Maurizio Lazzarato: What possibilities for action exist today in the public sphere?

When we attempt to conceive possible action in the public sphere of post-Fordism, we find ourselves in a completely new situation. The modern distinctions among instrumental action (action to attain a certain result and, to simplify it in the following text, we identify this action with labour), political action (action in response to the action of others) and artistic action (action in which the resulting work is linked to the open and indeterminate creative process) do not exist anymore.(1)

The conditions for economic production, artistic creation, and political action have entered a zone of indifference where they are linked through a series of reciprocal presuppositions.

I think that this new situation is based on the fact that labour no longer represents a special, separated practice that is structured according to different criteria and procedures than artistic and political practice. Labour tends to be expressed through the powers of desire, the powers of thought, and the application of generic human faculties: language, memory, aesthetic and ethical competencies and the ability of abstraction and learning. Thus, from a formal point of view, labour does not exclusively produce commodity-objects but also social relations, forms of life, and modes of subjectivation.--- In contemporary philosophy and sociology, the crisis of concept of action only describes the result of a secular struggle conducted against wage labour, that is to say, against the fact that the activity of the majority of the population is reduced to the execution of commanded tasks (to instrumental action) for purposes that are external to the workers themselves.
In post-Fordism, there have been radical changes not only in the conditions that define political action, labour and artistic creation, but also in the modes of subjectivation corresponding to these forms of action: the worker, the citizen, the artist.

top Toywar: Allen Unkenrufen zum Trotz steigert das Netz den Aktionsspielraum der Einzelnen sowie die Markteintrittschance von Ideen, fördert und erleichtert die Zusammenarbeit in virtuellen Gruppen und erlaubt in günstigen Fällen die Selbstorganisation einer Gegen-Matrix, die ein hochorganisiertes Machtkartell an die Wand spielen kann. Quelle: Reinhold Grether in:

In the capitalist and socialist West, labour has long represented not only the form of the "productive subject" but also the hegemonic model of subjectivation that grounds identity, the sense of belonging, and the visions of the world. Socialism and capitalism have used labour and social classes as forms to regulate, organize, and create hierarchies in society.
Since the 1960s, the struggle against economic exploitation has been accompanied by a radical refusal on the part of women, young people, immigrants, various minorities and peoples of the Third World to accept a "becoming" based on the "majority" model of the "male, white, professional worker, between 35- and 50-years-old, resident of the town....". In that period, an increasingly important role was played by actions taken against forms of subjection affecting everyday life, classifying individuals into categories by providing them with certain forms of perception, sexuality and affection in order to reproduce the labour force. Since then, the class system as a model of action and subjectivation has entered into a process of dissolution and irreversible crisis. The coherence that ìlabourî ensured among economic production, political action and modes of subjectivation has given way to the emergence of a multiplicity of new behaviors, forms of life, goals, and visions of the world, which characterize what we call the multitude. The multiplicity and heterogeneity of forms of life and modes of subjectivation no longer tend to be expressed through the generality and abstraction of social classes.
To understand the new forms of action that are now possible we have to leave this event of the 19060s but without ignoring it. The new forms of action, which are expressed by social movements or more molecular practices, articulate with one and the same strategy what had been previously separated off in the society of work. In France, the struggles of the unemployed, health workers, entertainment workers, and micro-political practices in general express simultaneously or alternatively economic actions, political aims, and common strategies that form strategies against the apparatuses of subjection and search for new forms of subjectivation.

These social struggles and "invisible" behaviors engage both in direct, molar confrontations with the apparatuses of power and strategies of withdrawal, flight and circumvention. In the same way, they alternatively articulate strategies of both separation and "mediation", both negotiation and refusal. These behaviors appear and disappear in public space according to logics that escape the rules of "representation." Using Hirscham's terminology we could say that they employ, in an unpredictable way, both senses of the French word ìvoieî: both ìthe voiceî (in contestation) and ìthe exitî (in withdrawal and flight). Their goals are neither representation nor the seizure of power (either violently, in line with communist tradition, or peacefully, in accordance with social-democratic tradition), but the constitution of new social relations and new sensibilities.

top The World Trade Organisation web site hack by the US based art collective RTMark. The hack is rooted in an understanding of networked communication and internet practice that is available too many digerati, hackers and IT professionals. What is relevant about it is that it combines avantgardistic gesture and net savyness with an acute sense of timing. Quelle: Date: 6.19.00 ; From: Eric Kluitenberg ( ;Subject: Smash the Surface / Break Open the Box / Disrupt the Code

The multitude acts in a public sphere that is ruled by political mechanisms that function through representation and are organized according to principles of universality. The "citizen" and the "worker" are modes of individualization that are absolutely foreign to the actions of the multitude. There is no place in the sphere of representation for women, unemployed, workers without job security, homosexuals, immigrants, and all those who do not act in accordance with the modalities as applied in the paradigm of "majority". The new forms of action are not directed toward universality but singularization; they do not operate toward a general re-organization, but rather toward a transversality that tries to determine the passages and translations among different forms of life and behaviors
This brief phenomenology of action in post-Fordism leads to more questions than answers. How is a space to be defined divided into different practices that are all aiming at singularization? Where is the "common ground" of the multitude? How is a public space to be established that is conducive to the parallel development of multiplicity and singularity? What kind of new relations exist between molecular and molar strategies?
The strange revolution of 1968 integrated political and aesthetic action into labour; it dissolved the separation between time of life and work time; it displaced the distinction between performance and creation and redefined the relation between factory and society. It undermined for good the role of wage labour as the subject of production and politics. Paradoxically, this is exactly the point where we have to start in order to be able to define the conditions of possible action in post-Fordism, and especially to analyze phenomena such as unemployment and poverty. We risk misunderstanding the definition of possible action if we do not start with the destructuration of the society of work, which is desired and practiced subjectively through a multiplicity of actions and subjects

In capitalist West, poverty and unemployment are not the result, to use Keynes language, of an economy of scarcity but an economy of abundance. Poverty and unemployment are not the results of an insufficient development but rather of an excessive one; they are not the results of the lack of norms and regulations but of the powers and influence of the market and the State.

top .......the Internet as a capital and the Internet as the anti-capital
The question is not so much whether to love or hate technology, but try to understand whether the Internet embodies a continuation of capital or a break with it. It is neither. It is rather a mutation which is totally immanent to late capitalism, not so much a break as an intensification, and therefore a mutation, of a widespread cultural and economic logic. Quelle: Date: Fri, 31 Mar 2000 18:50:23 +0100 ;Subject: <nettime> Free labor 1/2 ;From: "tt" <>

The struggle against instrumental action showed that it was possible to take work out of the realm of necessity and transfer it into the realm of creativity. The re-introduction of necessity through unemployment, work insecurity, and poverty turns out to derive from a political will to dominate, because business, market and State can only find their legitimation in necessity. How else can we explain the fact that since the beginning of the "crisis" in the 1970s, wealth has more than doubled in the western countries at the same time that unemployment, poverty, and work insecurity have become mass phenomena? The market, business, and the State impose modes of co-ordination that limit the wealth of the forms of co-operation and ignore the nature of the productive forces of the multitude, because they only function through the production, distribution and consumption of "scarce goods".

But can knowledge and intelligenceóthe motors for the future economy ñ be defined as "scarce" goods? Only the will to accumulation, the will to control the production and circulation of knowledge by business and the State can define these "products" as commodities or scarce goods. The problems of unemployment, work insecurity, and poverty can only be solved when the "information economy" is structured in accordance with the economic principles of "abundance," in other words, according to free production, free circulation and collective appropriation of this production, which simultaneously involves what is most singular and most social in all of us.

top Kritik an der Neuen Ökonomie: Es ist von strategischer Bedeutung, die geschlossene Welt der Finanzsysteme und die so genannte New Economy nicht mehr zu trennen. Überbewertete Internet-Aktien und die enorme Kaufkraft, die sie generieren, sind nur ein Punkt. Der Crash der Technologie-Werte könnte unter Umständen in die nächste Wirtschaftskrise führen. Daneben gibt es Entwicklungen unter der Oberfläche, die dringend analysiert und öffentlich diskutiert werden müssen. Treibt der ICT-Sektor wirklich die Produktivität in die Höhe? Was sind die Langzeitwirkungen eines dezentralisierten, nicht-lokalen 24-Stunden-Handelssystems? Was wird passieren, wenn ganze Bevölkerungsteile über Nacht ihre in Aktien angelegten Ersparnisse verlieren? Wie sieht die Zukunft des Internets als öffentlichem Forum aus, wenn Forschung und Entwicklung sich nur noch auf E-Commerce und E-Business konzentrieren? Wer wird zukünftig die Backbones kontrollieren? Kurz, wird die offene und dezentrale Struktur des Internet im 21. Jhdt. noch erhalten bleiben? Quelle: Geerd Lovink in: wysiwyg://display.157/

The two problems are strictly linked together, because what is at stake is precisely the form of creativity, activity and modes of expression. From this point of view, the actions of the worker, the citizen and the artist have to undergo a complete metamorphosis.

(1) Neither Habermas distinction between "instrumental rationality" and "communicative rationality" or Hanna Arendtís distinctions among "labour, work and action" are able to account for the new forms of action.