a propos “The Problem with Work”:

“Why do we work so long and so hard? The mystery here is not that we are required to work or that we are expected to devote so much time and energy to its pursuit, but rather that there is not more active resistance to this state of affairs…”

Opening lines from The Problem with Work, Kathi Weeks, 2011


“Voluntary,” i.e., unpaid or low paying jobs in the culture or academic industries, for example, are all too often accepted as an unchangeable fact, and nothing else is even demanded. The necessity of pursuing other, less creative, precarious jobs in order to finance one’s own cultural production is accepted. This forced and, simultaneously chosen, financing of one’s own creative output constantly supports and reproduces precisely those relations from which one suffers and of which one wants to be a part. Perhaps those who work creatively, these precarious cultural producers by design, are subjects that can be exploited so easily because they seem to bear their living and working conditions eternally due to the belief in their own freedom and autonomy, due to self-realization fantasies. In a neoliberal context they are exploitable to such an extreme that the State even presents them as role models.

This situation of self-precarization is connected to experiences of fear and loss of control, feelings of insecurity through the loss of certainties and safeguards, as well as fear and the experience of failure, social decline and poverty. Also for these reasons, “letting go” or forms of dropping out and dropping off of hegemonic paradigms are difficult. Everyone has to remain “on speed” otherwise you might fall out. There are no clear times for relaxation or recuperation. This kind of reproduction has no clear place, which, in turn, results in an unfulfilled yearning and a continuous suffering from this lack. The desire for relaxation to “find oneself” becomes insatiable. These kinds of reproductive practices usually have to be learned anew. They are lacking in any self-evidence and have to be fought for bitterly against oneself and others. In turn, this makes this yearning for reproduction, for regeneration, so extremely marketable.

Isabell Lorey, Governmentality & Self-Precarization: On the Normalization of Cultural Producers, 2006


Extract from the review of Yann Moulier Boutang’s Le capitalisme cognitif from Steven Shaviro’s blog at http://www.shaviro.com/Blog/?p=620

“The book ends…with an excellent proposal. Boutang argues for an unconditional “social wage”: to be given to everyone, without exception, and without any of the current requirements that welfare and unemployment programs impose on their recipients (requirements like behaving properly, or having to look for work, or whatever). This social wage — he gives a provisional figure of 700 euros per month, or about $1000/month at today’s exchange rates) would be paid in recompense for the fact that “general intellect,” from which corporations extract profit, is in fact the work of everyone — even and especially outside of formal work situations. Boutang spends a lot of energy showing how this proposal is fiscally feasible in Europe today, how it would rejuvenate the economy (and thus lead, in the long run, to enhanced profits for the corporations whose tax payments would finance it). What he doesn’t say, however — and perhaps does not recognize — is that, even though this proposal is perfectly feasible in terms of the overall wealth of the world economy), if it were really adopted universally — that is to say, worldwide, to all human beings on the face of the planet — it would severly disrupt the regime of appropriation that he calls “cognitive capitalism.” This is yet another example of bat020’s and k-punk’s maxim that (reversing a slogan from May 1968) we must “be unrealistic, demand the possible.” The unconditional social wage is entirely possible in terms of what the world can economically afford, but it is “unrealistic” in terms of the way that “cognitive capitalism” is structured. Demanding it pushes the system to a point of paradox, a critical point — at least notionally.”


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