Radical media, politics and culture.

reproduction, force, legitimation

So, from that collection of quotes Nate, do you think N&H want to have it both ways, to frame the changing relationship between production and reproduction as an epochal shift as well as note that it has always been dodgy to distinguish (as in make a hierarchy in ostensibly oppositional politics) between them?

I pulled out a book from my shelf the other day by Katrina Alford, Production or Reproduction? An Economic History of Women in Australia, 1788-1850. It's actually quite good, lots of historical detail. But thumbing through it again, I was left wondering what the interval between the work done by feminist labour historians (such as Alford and many others) in the 1970s, and the reiteration by N&H more recently means. Is it because these themes of reproduction were waylaid in the meantime, and if so, by whom? To put it another way: does it have more to do with the specific politics of Potere Operaio and Autonomia? Functioning, therefore, as a kind of self-criticism of their own perspectives? Because, sometimes, it feels a bit johnny-come-lately to me. Or does its recapitulation have more to do with the specific arguments by N&H about immaterial labour? If the latter, it's interesting that accounts of such often tend to use male-dominated occupations as the exemplar of immaterial labour (even if the specific quotes from Hardt here suggest otherwise).

Anyway, I think Hardt is wrong about this: "Force is secondary in the establishment and maintenance of capitalist relations of property; the logic of legitimation is its primary support." What a sheltered existence he must lead. Force is originary and ever-present, historically and logically. (I think this is some of what marks the differences between N&H and, say, Caffentzis. Moreover, here is where I think Hardt's US-Eurocentrism reasserts itself. No analysis of the prison regime, detention, the rise of forced labour (including in the US and EU), war, the turmoil of most of the world. The blood and shit of money just disappears. (Maybe, if we wait another decade, they'll catch up with post-colonial analyses too.)

As for "legitimation" being the primary support of capitalist relations - Haven't we been down this road before, with Habermas to some extent? Habermas's argument went something like this: because of the shift to real subsumption, communication (and 'the public sphere') become the principal sites of legitimation. Sound familiar? Habermas, however, was making these arguments from the late 1960s.

I thought I'd append this, post the first 'save', because it kind of informs part of the above. I've been pondering 'public sphere' stuff a bit lately, along with Brett -- we extended the short 'Physiognomy of Origin' piece into a longer article, just finished and sent off yesterday, or was it the day before ... Part of the reason for this, of course, is that the events there discussed raise a whole lot of questions about people's relationship + approach to 'the public sphere', whether conceived as a kind of ephereal but nevertheless singular space in which all public communication happens and against which it's possible to define politics and their effectivity, virtue, etc -- or whether more concretely as a question of whether to send letters to the newspaper, etc. Of course, the first has a definite relation to the latter; but the latter doesn't have to be driven by the former.

Anyway, Geoff Elay argues that the notion of 'the public sphere' is 'useful for activating a sense of ordinary and efficacious citizenship today.' ['Politics, Culture, and the Public Sphere' Positions: 10.1 (2002)] A fairly standard, dull commonplace of liberal rhetoricity, which is to say: a convenient, metaphysical distancing of the 'efficacious citizen' from its nationalist (not to mention 'hard working') registers.

Elsewhere, Jodi Dean -- "Cybersalons and Civil Society: Rethinking the Public Sphere in Transnational Technoculture" [Public Culture 13.2 (2001)] -- argues for replacing the concept of 'public sphere' with that of 'civil society', because 'Unlike a view of the public sphere that limits the political to rational conversation among people who respect each other as equals, the concept of civil society is part of a political theory that acknowledges that politics is about unequal exchanges among people who have fundamentally different ways of reasoning, who have differing conceptions of what is normal and what is appropriate. Unlike theories based on the public sphere, those employing a concept of civil society can interrogate processes of normalization and fundamentalization that seek to bound and limit what can be understood as politics. Such theories may even be able to conceive of everyday actions and interactions as contributions to a vital democracy.'

And while I think Dean's effort to shift from the Habermasian fantasy of 'the public sphere' is a good one, I'm not sure it's possible to insist on quite such a distance between 'democracy', 'civil society' and, well, the Habermasian fantasy. Which, in any case, is founded on the workings of abstract labour, equivalence, etc, even if it assumes their hierarchical, segmented aspects more clearly. Dean noted that there are problems with the 'civil society' thing: 'if civil society as mediatized cyberia is implicated in the spread of transnational corporate technoculture, it may seem as if opportunities for critique of the market as well as of new forms of colonial expansion are lost.'

Indeed, but that gets put aside, ultimately in favour of upholding 'critical democratic theory' -- 'it may seem as if democracy itself is compromised as an ideal.' And what would be the danger, exactly, of setting aside this ideal once and for all? No doubt the implict, unexplored answer here is 'tyranny', but to the extent that it remains unexplored, the question of the complicity of 'critical democratic theory' with the tyranny of the market, the spread of transnational corporate technoculture and colonial expansion is well and truly set aside. One question lurking on the edge of this is the extent to which the injunction to participate in 'the public sphere' -- or even more directly, 'civil society' -- is actually the demand on cognitive labour to send itself to market. In other words: a real confusion between the pursuit of freedom and the freedoms of the market.

A much better account of the rhetorics of citizenship is here. In this case, an argument by the often-excellent Werner Bonefeld about the 'repubic of debt', linking the rise of precarious work with the rise of citizenship talk. Not to mention an refreshingly good argument for why talking about cognitive labour as the exemplar of precarious labour is politically, historically dodgy.

Dean does have a nice pic on her site.