Friday, 31 October 2008

Fragments of an interview on new forms of labor

Below are some fragments of an interview did by
Nate Holdren with Michael Hardt by phone in October 2006. It was slated to appear in an issue of Greenpepper Magazine. The fragments refer to new forms of labor.

---Q: This gets at a thread that runs through a lot of the questions we have about your work -- the issue of unwaged reproductive labor, labor that is ostensibly off the clock, but is still bound up with value production. There's a section of volume one of Capital where Marx quotes some English thinker who says "the English working class are phenomenally productive today, and it's because they have leisure time";, which makes this point. So when you and Negri talk about general intellect entering into production, does general intellect enter from the space of the home and from reproduction?

---Hardt: In a way, yes, that's right. There's unwaged labor before post-fordism and you could see some capacities present there in earlier times. But like with multitude, it's not a spontaneous or immediate thing. It's important to recognize that people have these capacities, to look at what specific capacities there are today, to see how they're used in labor and how they could be used differently. And then there's the matter of actually using them differently. We have to figure that part out and it's also a matter of organization in order to be able do to that.

---Q: In response to a similar question on unwaged reproductive labor in an earlier interview you did for the aut-op-sy mailing list, you mentioned Deleuze and Guattari and their idea of desiring-production as a way of opening up the idea of production. Can you say more about this, particularly about different types of production? For example, there's desiring production and there's value production and they're not always the same all the time?

---Hardt: It's important to note that for Deleuze and Guattari desiring production is often co-opted. They understand that it enters into value production at least some of the time and that it's not always external. I think this is important because sometimes Deleuze and Guattari can be taken as being too optimistic. But they do recognize that desire has a relationship with value production. We also could look at these as perspectives, different perspectives from which to view things and to see what we can better understand from one perspective or the others.

---Q: What is at stake here is the question of practical rupture and of having the theoretical space to think rupture. It's like Tronti's point that the working class acts in certain ways that are disruptive of capitalism but then these behaviors get capitalized. Doesn't arguing that 'all life time is productive' make it hard to think about activity that doesn't -- or at least some day, some activity that won't -- get capitalised?

---Hardt: That's an important question. First, though, I think it's important to note that one doesn't preclude the other. Capitalization of activities isn't solely a bad thing. If workers demands are met by capital and capital is forced to change that means that the working class gets more powerful and new spaces and possibilities open up. At least that's what I think Tronti meant back in the 1960s.

For example, I did an interview at the last World Social Forum in Porto Alegre with a Brazilian journalist who asked "the World Economic Forum said that their agenda is to alleviate poverty, isn't that a problem?" And I said, "Why is that a problem?" It took a while to figure out what the point was, but finally he said, "they stole your ideas, they stole your agenda!" I told him, "that means we won." Being able to dictate your enemy's agenda is a strength and a sign of power.

The question of rupture is another is another really important organizational question. In some ways it's a matter of figuring out what the forms of sabotage are today that we can use to turn the capacities that we take to work and that are learned at work and use them another way. I wish I had a good example of this, though and that it was a simple as jamming a wooden shoe into a machine!

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