Monday, 10 July 2017

Hardt and Negri on Immaterial Labour

















We've talked about it a little bit recently and how immaterial labour is becoming increasingly important, but how should it be understood? In their Multitude, Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri define two forms:
The first form refers to labour that is primarily intellectual or linguistic, such as problem solving, symbolic and analytical tasks, and linguistic expressions. This kind of immaterial labour produces ideas, symbols, codes, texts, linguistic figures, images and other such products. We call the other principle form of immaterial labour "affective labour". Unlike emotions, which are mental phenomena, affects refer equally to body and mind. In fact, affects, such as joy and sadness, reveal the present state of life in the entire organism, expressing a certain state of the body along with a certain mode of thinking. Affective labour, then, is labour that produces or manipulates affects such as a feeling of ease, well-being, satisfaction, excitement, or passion. One can recognise affective labour, for example, in the work of legal assistants, flight attendants, and fast food workers (service with a smile). One indication of the rising importance of affective labour, at least in the dominant countries, is the tendency for employers to highlight education, attitude, character and "prosocial" behaviour as the primary skills employees need.
Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri 2004 Multitude Penguin, p.108.

Of course, there is no hard and fast separation between the two. As they argue, the drawing on the intellect in a creative process usually involves mobilising affect as well, and vice versa.

We'll be returning to this in the future, so just parking up the quote for now.

6 comments:

Chrisso said...

The authors of the work you quoted, say: "We call the other principle [sic] form of immaterial labour "affective labour". Unlike emotions, which are mental phenomena, affects refer equally to body and mind. In fact, affects, such as joy and sadness, reveal the present state of life in the entire organism."

What they say, or rather the way they choose to express themselves, is pure drivel. i.e. 'Emotions, which are mental phenomena'...

Psychologists would have a field day with this! And as it happens, joy and sadness are also emotions. 'Affect' is the product of emotions and part of the process of interaction with stimuli.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps unlike Chrissa, I can see the core logic in this formulation. But, surely, these concepts are not forever separated. I've been a nMP's caseworker for over a decade as well as a councillor for a longer period. In these roles I have to do problem solving as well as trying to keep the punters (many of whom are facing life shattering problems) happy or at least as happy as can be.

Anonymous said...

i'm curious, phil, where would you put dealing drugs in all of this? or any other service where there's an inelastic need?

les

Phil said...

Yes. Immaterial labour shades into all forms of social production. Hardt and Negri are keen to argue we are all socially productive, from the professional to the homeless person.

Anonymous said...

"One indication of the rising importance of affective labour, at least in the dominant countries, is the tendency for employers to highlight education, attitude, character and "prosocial" behaviour as the primary skills employees need."

"Attitude, character and prosocial" : code words for management arselickers who have the company logo tatooed on their arses and don't join unions and go on strike.

Phil said...

Um, no. These are basic skills expected of most jobs these days. You have to perform these things if you want to carry on keeping your job.