Readings – Lazaratto – Immaterial Labour

Immaterial Labour – labour that produces the cultural and informational content of the commodity. Not normally thought of as “work”, activities involved in defining and fixing cultural and artistic standards, fashions, tastes and public opinion.

Workers have begun to be expected to use subjectivity to make decisions rather than simply being dictated to. This then involved the management having to learn how to control subjectivity. It seems capitalism now wants to be able to control workers’ actual personality traits in order to get them to produce “value”. This is arguably more totalitarian than the previous division between mental and manual labour. Workers’ subjectivity is only being valued as a consideration by management so it can be brought into line and exploited to achieve the company’s aims and increase their profits.

In advertising, fashion, software production, photography etc. people don’t operate within confined work places but in society at large, or “basin of immaterial labour.” Such people may think they are independent or self-employed but are in fact still being exploited by their employers, work and leisure become the same thing. Immaterial labour has the goal of improving effectiveness of communication, making work and consumption more efficient.

In the post-industrial model, information and its distribution is the key. Market research and advertising sells the product before it even gets made. The goal then becomes about creating a self-perpetuating, ever expanding market for bigger / better and different products, for even more people to want in larger quantities because you’ve already told them that they do. Labour doesn’t just produce commodities, but the desire to expect more of them.


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