This paper does two things. First, against post-Marxism and postmodernism, it recognizes the crisis of Marxist theory posed by the crises of capitalism and socialism but argues both that Marxist theory remains essential in the struggle against domination and for liberation and that at least one tradition of Marxism has developed in such a manner as to be useful for these purposes. Not only does the theory of that tradition grasp the globality of the problem and provide the means to understand the separations and connections that account for our weaknesses and our strengths, it also provides a framework within which we can recognize and analyze the emergence and autonomy of new social subjects supposedly beyond the purview of Marxist theory. Second, the paper discusses the limits to the ability of Marxist theory to conceptualize and provide positive theories appropriate to those emerging social subjects and therefore the need to develop revolutionary theory by taking account of the autonomous development of ideas within the struggles of emerging social subjects. As an example of the kind of assessment we need to do, the second part of the paper examines, with a view to discovering common ground as well as identifying differences, one feminist attempt to construct a theoretical alternative to the Marxist theory of labor.
But prior to such ex-post dialectical processes of theoretical adaptation, within the crisis the very contingency of the confrontation with all of its rupture (brought on by our radical antagonism) and possibility of social mutation (inherent in the positive content of our subjectivity – the materiality of the steps we are taking in the refoundation of society) – Marxist theory has always revealed both its verification and its limits. The verification can be seen in the crisis brought on by our struggles. The limits can be found in the theory's ability to grasp new directions of movement. On the basis of an approach that rejects the abstract generalization of Marx's analysis of the dialectic of capital into a cosmology (dialectical materialism),(1) we must recognize that the social transcendence of capital also involves a transcendence of Marxism. In other words, in so far as our struggles go beyond our efforts as workers against capitalist exploitation and alienation to the elaboration of alternative ways of being, i.e., to become processes of "self- valorization", to that degree we must develop new theory beyond Marx's theory of capitalism.
Moreover, if communism is not a future social order beyond capital but just such on-going processes of self-valorization, then we should be looking for new ways of thinking and "theorizing" in the present. Simultaneously, of course, as the history of past struggles shows, we may also find innovative efforts being recuperated within the capitalist dialectic, and thus aborted in their autonomy. Thus, we have a research agenda that involves two interlocking projects: 1) to continue the adaptation of Marxist theory in order to understand the changing strategies of our common enemy (and the best ways to fight it) in terms of our own self-activity, and 2) to seek out and critically evaluate new, alternative categories of analysis. The former project requires the study of the current content of the class struggle and of the adequacy of our current interpretations of Marxist theory. The later project requires the exploration of the constituent power (and limits) of emerging processes of self-valorization – and of their self-conceptualizations. These projects, of course, are not completely separate because understanding capital's efforts at domination requires understanding the our efforts at liberation and these latter involve not merely the positive creation of alternative ways of being but also the resistance to domination.
Yet, surely, despite the validity of such critiques, such theories must retain a certain appeal because the globality of the class relationships of capitalism has never been clearer than it is in the wake of the overthrow of Soviet-style socialism in Eastern Europe and the USSR. Today, global capitalism spearheaded by the International Monetary Fund is transforming the institutional structures of the ex-socialist countries into variations of familiar Western types. Simultaneously, and at the root of both the collapse and the current efforts at transformation, the similarities between the struggles of the working classes of Central Europe and those of the West are becoming more and more obvious. We now see them more clearly and recognize the parallels not only because their institutional framework is becoming more familiar, but because with the collapse of the traditional barriers to East-West communication their struggles and ours are joining. As hitherto barely visible reservoirs of resistance and self-valorization link with their Western counterparts through face-to-face encounters (e.g., of environmental activists) and autonomous computer networks (e.g., Glasnet, Peacenet, etc.) the commonalties of struggle resonate and new common directions are being elaborated. Thus, ironically, just as the ideologies of post-modernism have trumpeted the radical incomparability of contemporary social conflicts and have demoted the Marxist analysis of class and class conflict to the status of one-issue-among-others, the development of those very social conflicts — East and West — have produced such an unmistakable unification of the institutions of capitalist power that no matter how autonomous the social conflicts, the omnipresent menace of capitalist repression must force the recognition of a common enemy and of the continuing usefulness of Marxist analysis. Perhaps, with apologies to Marx, this character of the crisis "will drum the salience of class into the heads of the upstarts of post-modernism."
However, at the same time, the criticisms do highlight the failures to grasp the particular in some Marxist attempts to theorize the whole. Nor is it just a question of developing an analysis of the particular to complement the analysis of the whole – as the evolution of the debate over dependency and world-systems theory shows.(2) Rather what is required is an ability to grasp simultaneously: the nature of the totality/globality that capital has sought to impose, the diversity of self-activity which has resisted that totality and the evolution of each in terms of the other. Moreover, what we need is a theory that articulates all this from the point of view of the resistance to capital's totalization (as opposed to what we might call bourgeois theory which deals with these things from the point of view of capital) and of the efforts to move beyond it. The question then is whether there are any traditions or developments within Marxism, i.e., by those who call themselves Marxists, that provide such a theory, or important elements of such a theory? My answer is yes.
There is a tradition of Marxist theory — one which I call "autonomist Marxism" — that has evolved in such a way as to answer the post-modern demand for the recognition of difference while preserving the Marxist insistence on the totalizing character of capital. This is a tradition that long ago abandoned the simple reductionism of that deterministic orthodoxy which post-Marxism usually takes for its rhetorical target. In place of a narrow conception of the working class (as the waged industrial proletariat) which ignored or sought to subordinate other oppressed segments of society, we have had for several decades a complex theory of class composition explicitly designed to grasp, without reduction, the divisions and power relationships within and among the diverse populations on which capital seeks to maintain its dominion of work throughout the social factory — understood as including not only the traditional factory but also life outside of it which capital has sought to shape for the reproduction of labor power. (3) This is a theory which inverts, from a working class perspective, Marx's analysis of the composition of capital and constructs a theory of the changing "composition" of working class power. (4) Thus the concept of working class is seen to include all those lives capital has been able (to one degree or another) to subordinate to its own logic while, at the same time, appreciating the differences and conflicts among them. This theory explores how various sectors of the working class, through the circulation of their struggles, "recompose" the relations among them to increase their ability to rupture the dialectic of capital and to achieve their own ends. In response, over time and according to the dynamics of that recomposition, capital is forced to seek a restructuring, a "decomposition" of the class — which may involve the repression and/or the internalization of self-activity — to restore its control. Such analysis has involved the systematic reworking of key Marxist concepts within the changing historical context and has generated a comprehensive analysis of the evolution of Twentieth Century capitalism.
One central example of the recasting of those concepts in the light of changes in the class relations of capitalism has been that of Marx's concept of the "collective worker" elaborated in Capital, Volume I. Historical examination of the shift from skilled craft labor to relatively unskilled mass production labor led to the theory of the "mass worker" in the Fordist-Keynesian period. (5) That reworking produced analyses of the complexity of a new constitution of the working class in ways which have brought out both the autonomy and interconnectedness (complementarities and conflicts) among sectors of the class — including the various parts of the waged proletariat as well as groups traditionally defined as outside that class such as unwaged housewives, students, peasants and urban "marginals". (6) Such recognition and analysis of diversity has continued through the crisis of the Fordist-Keynesian period into the current phase of the crisis of capitalism. (7) Such analysis has provided the tools necessary to reveal the weaknesses and strengths of our struggles as well as the success and limits of capital's efforts to restore its power of command.
For the period beginning with the crisis of Fordist-Keynesian style of command, the Marxist theory of class composition has provided an historical analysis of the crisis of the class relations of capitalism that we have been experiencing for the last 25 years in terms of two phases: 1) a complex and interrelated insurgency of a broadly defined working class, which, through a process of political recomposition of the structure of class power, ruptured the sinews of capitalist command, and 2) a capitalist counterattack which has sought to decompose that power in order to restore its own ability to subordinate society. In both phases the key issue has been the ability of diverse sectors of the working class to overcome their isolation and differences and circulate their struggles among themselves and to other sectors. (8) Where they have succeeded they have gained ground in the class war; where they have failed capital has been successful in its counterattacks.
To begin with, the "class composition" analysis of the late 1960s and early 1970s demonstrated how the crisis of capital (which is at the heart of the violence of its reaction) was precipitated by a cycle of various interconnected struggles (including those of peasants, students, women, industrial workers, state workers, etc.) which succeeded in rupturing the post-WWII structures of global capitalist power, i.e., Fordism-Keynesianism-Pax-Americana. In other words, those working within this framework have shown how these struggles constituted a political recomposition of class power while moving more or less autonomously in their own directions. (9) Subsequently, in response to the variety of capitalist counterattacks launched in the 1970s and 1980s — from the reorganization of international money through the use of inflation and deflation to industrial and social restructuring — the theory of class composition has delineated both our failures to cope and the sources of our continuing strength.
On the negative side of our weaknesses, analyses based on this theory have shown how the defeats we have suffered over the past two decades of crisis have been in large part due to our inability to avoid being divided and conquered, i.e., to avoid the successful decomposition of our power. At a global level, in the 1970s and 1980s, capital was able to impose localized hunger, disease and starvation, e.g., the famines of Africa, austerity (unemployment and falling real income) and police repression, e.g., Mexico, Brazil, Mozambique, the American rust belt, the ghettos of Washington and Los Angeles, war and devastation, e.g., Panama, the Persian Gulf. The success of these terribly destructive counterattacks have depended on isolating the targeted populations by preventing the mobilization of outside support — in part through the manipulation of circuits of information and communication.(10) In the U.S., counterattacks against particular sectors, especially against those whose demands and struggles cut transversally across numerous other conflicts, e.g., the women's movement, "minority" movements, and immigrant self-mobilization, have involved fueling the most vitriolic ideologies of human division — sexism, racism and ethnic jingoism.(11) The objective of such ideological attacks being to mobilize support for juridical and legislative attacks on gender rights, for similar attacks on racial rights as well as welfare cuts and Drug Wars aimed at already ghettoized minority populations and for the overt repression of the circulation of immigrant autonomy. Such official state violence, of course, has sanctioned an expansion of private violence accelerating the incidence of rape, gay bashing and skinhead attacks on minorities and immigrants.
On the positive side, the theory has helped locate our ability to resist such attacks in capital's inability to destroy or control existing connections or to prevent the further formation of linkages among those of us engaged both in destructuring the mechanisms of capitalist command and in pursuing our own autonomous purposes. Subsequent work on the failures of capital's counter-offensives have sought to understand the transformations through which people have been able to resist capitalist assault and continue to build their own autonomy. (12)
Internationally, the power of the Nicaraguan revolutionaries or of the Palestinian intifada to assert and defend their own programs has depended in obvious ways on how international networks of solidarity have been able to inhibit both the American and Israeli governments' proclivities toward military repression. The extremely rapid diffusion of information through such networks — that have evolved from newsprint into cyberspace — has been essential in the mobilization of mass opposition to the deployment of American troops against the Sandinistas (thus the recourse to the contras and economic blockade) and to the brutality of Israeli repression of Palestinian struggles. Similarly, the amazingly rapid mobilization that took place in the Fall of 1990 of a movement against the possibility of a Gulf War was based on the ability of those opposed to the military build-up to utilize global systems of computer communication (especially Peacenet) to diffuse counter-information that was used for local organization. On a smaller scale, but more persistently, the ability of the South African liberation movement to break out of its isolation and mobilize a worldwide, anti-racist movement against apartheid (imposing boycotts and disinvestment) was fundamental to its ability to force all of the recent changes which have widened the possibilities of its struggles. Perhaps most dramatically, the instantaneous circulation of the images of revolt from country to country, played a fundamental role in the wildfire-like spread of political revolution against Soviet-style communism in Central Europe.
In the U.S. such linkages have been multiplied a thousand fold and account for both the power of resistance and the power of constitution in arena after arena of social conflict. The resistance of American women to the "backlash" against their progress toward liberation and autonomy, that of the old to the attack on social security and Medicare, that of the gay community to the neglect of the AIDS epidemic and that of parents, students and the poor to reductions in school lunch programs and food stamps are examples of struggles which stymied the Reagan White House's "social agenda" in the 1980s. Those struggles forced it sometimes to abandon its efforts, sometimes to have recourse to private or local initiatives (e.g. the attack on abortion rights, state legislation, media ridicule of feminism and exposes of welfare cheats and street crime in the ghettos, the push for privatization of public schools) or even to make further concessions against its will (e.g., more money for AIDS research and outreach, more money for food stamps).(13)
The persistence of pro-active struggles (beyond mere resistance) among such groups can be seen in the continuing drive by women, gays and racial minorities to extend the spaces and opportunities for self-development in spheres such as education where, as students and professors, they have forced the creation of courses and whole programs of study to provide opportunity and time for the elaboration of new kinds of self-understanding and autonomous projects —from the exploration of the hidden history of women and sexual diversity to that of Afrocentrism. It has been the strength of such struggles, the pervasiveness of the critiques of contemporary society they have produced, together with their success in pushing forward their autonomous agendae that have produced an audience for the emphasis on difference characteristic of postmodernism as well as the most recent ideological backlash against "political correctness", diversity and multiculturalism.
In terms of the theory of the working class, the main implications of this orientation has been to recognize and theorize both the self-activity of workers vis-à-vis capital and the self-activity of various sectors of the class vis-à-vis other sectors, e.g., of women vis-à-vis men, of blacks vis-à-vis whites. The study of skilled craft workers emphasized, in part, the autonomy of those workers in the control of the production process. The study of mass workers emphasized, in part, the autonomy of those workers from the labor process itself. The study of the cycle of struggles that ruptured the Fordist-Keynesian period emphasized the struggle against the capitalist imposition of work in all its forms, from the factory floor, through the rice paddy to the schoolroom and single-family dwelling. The theory of class composition has explored many areas of the "social factory" to reveal the particularities of domination and those of resistance and subversion. Thus, Mariarosa Della Costa, Selma James, Silvia Federici and others have examined the hidden fabric of gender relations that convert the daily lives of women into housework for capital, i.e., into the production and reproduction of life as labor power. At the same time, they sought to identify the sources of strength through which women have developed the power to resist such work and explode the capitalist subordination of daily life. In all of these cases, those studies have suggested how the degree and quality of that autonomy not only explains the crisis of capital and the quality of its reaction (both its specificity and its violence) but also the concrete possibilities for liberation.
In the course of attempting to grasp the connection between autonomous character of workers' struggles and those possibilities of liberation, some of those working in this area began to differentiate between those struggles (or those aspects of struggles) which resisted capitalist exploitation and those that sought to move in new directions beyond it. One way of conceptualizing the latter movement is in terms of the autonomy and self-liberation of desire — of the sort analyzed by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari in their two volumes on capitalism and schizophrenia.(14) Another way of conceptualizing such movement is embodied in the term "self-valorization" as it developed within the Italian New Left. Whereas Marx often used the term in reference to the self-expanding character of capital, Antonio Negri suggested that the term be used instead to designate the self-determination of the working class. Thus, Negri's autovalorizzazione refers to the ways in which workers act as autonomous subjects crafting their own existence, not only against capital, but for themselves. Although it is in practice often difficult to separate out the two moments of resistance and self-valorization, the distinction is fundamental to the notion that the working class becomes a revolutionary subject, not merely by reacting to domination but by constituting a new world through its self-activity.
Because the term has been developed in a way that conceptualizes working class self-valorization not as unified but as diverse, it provides a theoretical articulation of the tradition within "autonomist Marxism" of recognizing the autonomy not merely of the working class but of various sectors of it. To both recognize and accept the diversity of self-valorization, rooted like all other activity in the diversity of the peoples capital seeks to dominate, implies a whole politics — one which rejects traditional socialist notions of post-capitalist unity and redefines the "transition" from capitalism to communism in terms of the elaboration from the present into the future of existing forms of self-valorization.(15)
In this recognition of the autonomy of the newly emerging social subjects, and of the diverse paths of self-valorization that may be followed, the theory of class composition differs radically from other Marxist efforts to understand the contemporary development of class relations — efforts such as those of the sociologists of the labor process or of the economists of "regulation theory." In both cases, the perception of fundamental change is clear enough but the focus is on the capitalist manipulation of change and the reorganization of its command. In terms of the contemporary crisis of capitalism, the sociologists are preoccupied with the increasingly flexible ways capital seeks to organize and exploit labor, while the regulation theorists retain their on-going fascination with regimes of accumulation and modes of capitalist regulation. Both think of the changes in terms of a movement from "Fordism" to "Post-Fordism" — a choice of terms that bespeaks their focus on capital. The difference in perspective of the Marxist theories of class composition and self-valorization is immediately apparent in its very inverse focus on the characteristics of the working class subject active at the heart of these different social dynamics.(16)
With respect to the current period of crisis and restructuring, the emphasis on the autonomy of peoples' self- activity within, against and beyond the mechanisms of capitalist domination has led some Italian and French theorists of working class composition to suggest that at the heart of the crisis of "Fordism" and at the core of capitalist efforts to construct a "post-Fordist" form of control is a new kind of working class subjectivity which has emerged out of that of the mass worker. They suggest that only by understanding the positive characteristics of that subjectivity, which ruptured capitalist control and continues to defy its present efforts at subordination, can we understand either those efforts or the emergent possibilities of liberation. One early characterization of this new subjectivity, which is actually seen as a diversity of subjectivities, was given by Sergio Bologna in the 1970s. He identified a new "tribe of moles" — a loose tribe of highly mobile, drop-outs, part-time workers, part-time students, participants in the underground economy, creators of temporary and every changing autonomous zones of social life that forced a fragmentation of and crisis in the mass-worker organization of the social factory.(17) Another characterization has been that of Antonio Negri, who used the term "socialized worker" to focus on how the crisis of the social factory has been generated precisely by a subject whose self-activity in all moments of life challenges the fabric of capitalist control.(18)
In recent years, in collaboration with a variety of French and Italian Marxists, Negri has sought to identify the evolving characteristics of this "socialized worker". Typical of the work of the theorists of working class composition, he and his co-workers have sought to go beyond the sociological analyses of the newest forms of capitalist command, to discover the newest forms of working class self-activity. As in the previous period of the mass worker or of the tribe of moles, the object is to identify the possibilities of liberation inherent within the capacities of self-activity. Thus within the interpersonal interactions and exchanges of information that the theorists of post-Fordism associate with the "computer and informational society", Negri and company believe to have identified an increasingly collective appropriation of (i.e., control over) "communication."
The analysis runs as follows: whereas the period of mass production was characterized by radical divisions between and within mental and manual labor (both within and outside of the factory) and limited daily participation in any kind of collective system of interactive communication to a small minority of skilled workers, e.g., engineers and scientists, the dynamics of the class struggle has increasingly forced a spatial and temporal recomposition of work that is undermining that division. On the one hand, automation has been dramatically reducing the role of simple manual labor — increasingly in the "service" sector as well as in manufacturing. At the same time, the needs of global coordination and continuous innovation have expanded not only the role of mental labor but its collective character, creating ever more jobs that require the manipulation of information flows, intelligent and informed decision making within production, independent initiative, creativity and the coordination of complex networks of cooperation.(19) The two forces of automation and communication have even contributed to the breakdown of this traditional distinction between mental and manual — especially, but not uniquely, in sectors of the "informational society."(20) The essential point is that at a social level, these developments embody the adaptation of capitalist command to the emergence of an increasingly independent collective subject — " the socialized worker" — whose self-organization of essentially intellectual work and play repeatedly outruns capital's ability to limit and control it.
The analysis of this emerging collective subject has suggested that it has begun to impose its hegemony on the class composition as a whole, much in the way the "mass worker" dominated the prior "Fordist" period of capitalist development. In other words, while during the period of the "mass worker" (Fordism) neither all nor even most workers were employed in factories on assembly lines, nevertheless they formed the paradigmatic core whose organization influenced all others. The argument is that, in the present period, the new attributes of this collective subject (interlinked intellectual cooperation, appropriation of social communication) are constituting differentiated communities with new values and rejecting traditional politics and labor organization. They are also increasingly coming to characterize the class as a whole as they take on, more and more, the political role of igniting, solidifying and linking social struggles. This grounding of the collective processes of constitution in communication is a common characteristic in the development of an array of "new social movements" that have been widely seen to be the most important components of social confrontation in this period. Let's look at some examples.
The Fall 1986 French "student movement" has provided Negri with one concrete case of the appearance of the "socialized worker" and one in which the "'truth' of the new class composition appears most transparently." (21) That students are involved in cooperative networks of "intellectual work" is obvious.(22) That their collective work has been increasingly disciplined by a labor market which demands "productive" education, and that such "productive" intellectual activity (in the university as well as in later waged jobs) has become increasingly central to the organization of the global work machine is fairly widely recognized.(23) The degree to which capital succeeds in disciplining and expropriating that activity versus the degree to which students (and sometimes their professors) succeed in autonomously determining the direction of their own development was not only the central issue that provoked the Fall explosion, but has become the on-going central issue of "education" not only in France but throughout the world — East and West, North and South.
A subsequent study of student struggles in Italy, demonstrated not only the similar character of the conflict but the ways in which students organized themselves as a fighting collective subject through the use and manipulation of various means of communication.(24) Recent American studies of IMF plans for "restructuring" education in Africa, also show clearly how the fundamental aim is the repression of the autonomy of students and professors and the reduction of education to the production of labor power.(25)
To these examples, we can add the well known "democracy" movement in China in 1990 which was also clearly spearheaded by those who seem to fit the analysis of the new socialized worker: students and communication workers from Chinese universities, radio and television. (Traditional factory workers followed, not led, the movement.) Not only did these lead the movement into the streets but their formation into a movement and the circulation of their struggles were achieved precisely through the mobilization of those characteristics attributed to the "socialized worker". Traditional forms of organization such as mass meetings and strikes were complemented, in close collaboration with their counterparts in other countries, by the masterful utilization of virtually every technology of communication available, i.e., the tools of their trades: telephone, fax, radio, television, and computer networks — not only to mobilize international support but to build and circulate their struggles within the country. The state resorted to repressive and bloody violence only after repeated failures to cut the communicative sinews of the movement (e.g., the movement circumvented the state tactic of cutting intercity phone lines by linking cities via fax through third countries).
Outside the academy (although partly within as well), we can identify another set of self-constituting communities of "intellectual workers" at the core of "communication" as those working in or through the electronic world of computer networks. Originally constructed and operated to facilitate the development of technology at the service of capital (ARPANET), contemporary networks (e.g. INTERNET, BITNET) have not only, in fact, been largely constructed by the collectivities that use them — and retain the material stamp of that autonomy in their decentralized and fluid technical organization — but constitute a terrain of constant conflict between capitalist attempts at reappropriation and the fierce allegiance of most users to freedom of use and "movement" throughout the "cyber" space they have created and constantly recreate. The most visible evidence of this autonomy, and of the class character of the confrontation involved, is the conflict between the "hackers" — who repeatedly break down the barriers to free movement created by capital in its attempt to harness and control these networks — and the state. They mostly became visible in the U.S. as a result of the recent wave of inept state actions aimed at disrupting and repressing their activities.(26) Less visible but more important are the myriad participants of the networks who, operating from personal or institutional (academic, corporate, or state) entry points, utilize the technology not only for their "official" work but in the pursuit of their (and their friends') own interests. What has been striking over the last few years has been the constitution of a proliferating network of networks almost totally devoted both to the subversion of the current order and to the elaboration of autonomous communities of like-minded people connected in non-hierarchical, rhizomatic fashion purely by the commonalty of their desires. Examples include not only independent networks like PeaceNet, EcoNet, or the European Counter Network, but also radical nets within official nets, such as Pen-L (the Progressive Economist Network) and Activ-L (the Activist Mailing List) within Listserv on BITNET.
What needs to be emphasized here is that these networks are not constituted merely by "computer nerds" —those who like to play with computers — but by far the greater number of participants in these collectivities are workers in a diverse array of institutions. While some networks such as the Progressive Economist Network may be constituted mainly by academics, others such as PeaceNet or the European Counter Network involve people in all kinds of activity and all kinds of struggle.
The social character of the "socialized worker" derives not primarily from the way in which capital has annexed and integrated the sphere of reproduction (school, community, family, etc.) with the sphere of production (factory, office, etc.)(27) but mainly from how new subjectivities have redefined and restructured themselves in such a way as to undermine such distinctions. Women within the home and community and students of both sexes within the schooling system have come to recognize how their activities in those locations are supposed to be subordinated to the accumulation of capital. Simultaneously, they have sought to maintain or craft a subversive autonomy in those activities which undermines their role in the creation and reproduction of labor power and contributes to the constitution of new kinds of personal and social being. (See below) Similarly, waged workers have subordinated the tools of their trade to the realization of more broadly defined objectives and thus transformed to some degree activities in the work place into liberated activity, often directly related to other spheres of life.
What has been remarkable about the proliferation of the "personal" computer in the U.S. (which is more extensive than anywhere else) has been the way it has rapidly evolved into a gateway of communication and mobilization linking otherwise isolated people and movements. In striking contrast to the first generation of arcade-style computer games, which were widely interpreted as contributing (like television) to the collapse of social being into screen-glued and purely reactive protoplasm, the modem and the spread of communication nets are providing the sinew of a growth of collective social being in dramatic ways.
Stepping back from this analysis of new social subjectivities that might be classed as variations of the "socialized worker", we must keep in mind that they are developing within a global population whose subordination to capitalist work continues through forms the most ancient as well as the most recent. Despite the emergence of new subjectivities within the most "high tech" parts of the social factory, vast numbers of people are still struggling against exploitation through more traditional forms, from the Fordist assembly line and state taxation to patriarchal slavery within the family and therefore seek to escape their life sentences at hard labor through all means possible. Processes of self-valorization, of the elaboration of new social projects, occur under the most diverse of circumstances — not just on the cutting edge of high tech. As work on the struggles of peasants and urban marginals has shown, it flowers in rural villages and urban barrios as well as university campuses and high-rise office buildings.(28) Yet, there can be no doubt that although some, at very different positions of the international wage hierarchy, have the power to push forward their own projects of self-valorization, others are being crushed by capitalist austerity and repression and struggle barely to survive. What we need today, in an age where capitalist strategy and policy are increasingly global, is to build, piece by piece, a comprehensive analysis of the international class composition and the processes of political recomposition that grasp the interactions among all sectors of the class, identifying those being beaten down as well as those on the move, those subject to the most abject exploitation as well as those capable of launching new initiatives.
With respect to the kinds of examples just cited, and to the analysis of them that has been carried out to date, it seems to me that we can see how the kind of Marxist theory which I have described is in the process of elaborating such an understanding of contemporary social conflict. The openness of the theoretical and political project to a kind of class analysis on all levels, from global configurations to the individual psyche, and to seizing not only the interconnected determinations of various kinds of domination but the positive diversity of collective self-valorization, provides an appealing framework for thinking about emancipation from repression and processes of liberation.
Where are we to find useful understandings of such social relations, if not in Marxism? In the spirit of Marxism (as opposed to the spirit of all universalizing philosophies), I would say that we must look within the emerging movements themselves.(29) Just as new movements of the working class have generated new adaptations of capital and the need for new conceptualizations, so any movement struggling to craft social relations different to those of capitalism may generate new conceptualizations more or less consistent with its own character.(30) Where there are a multiplicity of movements, we may expect to find a multiplicity of concepts, quite different from their analogs in Marxist theory.
The need to be open to such possibilities is not merely intellectual but immanently political. The theory of molecular autonomy and the diversity of self-valorization implies a politics of alliance, as Guattari and Negri, have argued: "the task of organizing new proletarian forms must be concerned with a plurality of relations within a multiplicity of singularities — a plurality . . . [which] develops toward . . . a functional multicentrism." (31) Whatever "machines of struggle" can be constructed on the basis of such plurality, they argue, must involve "the totally free movement of each of its components, and in absolute respect of their own times — time for comprehending or refusing to comprehend, time to be unified or to be autonomous, time of identification or of the most exacerbated differences."(32) As they recognize, such a politics cannot depend on any kind of "ideological unification" —including consensus around the meaning or importance of theoretical categories.(33) It seems obvious that working out the terms and dynamics of such alliances requires a direct confrontation with the diversity of ideas and values that proliferate within their constituant parts. It would also seem clear that those ideas requiring the most urgent attention are those most central to the conceptual world views of the various autonomous movements with which one would most like to establish links and build political alliances. Thus, once again, a double agenda: the working out of one's own analysis and the critical exploration of "neighboring" activities, values and ideas.
If what we are looking for in such a confrontation are new ideas that articulate new realities transcending those of capital, then we have two tasks: first, to juxtapose the new ideas being investigated with the (Marxist) ones we have already developed for the social relations of capitalism — to see if the new ideas are really new, and second, to the degree that they appear to be, to investigate the social movements that have given rise to those ideas in order to better understand what is new about the struggles involved (in order to decide how we want to relate to them).(34)
Mies work is not only interesting but has been widely influential in the feminist movement in Western Europe, in the Third World and in building links between autonomous movements in both. We can confront her arguments in a relatively straightforward manner for two reasons. First, she accepts the importance of thinking about feminist issues and politics in relation to global capitalism and on the basis of the autonomy of the various struggles against it.(36) Second, she came to these positions, in part, through the study of Marxist texts. In her book, she shares with the theorists of class composition and self-valorization a common source of inspiration in the work of Italian Marxist feminists.
According to Mies own account she, and a number of other German feminists with whom she collaborated, drew on the theoretical work of Mariarosa Dalla Costa and Selma James dealing with the relationship between housework and capital and critiquing traditional Marxist positions. Dalla Costa and James' writings, beginning with "The Power of Women and the Subversion of the Community," attacked concepts of housework as "unproductive" and of the only fruitful place for women's struggles being in the waged labor force.(37) On the basis of a detailed analysis of how women's activities in the family, home and community create and reproduce labor power (i.e., how they constitute work for capital), she argued the fundamental importance of that work in accumulation, the importance of recognizing how women's lives are exploited by it and the necessary autonomy of women's struggles over unwaged work. All this, and the subsequent "debate over domestic labor", Mies considers to have been "an important contribution to a feminist theory of work." (38) Concerning these aspects of work under capitalism, there is considerable agreement between Mies' feminism and the theories of autonomist Marxism.
Disagreement begins over the concept of work that she sees as prevalent in all capitalist and socialist countries — one she believes is shared by Marx.(39) In her view that virtually omnipresent concept is one of work as "a necessary burden . . . which has to be reduced, as far as possible, by the development of productive forces or technology. Freedom, human happiness, the realization of our creative capacities, friendly unalienated relations to other human beings, the enjoyment of nature, of children's play, etc., all these are excluded from the realm of work and are possible only in the realm of non-work, that is, in leisure time."(40) The source of this formulation is obvious and she soon makes it clear by quoting the passages on the realm of necessity and the realm of freedom in the third volume of Capital. She also cites or quotes various passages from the 1844 Manuscripts, the Grundrisse and The German Ideology. It soon becomes clear that her view of Marx's reasoning is one she draws from, or shares with, Alfred Schmidt who had previously interpreted the Grundrisse as a paean to the possibility of total automation. (41) For her, the epitome of the dead-end to which such a concept leads are the hallucinations of Andre Gorz for whom, as she puts it, the time has already arrived "for a straight march into the Marxist paradise because, with micro-electronics, computers and automation, necessary labor can almost be reduced to zero."(42)
There are two problems immediately apparent about this interpretation. First, it completely ignores the quite contrary orthodox Marxist arguments that the realization of socialism and communism would fully realize human potential not by eliminating work but by making everyone into a worker — precisely the ideology that has justified the brutal socialist imposition of work. Second, it also ignores the theory of the very positive, creative role of work in both Marx and the theory of self-valorization. However, not only can we read the passages on necessity and freedom as not excluding human fulfillment through work, but the (only partly) implicit analysis of unalienated work in the 1844 Manuscripts (also mentioned above) demonstrates an appreciation of the potentiality of work to be a source of human self-realization, not something which has to be abolished. The argument in Capital does say that the "realm of freedom" only begins where necessary labor ends. (43) However, not only might the sphere of freedom (or disposable time) include work freely undertaken, but there is nothing in Marx to suggest why work in the realm of necessity cannot also be fulfilling, i.e., an integral part of autonomous self-constitution. The endless "wrestling with nature" that Marx foresaw, even under communism, need not be interpreted negatively as a limitation on human development —especially when Marx's own description of how this can take place evokes "conditions most worthy and appropriate for their human nature." Just as wrestling between humans may contribute to their mutual development (depending on the context), so may such interaction with nature be organized within human constitution. In the 1844 Manuscripts, Marx reflected on the content of the alienation of work under capitalism and provided, partly by implication, a sketch of what "unalienated" labor might be like: work as a life-giving objectification of the worker's personality and desires,(44) collective work which builds positive social relations among individuals, the sharing of the results of work as constitutive of social bonds, work as one link between the individual and the "being" of our species.
In his subsequent analysis of the development of labor and working class subjectivity, Marx never returned to such a detailed discussion of how that development might transform the character of "liberated" labor. Nevertheless, as Negri has shown, the Grundrisse contains a whole line of (mostly abstract) argument of how such development becomes an increasingly autonomous process of "self-valorization". In fact, as we will see, some elements of this analysis are very close to Mies' own attempts to formulate a feminist theory of labor. Even the well-known passage she quotes from the German Ideology about how communist society will "make it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticize after dinner, just as I have a mind," evokes self-realization through several kinds of work. Hunting, fishing and husbandry are all forms of work according to Marx's definition, only "criticism" resembles a "purely leisure activity."
The confusion in the kind of interpretation Mies attacks, of the sort typified in Schmidt and in Gorz, is rooted in an inability to relate the quantitative dimension of workers struggles against capitalist work, their attempts to reduce their exploitation by working less, to the qualitative transformation of work and of the relations between work and non-work activities. It is not that workers have sought the delusion of a total elimination of work, but rather success in the reduction of working time has not only forced increases in productivity, but also facilitated qualitative struggles to transform the character of work and the relations between work and non-work. It was the strategy of the refusal of (capitalist) work in the 1960s that forced the qualitative changes tending to displace the "mass worker" by the "socialized worker" who has more direct control over work and more possibility to either appropriate it or change it into non-work. At the same time, it is also true that, as Mies points out, the reduction in official working time (weekly hours, age of retirement, etc.) has rarely led to the reduction of unwaged domestic labor.(45) In fact, she might also have argued that historically speaking the achievement of such reduction along with the liberation/exclusion of children and women from long factory hours was what led to the capitalist colonization of "free time", the creation of generalized schooling, home economics and most of the other 20th Century institutions to guarantee the imposition of unwaged labor.
However, in consequence, the struggle for the reduction of work was generalized as unwaged workers also came to refuse work, i.e., to liberate their daily activities from the real subordination to capital. Women have refused the work of procreation and other forms of housework, students have refused to subordinate their learning to job training, peasants have refused to work for the commodity market, or to join the labor market, and so on. The theory of the mass worker evolved into a theory of the social factory and it was recognized, in part thanks to feminists like Dalla Costa, that more workers were unwaged and engaged in the work of reproducing labor power than in producing other commodities on Fordist assembly lines.(46) At the same time, those struggles to refuse the work of reproduction clearly involved not merely, or even mainly, less activity (e.g. fewer babies, less schoolwork, less time dealing with crop marketing agencies) but rather changes in the kinds of activities: from work for capital to self-activity of other kinds, both work and non-work (e.g., developing new kinds of gender relations, self-directed studying, experimenting with innovations in traditional techniques). However, it is also true that vast numbers, especially of the unwaged and especially unwaged women, being on the bottom of the capitalist income/power hierarchy, benefited less from the changes we have been analyzing and have been more vulnerable to capitalist counterattack. While not all working within the tradition of the Marxist theory of class composition have concentrated their work on the "underside of paradise", enough have to demonstrate that this kind of Marxist theory is not susceptible to the critique Mies directs at Marx and at Gorz.(47) On the contrary, there is a lot of common terrain, I would argue, on the basis of which we can understand each other well enough to work together.
To further explore the degree of commonalty and difference, let's look at Mies' alternative, feminist theory of work which she elaborates, in part, in direct opposition to her interpretation of Marx. To begin with, it is important to recognize that Mies' "feminist concept of labor" is not primarily intended, as Marx's theory was, to be a critique of work under capitalism (in which we can, with effort, identify tendencies that point toward communism). In her book, and elsewhere, Mies has written a great deal about women's work within capitalism but her "feminist concept of labor" is primarily a theory of the kind of work women should fight for (and what elements of current labor processes are worth preserving) and only derivatively an analysis of what is wrong with current work practices.
Rather than the industrial wage worker whom Marx took as his paradigm, or the housewife who was the focus of Italian Marxist feminist research, Mies takes the mother as her model.(48) For the mother, she argues, work is never just a burden but also "a source of enjoyment, self-fulfillment and happiness."(49) Similarly, she argues that for unwaged peasants, especially peasant women, "whose production is not yet totally subsumed under commodity production and the compulsions of the market" work has this same dual character of burdensome toil and occasion for enjoyment and creative social interaction. Drawing on her experience in Germany and India, she evokes scenes of singing and dancing during periods of intense collective labor. What makes these work processes different from alienated factory labor, she argues, is that they are "all connected with the direct production of life or of use values." Therefore, she concludes, "a feminist concept of labour has to be oriented towards the production of life as the goal of work and not the production of things and wealth." (my emphasis)
As should be clear from the earlier discussion of alternative readings of Marx, this proposition contradicts neither Marx's analysis in the 1844 Manuscripts of how self-determined work can be life-creating, even within necessary labor, nor with the theory of self-valorization which Negri has discovered in the Grundrisse. On the contrary, this kind of Marxist theory provides precisely a conceptual framework to make the distinctions Mies wants: between life-destroying work and life-giving work. In the case of mothers as in the case of peasants (and indeed to some degree in the case of almost everyone within capitalism) daily life is rarely a case of either/or; it is more commonly full of tensions between the kind of alienation associated with capitalist command, and peoples' efforts, both as individuals and collectively, to reappropriate their activities. Mothers, for instance, may — when they have the energy — seek to interact with their children in reciprocally life-giving (self-valorizing) ways but they also, all too frequently, experience the life-destroying pressure of capital on that interaction in the form of school demands that they police their kids' stultifying homework or of husband demands (sometimes violent) for work reproducing his labor power. Peasants live similar contradictions between individual and collective attempts at autonomy (e.g., the kinds of intimate human relationships Mies describes) and the pressures of agribusiness or state repression that drain both their energy and their time. Which brings us to the second aspect of Mies' feminist theory of labor.
A feminist concept of labor, she argues, must have a different concept of time — by which she means that time should not be divided (either in the world or in theory) into burdensome work time and pleasurable leisure time. Although she presents the alternative to such a division as the alternation and interspersion of "times of work and times of rest and enjoyment" (which seems to retain the distinction she is arguing against) her previous argument about how work can and should be rewarding suggests a better formulation. Namely, that if various kinds of work along with other sorts of activity are organized so as to be rewarding in themselves then the question of how much time one spends working at this or that can become one of personal and collective choice among an array of alternative kinds of self-valorization requiring varying degrees and kinds of effort. This was clearly the kind of thing Marx had in mind when he wrote the passage in the German Ideology about cattle rearing, fishing, hunting and criticism quoted above. If he had known more about peasants he might have mentioned singing, dancing or story-telling as well. (50)
The third and fourth aspects of Mies' feminist theory of labor focus on the importance of work being sensuousness, of the way it can provide a "direct and sensual interaction with nature, with organic matter and living organisms." Clearly drawing on her exemplar of the mother as worker, and of the subsistence peasant working the land, she attacks the elimination of such interaction between workers and organic nature that has come with the development of the machine and modern automated production methods. This development, which she thinks Marx embraces wholeheartedly, has reached its nadir, according to her, with the appearance of the computer technology which is "destroying all productive human power, all understanding of nature and, in particular, all capacity for sensual enjoyment." Against that destruction, she argues that only through labor processes that involve sensuous interaction can we retain a healthy physical capacity for "enjoyment, for sensuality and for erotic and sexual satisfaction." On the basis of this argument she explains, in part, the pathological mystification's involved in men's fascination with the female body and the tendential increase in violence against women. Against arguments that athletic sports and hobbies could provide an antidote for such estrangement and its pathologies, she reasons that they cannot because unlike work they lack the "sense of purpose", a "character of being useful and necessary" and do not produce products which are "useful and necessary."
The parts of this argument which insist on the value of sensuously healthy work and of working having a sense of purpose is completely parallel to Marxist analysis and by no means its contrary. Marx deplored, like others before him, e.g., Adam Smith, the destructive character of work under capitalism: especially the way the division of labor leads to a crippling deskilling of workers and how the imposition of capitalist purpose is one aspect of labor that alienates them from it. The implication of such Marxian analysis, as I have already indicated, is that to the degree that workers are able to take command over their work and their lives more generally, they transform the organization of labor so as to overcome such destructive organization. The uncritical embrace by socialist managers of capitalist work organization (e.g., by Lenin of Taylorism in the Soviet Union) may have required the studied neglect of Marx's analyses of these matters but they exist and, once again, are in harmony with Mies' own arguments.
Her arguments about the results of such estrangement of workers from positive forms of sensuousness are interesting and useful contributions to the analysis of the relationship between the divisions of labor and divisions of gender. They complement Jungian theories of men's quest for missing gender traits while emphasizing the increasingly important element of violence that accompanies the desperation of such alienation.(51) They are also very consistent with the Marxist tradition of analyzing the nefarious effects of alienated work conditions. Whereas Marx tended to spend more time writing about such physical effects as poisoning and exhaustion, many contemporary Marxist theorists have focused on the analysis of psychological damage. The intersection of Marxian and various strains of psychoanalytic thought has not always been fruitful but it has deepened our awareness of the links between capitalism and psychological phenomena. Within the development of the theory of class composition and that of self-valorization the most important such intersection occurred with the schizoanalytic thought of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari.(52) The result has been lines of analysis highly sensitive to the kind of problem Mies has identified. In discussing the women's movement, Guattari and Negri have acknowledged the importance of the insistence on body politics: "The corporeality of liberation became primary. Insurrection of bodies as an expression of subjectivity, as incarnating the materiality of desires and of needs, as promising in the future the impossibility of separating the collective character of economic development from the singularities of its ends."(53) On the basis of such recognition that accepts and also attempts to theorize exactly the kind of issues Mies sees as being at the heart of her theory of labor, there would seem to be considerable grounds for the exploration of common concerns.
The final theoretical point that Mies considers essential for a feminist theory of labor concerns the reduction or abolition of the division and distance between production and consumption. This, she proposes, is necessary to achieve "the sense of usefulness, necessity and purpose with regard to work and its products." Only understanding the entire material circuit of products from production to consumption can guarantee progress towards creating the kind of work she has described. Not surprisingly, this approach leads her to an embrace of considerable community and regional self- sufficiency.
In this last point and in her focus on mothering and on subsistence agriculture, Mies seems very much a part of the "small is beautiful" movement that tends to valorize small scale, autonomous, traditional agrarian communities and the immediacy of social relations, i.e., the refusal of mediation — especially of the market, of capitalist managers and of the state. These last characteristics have also been prominent in the "workers autonomy" movement out of which the Marxist theory of class composition and constitution have grown. The points of reference for the later have tended to be urban and large scale rather than rural and small scale but appreciation of autonomy and the refusal of mediation are similar.
Mies' critique of the computer, which contrasts with the more positive Marxist assessment of its role in the development of subjectivity, would seem to derive in part from this difference in scale as well as from the historical gender specificity of computer use. There is no doubt that women have been more obviously exploited by computers than men and more alienated from them. (54) The scale of their interaction has tended to be limited to woman-machine (e.g., secretarial word processing and data entry) where part of the machine's capability (i.e., the ability to keep track of key-strokes per minute) is being used to impose increased, indeed crippling, intensity of labor or where women have been put to work assembling computers also in crippling fashion (e.g., soldering connections under a microscope). In general, men have more likely been involved in the very collective and interactive design of computers or their utilization as tools in research and vehicles of the kind of play and communication mentioned above. It is only recently that some women have begun to reverse their relations to such machines and to incorporate them into their own autonomous struggles. For example, feminist computer networks explicitly for the circulation of experience and political discussion have been proliferating, e.g., Femecon-L, Wmst-L, GENDER, Systers. Both kinds of relationships between women and computers must be taken into account. Changes in women's assessments of the degree to which such technology can be usefully appropriated, as well as the ways in which such appropriation occurs are developments that will change the texture of the "socialized worker" and need to be taken into account if the concept is to help us and have meaning.
To sum up, close examination of Mies' "feminist" theory of labor reveals enormous overlap with Marxist theory rather than the dramatic opposition that she asserts to have established. If there is any point where her analysis goes beyond Marxist theory to articulate feminist projects of self-reconstruction, it would seem to be in her desire to reconceptualize the relationship between humans and the rest of nature — for which she seems to feel the woman-nature nexus is key. In this desire, which she shares with a variety of other eco-feminists, there is an attempt to overcome the human/active-subject — nature/passive-object dichotomy, which Marx takes over from Hegel and shares with most of Enlightenment thinkers.(55) A feminist theory of labor, as she says elsewhere, must "replace the predatory economic relationship of Man to 'nature' by a cooperative [or reciprocal] one".(56) Such attempts to rethink the human-nature relationship are extremely interesting and have been one of the most thought-provoking aspects of both feminist and environmental movements. Unfortunately, neither in her book nor in the article just cited is there any substance offered for the meaning of a "cooperative [or reciprocal]" relationship beyond a lack of exploitation. Both terms "cooperative" and "reciprocal" imply the existence of different beings who come together and act together in mutually beneficial ways. But in what sense can we say non-human nature acts? In Hegel and Marx humans are thought to be differentiated from other life forms by having a "will". In chapter 13 of Volume I of Capital, Marx analyzes the meaning of "cooperation" in the context of human work but does not extend the concept to the relationship between humans and the rest of nature. Today many persons, including scientists as well as animal rights activists and ecologists, are willing to identify a greater or lesser "will" in other kinds of life. But what does "cooperation" mean in such an interspecial context? How do humans "cooperate" with great apes, with whales, with dogs and cats, with rats and mice? And beyond animals, there is the issue of the whole ecosystem of animals, plants, rivers, winds, rocks and oceans. Many ecologists have thought about what "less exploitative" relations between humans and their environment might mean. Unfortunately, nothing of those meditations are brought to bear by Mies in elaborating her feminist concept of work.
Moreover, it would seem that her underdeveloped thoughts on this subject, to the degree that they seek to get beyond the equation of nature with a passive lack of will should question the very concept of "work" or "labor" itself and not just the adjectives we attach to it. "Work", after all, is an abstraction from a wide variety of concrete activities — an abstraction that I would argue only makes sense in a capitalist world of commodity production that by its very nature seeks to turn all human activity into the "production" of objects as its fundamental mechanism of social control. Part of the processes of self-valorization through which we liberate ourselves from such a world can be seen to involve re-concretization of activities we now call work — a new "embedding", to use Polanyi's term, within new contexts of meaning and social relationships.
In her research and activism, Mies has had considerable experience both in India and in Germany. She might go beyond her current efforts and add substance to her attempts to redefine work by analysing the new means and social relationships crafted by women in India and Germany as part of their struggles to create better lives. Mies' evocations of their lives suggests the existence of such creativity, but she doesn't tell us enough to reveal what it has generated that is relevant to the task of taking the concept of work beyond Marxist theory. Despite the limitations of Mies' analysis, however, I think that her work, as well as that of others who have sought ways out of the alienations of capitalist labor, deserve the closest attention from all of us interested in the transcendence of capitalism. Ultimately, it is only amongst such creative efforts that we will find paths forward.
* This paper was presented to the session on "Considering the Side of Wage Labor" at the Rethinking Marxism Conference on "Marxism in the New World Order: Crises and Possibilities", Amherst, Massachusetts, November 14, 1992.
1. This approach, which is far from common among Marxists, is based on an assessment of Marx's own work and has received considerable elaboration. Besides being based on an interpretation of the content of his theory of capitalism as class struggle, we can also point to Marx's own reply to Mikhailovski in which he denied having produced a general philosophical theory of all of history. See: Letter to the Editor of Otechestvennye Zapiski (St. Petersburg), of November 1877, in S.K.Padover, Letters of Karl Marx, Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1979, p. 321-322. The contemporary elaboration of an explicitly anti-dialectical Marxist theory of the working class has included the work of Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari, Antonio Negri, Jean-Marie Vincent and others around the Parisian journal Futur antérieur. The basic thrust of such theory not only sees capitalist society as a social order of class conflict but grasps the dialectic as the totalization capital seeks to impose on working class antagonism in order to convert it into mere useful contradiction. Within this perspective, that antagonism appears as a force which repeatedly ruptures the dialectic and has the potentiality of exploding it once and for all.
2. One of the earliest and most telling Marxist reproaches to dependency and world-system theory was that it's focus on the sphere of circulation neglected the sphere of production, especially the existence of different "modes of production" in the Third World. Such was the argument, for example, that Ernesto Laclau made against the work of Andre Gundar Frank. But as the subsequent evolution of Laclau's work makes clear, the neglect of difference could not be remedied simply by paying attention to it. Once one does pay attention the whole theory — including the theory of the whole — must be reworked. Laclau's inability to figure out how to do this within Marxism led him to post-Marxism. Others, however, have shown how this can be done as I sketch below.
3. For an overview of the development of that theory, some of whose themes began to appear in anarcho-communism and council communism, which began to take on its modern form in the U.S. and France in the 1940s and was elaborated and polished in Italy in the 1960s, see the introduction to my book Reading Captial Politically. From insights of C.L.R. James, Raya Dunayevskaya and the editors of Socialisme ou Barbarie into the need to grasp not only the autonomy of the working class but also the concrete particularities of specific sectors of that class through the work of Raniero Panzieri, Romano Alquati, Mario Tronti, and Mariarosa Dalla Costa in systematizing the analysis in Marxian theory and practice to more recent American and French elaborations by the editors and friends of the journals Zerowork, Midnight Notes and Futur antérieur, the theory of class composition has received both intensive development and extensive application.
4. For more detail on methodological aspects of this "inversion" see H. Cleaver, "The Inversion of Class Perspective in Marxist Theory, from Valorization to Self-Valorization," in W. Bonefield, R. Gunn and K. Psychopedis (eds) Open Marxism, London: Pluto Press, 1992. There appear to be some parallels between the theory of class composition and what Michael Lebowitz has in mind when he calls, in his recent book Beyond Capital, for the development of a "political economy of wage labor" to complement Marx's analysis of capital.
5. The development of the theory of the "mass worker" has recently been traced and analysed by Sergio Bologna. See his "Theory and History of the Mass Worker" in Common Sense: Journal of the Edinburgh Conference of Socialist Economists, #11, Winter 1991 and #12, Summer 1992.
6. Key moments in the adaptation of Marxist theory to the ever more inclusive character of the working class were Mario Tronti's theorization of capitalist reproduction as social factory and Mariarosa Dalla Costa's work on the role of housework within capitalism. See: Mario Tronti, Operai e capitale, Torino: Einaudi, 1964 (a central chapter of which is available as "Social Capital" in Telos, #17, Fall 1973) and Mariarosa Dalla Costa, "Women and the Subversion of the Community" 1973. Subsequent work on the capitalist character of the work of peasants and urban "marginals" has been done by Selma James, myself, Ann Lucas de Roufignac, Gustavo Esteva and others.
7. The crisis is thus located in the insurgency of the working class, which occurred as it transformed itself into something no longer compatible with the Fordist organization of accumulation and the Keynesian role of state management.
8. The term "sectors" is used loosely here to designate various subdivisions of the working class which have mobilized themselves autonomously vis-à-vis the rest of the class, e.g., women, blacks, students, black students, black women, and so on.
9. Although earlier European centered analyses of this process appeared in Italy in the late 1960s and early 1970s (scattered pieces of which appeared in translation in the journals Radical America and Telos), the first detailed American elaboration of this analysis appeared in the first issue of the journal Zerowork in December 1975. The bulk of that first issue has just been reissued as part of Midnight Oil: Work, Energy, War, 1973-1992 (Brooklyn: Autonomedia, 1992) by the Midnight Notes Collective. Watered down versions of this analysis, stripped of revolutionary politics, have appeared in the form of French theories of "regulation" and of American theories of "social structures of accumulation" — theories which have, as their titles imply, shifted the focus of analysis from working class power to the requirements of capitalist command.
10. The flagrant state manipulation of the news media during the Gulf War to prevent the barbarous reality of the war from becoming apparent to the world — which has produced an outpouring of critical articles in the U.S. — provided an important public lesson on the day-to-day limitation and distortion of communication which prevents particular groups of people from recognizing the commonality of their situation with others.
11. This fueling has been propagated from the highest political levels, e.g., in the case of racism, from the thinly veiled racism of a George Bush or Giscard d'Estaing to the more overt racism of David Duke, Jean-Marie Le Pen, Jörg Haider or Neo-Nazis in Germany.
12. In the U.S. this historical research has mainly been carried out by the contributers to, and those influenced by, the two journals Zerowork (in the 1970s) and Midnight Notes (in the 1980s and 1990s).
13. H. Cleaver, "Reaganism et rapports de classe aux Etats-Unis," in M-B Tahon et A. Corten, L'Italie: le philosophe e le gendarme, Montreal: VLB, 1986.
14. Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, L'Anti-Oedipe, Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1972 and Milles Plateaux, Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1980.
15. On the reformulation of the transition from capitalism to communism and on the limits of the concept of socialism see: lesson 8 in Antonio Negri, Marx beyond Marx, Brooklyn: Autonomedia, 1991 and Harry Cleaver, "Socialism" in Wolfgang Sachs (ed), The Development Dictionary: A Guide to Knowledge as Power, London: Zed Books, 1992.
16. This tendency of regulation theory to adopt the perspective of capitalist control rather than the perspective of the working class subject has been emphasized by Yann Moulier, "Les Theories Americaines de la 'segmentation du marche du travail' et italiennes de la 'composition de classe' a travers le priseme des lectures francaises," Babylone No 0, Hiver 1981-1982, W. Bonefeld, "Reformulation of State Theory," Capital & Class 33, Winter 1987, J. Holloway, "The Great Bear, post-Fordism and class struggle," Capital & Class 36, Winter 1988 and G. Cocco et C. Vercellone, "Les Paradigmes Sociaux du Post-Fordisme," Futur antérieur No 4, Hiver 1990. Given the evidence of early regulation theorist familiarity with the theory of class composition, this choice has been quite conscious and symptomatic of its very different political orientation. See the discussion of "l'operaisme" in A. Lipietz, Crise et inflation, pourquoi? Paris: Maspero, 1979.
17. Sergio Bologna, "La trib delle talpe" Primo Maggio #8, Spring 1977. In English as "The Tribe of Moles" in Red Notes & the CSE, Working Class Autonomy and the Crisis, 1979. The term "temporary autonomous zone" is taken not from Bologna but from Hakim Bey's book T.A.Z.: The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism, Brooklyn: Autonomedia 1991.
18. The term "socialized worker" (operaio sociale) is Toni Negri's since the late 1970s. See his Dall 'operaio massa all'operaio sociale (1979) and his "Archeologia e proggetto. L'operaio massa e l'operaio sociale" in Macchina Tempo (1982). This last is also available in English as "Archaeology and Project: The Mass Worker and the Social Worker" in Revolution Retrieved, op. cit.
19. See: B. Coriat, L'Atelier et le robot, Paris: Christian Bourgois, 1990 and M. Lazzarato, "Les caprices du flux, les mutations technologiques du point de vue de ceux qui les vivent," Futur antérieur, No 4, hiver 1990.
20. This analysis has been partly based on a study of working class self-activity in the Italian and French garment industry carried out by Negri, Maurizio Lazzarato and Giancarlo Santilli, Beneton et Sentier: Entreprise politique et la nouvelle cooperation productive sur l'espace europeen, 1990.
21. M. Lazzarato et A. Negri, "Travail immateriel et subjectivite," Futur antérieur, No 6, ete 1991, p. 92. Also see the earlier essay by A. Negri in The Politics of Subversion, op.cit., Paris 1986, 26 November — 10 December, pp. 47-60.
22. Obvious at least since the 1960s when the student movement provoked Marxists to begin to analyze schooling in terms of the production of labor power. (Just as the women's movement gave rise to a parallel analysis of housework.)
23. In the U.S. this tendency — involving a dramatic expansion of "professional" training (e.g. engineering, sciences and business administration at the university level, lower level technical training within junior colleges and trade schools) at the expense of traditional "liberal arts" — has been widely recognized and lamented by humanist defenders of the latter fields. Yet the same expansion of "professional" training has also occurred within the liberal arts (especially in the social sciences) and constitutes a response to successful student struggles to expand the spaces and opportunities for critical analysis and self-valorization and to the crisis more generally. See below.
24. Especially the use of faxes and control of media reporting of the university occupations. M. Lazzarato, "La 'Panthere' et la communication," Futur antérieur, No 2, ete 1990, pp. 54- 67.
25. Committee for Academic Freedom in Africa, "The World Bank and Education in Africa," Newsletter No. 2, Fall 1991, pp. 2-12.
26. Other state interventions have occurred through juridical and police intervention in defense of "intellectual property rights" (i.e., the control over the reproduction of software) against the pervasive "pirating" and sharing of programs. The communist character of such free redistribution of innovation is apparant and has taken legal form in the proliferation of "shareware" and "freeware" widely available for downloading from computer networks.
27. Such integration was already recognized in the analysis of the "mass worker" and the "social factory".
28. See the work of Cleaver, de Roufignac and Esteva mentioned above. Wolfgang Sachs(ed) The Development Dictionary, London: Pluto Press, 1992 brings together a variety of authors whose work focuses on the conflicts between various paths to self-valorization (although most of the authors would not use this term) and capitalist development.
29. This suggestion should even appeal to those die-hard dialectical or historical materialists who believe that it is impossible to escape the dialectic. The only problem, of course, is the likelihood that no matter what they find, they will impute to it a "dialectical" logic that will blind them to the existence of other kinds of relationships.
30. I say "more or less consistent" because it is clear, from the history of the workers' movement, that a whole range of concepts may be generated standing in quite different relationships to the dynamics of that movement. Not only have the meanings of "socialism" and "communism" varied widely, but so have those of all the other oppositional concepts thrown up by the struggles.
31. F. Guattari et A. Negri, Les nouveaux espaces de liberte, op.cit., p. 107 in the English version.
32. Ibid., p. 120.
33. Ibid., p. 108.
34. This formulation obviously derives from the intellectual/political project of this paper. Clearly, the politics of autonomy mandates the study of other struggles and the investigation of the possibilities of complementary action regardless of whether those struggles have thrown up interesting new ideas or are based on old familiar ones.
35. Maria Mies, Patriarchy and Accumulation on a World Scale, London: Zed, 1986.
36. Ibid., all of these themes are discussed in the first chapter of the book. Her conception of autonomy is as thoroughgoing as that of any autonomist Marxist. With respect to the need for autonomy within the feminist movement, she writes: "As there is no centre, no hierarchy, no official and unified ideology, no formal leadership, the autonomy of the various initiatives, groups, collectives is the only principle that can maintain the dynamism, the diversity, as well as the truly humanist perspective, of the movement." p. 41.
37. Mariarosa Dalla Costa and Selma James, Potere femminile e sovversione sociale, (The Power of Women and the Subversion of the Community), Padova: Marsilio, 1972. First published in English in Radical Amnerica, Jan.-Feb. 1972 then by Falling Wall Press in England.
38. Ibid., p. 33.
39. Without going into detail, it should be said that her views on the fundamental similarities of 20th Century socialism and capitalism are shared by autonomist Marxists.
40. Ibid., p. 212.
41. Mies quotes approvingly from Schmidt's book The Concept of Nature in Marx, London: New Left Books, 1973.
42. She is refering to Gorz's 1983 book Les Chemins du Paradi — a book which draws, mostly in an unacknowledged fashion, on autonomist Marxist thought but twists it around to Gorz's own purposes. See also Cocco et Vercellone, "Les Paradigmes Sociaux du Post-Fordisme," op. cit., pp. 90-91.
43. Capital, Vol. III, Chapter 48 on the trinity formula. See below for a feminist critique of this division and a response.
44. Because it is important in the discussion of feminist theory below, let us note that Marx's view of the "life-giving" character of human labor by no means disappeared in his later writings, which focused more on evolving forms of capitalist exploitation. His oft repeated use of the vampire metaphor to characterize capital's relation to living labor is dramatic evidence of his view of that labor as a kind of "social life blood." This view was rooted in the very anthropocentric view, which he shared with Hegel, of what made humans different from the rest of nature: their imagination and will which allowed them to create/give-birth to newness in the world.
45. Mies, Maria, Patriarchy and Accumulation on a World Scale, op. cit., p. 217.
46. This evolution occurred in Italy in tandem with the development of the struggles. Tronti's early, but fairly bare bones, recognition of the social character of the factory was only given flesh when the explosion of autonomous women's and student struggles focused theory on the real life content of the "reproduction of labor power." Compare Tronti's "La fabbrica e la societe", Quaderni rossi No. 2, 1962 and "Il piano del Capitale," Quaderni rossi, No. 3, 1963 with Dalla Costa's "Power of Women" cited earlier.
47. In the first place, I should say that I include Dalla Costa and James within the Marxist tradition of the analysis of "class composition" — Dalla Costa's own thinking developed within the space of autonomia (or workers' autonomy) in Italy and James' work was rooted in earlier related activities of the American Johnson-Forest Tendency and its offshoots. In the second place, much of the research some of us have done on various sectors of the unwaged has built directly on their work, especially work on peasants and students.
48. This is an interesting choice given the history of feminist rejections of the mother as the appropriate paradigm for thinking about women and of women's struggles to have the right to refuse to be mothers!
49. The section of Mies' book from which this and the material which follows is drawn, is that on "Towards a feminist concept of labor" in the last chapter, pp. 216-219.
50. What this description evokes is the inversion of the tendency of capitalism to convert all activities including those that take place during "leisure" into alienated work. Here we imagine un-alienated work as a moment of an un-aliened life.
51. The parallels are striking between Mies' argument and that of the Jungian analyst Robert Johnson in his recent book Ecstasy, dealing with the absence of joy (Dionysios) and the destructive additions it produces.
52. Deleuze and Guattari, Anti-Oedipe (1972) and Milles Plateaux (1980) op. cit.
53. Guattari and Negri, op.cit., p. 44 of the English edition.
54. In the workshop on computer networks in the circulation of struggles, held as part of the "International Meeting" of some 2,000 grassroots activists in Venice in June 1991, the vast majority of participants were men. They noted the absence of women but had little of use to say about it.
55. This orientation of Marx's seems to have been constant in his work, from the early 1844 Manuscripts to the later volumes of Capital — compare his discussion in "Estranged Labor" where the human works on passive nature to give it life by incorporating it into the human world and that in chapter 7 of Volume I on the "labor process" where the three elements are human labor, tools and raw materials, with the latter treated as inert and passive.
56. See her interview with Ariel Sallah, "Patriarchy & Progress: A Critique of Technological Domination", The Fifth Estate, Vol. 26, No. 3, Issue 338, Winter 1992, pp. 8-9, 17.