the political composition (with implications on the relationship between political and technical composition) as well as about theory (with implications on the relationship between theory and both technical and political class composition).
I don’t have strong opinions about claim 1. One could probably quibble over to what degree these are and are not the case, but I’m not compelled to do so.
I have slightly stronger feelings toward claim 2, though not very clearly formulated views. I do have some questions and reservations.
It may be the case that these traits called hegemonic are hegemonic. One could quibble with this as well and I’m more inclined to do so than I am inclined to quibble with claim 1. More than that, I’m inclined to wonder what if the hegemonic or non-hegemonic nature of these traits is a particularly productive type of assertion. I’m also inclined to say that at least some of these traits are actually general determinations of life under the capitalism mode of production, general determinations to which some are newly attentive and which are mistaken for being new determinations in the present.
Bracketing that, assuming both previous non-hegemony of these traits/activities and present hegemony of them – what kind of hegemony is this? Hegemony in the production process is different from other forms of hegemony – technical vs political hegemony, perhaps? – and I’m not at all clear what the importance of this (technical) hegemony should be or how it relates to anything else.
I’m much more hesitant about claim 3. At least some of the theoretical and organizational arguments rejected in the present were, to my mind, never adequate at all, which means their inadequacy in the present (perhaps “their being even more inadequate”) is less striking to me. Similarly, I think some of the claims about what suits us better in the present also suited better in the past, so again the present strikes me as less striking. Also, it’s not at all clear to me why changes in the technical composition should be seen as making possible the new political composition. I prefer to reverse this, telling the story of technical compositions as (in an important sense political) responses to (and the taking on by the technical composition of characteristics of) different political compositions. I also prefer to think of the technical composition less as the condition of the (that is, of one most adequate) political composition and more as the (in an important sense political) target of a political composition (of which there are many possible).
A few things seem to follow from this as next steps.
1. Elaboration of the argument that traits called traits of postfordism are general determinations, with examples.
2. Elaboration of arguments about the inadequacy in the past of what is called now inadequate in the present due to the allegedly new qualities of the postfordist class compostion.
3. Elaboration of historical research on moments where a local/sectoral class composition involved the traits in claim 1, in the technical composition and/or the political composition.
4. Elaboration of arguments about the relationship between political and technical composition.