They’re the questions you’ve all been wanting answers to, I know.

So I think I’ve said this on here, but I’m making a disciplinary move, academically. Into history. Or should that be History? Anyway, making a move. Have made it, officially, but don’t yet feel like it’s fully taken in substantive terms – I don’t yet feel like a historian. As part of this, I’m trying to get used to … like … empirical … stuff. Among that stuff is archival research. This week I spent some time in an archive in Iowa and in Wisconsin. It’s neat. I’m bad at it – that’s part of why I’m trying to do more of this, to get better at it.

Below are some notes from stuff I found in Iowa, tossed up here for the sake of arguing some more about immaterial labor and the periodizing claims – and the relevance of the periodization(s) – made by Negri et al. There’s some Foucault quote that I like but that I can’t remember the citation of, describing his own work: “philosophical fragments put to work in a historical field of problems.” I’d like to think of what I’m trying or plan to try to do with the stuff below as the converse, using historical fragments to make a theoretical point about all this immaterial labor and real subsumption.

Undigested or edited notes, even more so than what usually is up here:

Notes to self – 1. look at Stefano Harney’s book on public employees again, 2. write on factory inspections and biopolitics/care of the body – protecting workers/the body (workers being reduced to bodies, see Badiou on the wrong idea that there are only bodies and language) as care for the state see Foucault, see also Marx’s remarks on Postlethwayt (sp?)

— From the decision in the Bromberg case:
“The State has a direct interest in the life, health, and safety of every individual citizen, and does not hesitate when the occasion requires to interfere for the protection of the weaker and less capable against the consequences of their incapacity. Holden v. Hardy, 169 U.S. 366 (18 S. Ct. 383, 42 L. Ed. 780).”

Possibility of an alternative history – or an actual history – of immaterial labor? As well as distinctions between hegemonic and non-hegemonic (pre-hegemonic?) forms of immaterial labor – could start with Negri’s terms, wherein hegemony of immaterial labor is a period marker, then move toward spatial and social differentiation – _some_ immaterial labor(s) = hegemonic, not all = which might in turn help disaggregate ‘immaterial labor’ more.

Document: Biennial Report of the Iowa Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1901-1902.
Worth reading in its entirety, I should do so instead of just skimming.

Extensive stuff on unions and labor agreements, be interesting to write on the history of no strike agreements, especially prior to the Wagner Act, see what’s already written.

For instance, the Keokuk Bartenders League local 535, an AFL affiliate, allowed proprietors employing a member in good standing to “have an apprentice, said apprentice to be of the white race and eighteen years of age.” (287.) The Laundry Workers’ International Union Agreement with The Hawkeye Laundry agreed “the union will not cause or sanction a strike, or the employer will not lock out his employees while this agreement is in force.” (301.)

Also unions of barbers (whose contract stipulated prices for massages, 272), carpenters, retail clerks, train conductors, cooks and waiters, locomotive engineers, musicians, teamsters, telegraph workers. I list these as examples of immaterial labor (even if driving or animal handling – teamsters – or measuring and tool choice – carpenters and other trades – isn’t often thought of as such; in a sense ‘skill’ as in ‘skilled labor’ is an index of the degree to which immaterial/mental components loom large in how the work is understood [at least how it’s understood – from a conservative perspective – as distinct from unskilled labor]). Should note that this information – and much more not included here, both quantitative data like numbers of locals and members as well as qualitative data like getting workers’ views on issues of the day – derived from immaterial labor by state agents, including a fair bit of affective labor – cajoling and relationship building – in order to secure not only the qualitative but also quantitative data.

There is also a section on “manual training” which emphasize the role of intellect in manual labor, by emphasizing the need for more “manual or industrial education” in schools. This is precisely a call for a certain type of immaterial labor – the labor of teaching “manual training” and the students’ labor of learning the training. (That teaching is immaterial labor strikes me as obvious. Presumably most who agree with one or the other versions of the immaterial labor thesis would also agree that learning/training is also immaterial labor conducted by students.) This training would, the section states, improve the quality of manual work. It also states that “[m]anual training is an educational form of hand-work in which the pupils are taught to see, to reason, and to execute.” It is “training enabling the eye, hand, and brain to work together” and which “cultivates the powers and forms the character.” [Or, in a more current vocabulary, produces subjectivity.] (535.) The section also dwells on an affective component, noting that “[i]n the well ordered manual training room we find that the children are much interested and have a love for and a delight in their work.” This “usually creates and always intensifies a love for work with the hands.” As a result many students “willingly use the tools in the manual training room and get over their idle habits and distaste for work. (537.)

To me the above suggests two things. One, a possible re-interpretation of Althusser’s – in my view, idealist – theories of the ISAs in a more materialist fashion, by understanding the ISAs as sites of ideological and immaterial labor. Two, the hegemony of immaterial labor is an imprecise phase.

On one, to the degree that the ISAs have operated, and to the degree that their operation understood in a materialist sense (an understanding which at least for me owes a good deal to writers who emphasize immaterial labor, a debt I do not wish to minimize) has always been a matter of immaterial labor, then the hegemony of immaterial labor is as old as the ISAs or at least as old as the operation of ISAs when they represent a hegemonic class or stratum.

On two, likewise, to the degree that early capitalist enterprises were run by entrepreneurs who did some activity – I don’t call it labor, for reasons I won’t get into here – necessary for firm creation and maintenance – I am willing to consider this degree to be zero but the remarks of some immaterial labor theorists about cooperation in capitalism and in Marx’s Capital makes me think that they would not agree with me on this – then to that same degree immaterial activities were also hegemonic in capitalism (as just one example, the activities of selecting and hiring workers and of purchasing slaves), or at least those who performed those activities were hegemonic. Likewise with the shift from owner-managers to early corporate capitalism with owning and managing and shop floor supervision differentiated, these are differentiations of immaterial activities as part of changing firm structures. Likewise with the activities of policing and public health – surveillance and so forth.]

Of course, this is not an attack on the immaterial labor thesis as such, since the thesis could be reformulated more precisely in response to this criticism.] The document also makes proposals for teacher training.

Additional note to self: metaphors of industry as war, including comparative calculations by progressives, compare with Marx in the 1844 Manuscripts (elsewhere?) and with Ann Taylor Allen on early 20th century appeals to mothers’ pay (‘welfare’ — write on that distinction as well, in relation to SNLT and how some labor which is socially necessary is not SNLT) because of the risks involved in childbirth as comparable to the risks taken by soldiers. As follow up on this.

/End transmission.