BY TONI NEGRI
There is too much work because everyone works, everyone contributes to the construction of social wealth, which arises from communication, circulation, and the capacity to coordinate the efforts of each person. As Christian Marazzi says, there is a biopolitical community of work, the primary characteristic of which is "disinflation," in other words, the reduction of all costs that cooperation itself and the social conditions of cooperation demand. This passage within capitalism has been a passage from modernity to postmodernity, from Fordism to post-Fordism. It has been a political passage in which labor has been celebrated as the fundamental matrix of the production of wealth. But labor has been stripped of its political power. The political power of labor consisted in the fact of being gathered together in the factory, organized through powerful trade union and political structures. The destruction of these structures has created a mass of people that from the outside seems formless -- proletarians who work on the social terrain, ants that produce wealth through collaboration and continuous cooperation.
Really, if we look at things from below, from the world of ants where our life unfolds, we can recognize the incredible productive capacity that these new workers have already acquired. What an incredible paradox we are faced with. Labor is still considered as employment, that is, still considered as variable capital, as labor "employed" by capital. Employed by capital through structures that link it immediately to fixed capital. Today this connection, which is an old Marxian connection, but before being Marxian it was a connection established by classical political economy, today this connection has been broken. Today the worker no longer needs the instruments of labor, that is, the fixed capital that capital furnishes. Fixed capital is something that is at this point in the brain of those who work; at this point it is the tool that everyone carries with him- or herself. This is the absolutely essential new element of productive life today. It is a completely essential phenomenon because capital itself, through its development and internal upheavals, through the revolution it has set in motion with neoliberalism, with the destruction of the Welfare State, "devours" this labor power. But how does capital devour it? In a situation that is structurally ambiguous, contradictory, and antagonistic â€¦
Certainly, on one hand, capital has won, it has anticipated the possible political organizations and the political "power" of this labor. And yet, if we look for a moment behind this fact, without being too optimistic, we also have to say that the labor power that we have recognized, the working class, has struggled to refuse factory discipline. Once again we find ourselves faced with evaluating a political passage, which is historically as important as the passage from the Ancien RÃ©gime to the French Revolution. We can truly say that we have experienced in this second half of the 20th century a passage in which labor has been emancipated. It has been emancipated through its capacity to become immaterial, intellectual, and it has been emancipated from facto- ry discipline. And this presents the possibility of a global, fundamental, and radical revolution of contemporary capitalist society. The capitalist has at this point become a parasite, but not a parasite in classical Marxist terms -- a finance capitalist; rather, a parasite insofar as the capitalist is no longer able to intervene in the structure of the working process.
The Becoming-woman of Labor
With the concept of "the becoming-woman of labor" you can grasp one of the most central aspects of this revolution we are living through. Really, it is no longer possible to imagine the production of wealth and knowledge except through the production of subjectivity. And thus the general reproduction of vital processes. Women have been central in this. And precisely because they have been at the center of the production of subjectivity, of vitality as such, they have been excluded from the old conceptions of production. Now, saying "the becoming-woman of labor" is saying too much and too little. It is saying too much because it means enveloping the entire significance of this transformation within the feminist tradition. It is saying too little because in effect what interests us is this general transgressive character of labor among men, women, and community. In fact, the processes of production of knowledge and wealth, of language and affects reside in the general reproduction of society. If I reflect back self-critically on the classical distinction between production and reproduction and its consequences, that is, on the exclusion of women from the capacity to produce value, economic value, and I recognize that we ourselves were dealing with this mystification in the classical workerist tradition, then I have to say that today effectively the feminization of labor is an absolutely extraordinary affirmation. The feminization of labor because precisely reproduction, precisely the processes of production and communication, because the affective investments, the investments of education and the material reproduction of brains, have all become more essential.
Certainly, not only women are engaged with these processes, there is a masculinization of women and a feminization of men that moves forward ineluctably in this process. And this seems to me to be extremely important. Immaterial Labor and Migrants
When we talk about immaterial labor we are not referring simply to intellectual labor. By intellectual labor we mean corporeal labor that certainly includes the intellect but refers primarily to its plasticity, its malleability, its capacity to adapt in some way to every situation. I would say that the category of immaterial labor is a category that allows us to understand profoundly precisely this plasticity of the new labor power. Certainly there are differences between speaking about mass intellectuality and speaking about flows of immigrants that are sometimes themselves flows of intellectual labor power. For example, with respect to North Africa or other such regions, the emigrants are normally people who have already had a certain level of education, high school or even several years of college. But this is completely secondary with respect to the fundamental characteristic, which is their mobility, that plasticity of this labor power, which can always adapt to the immateriality of productive flows.
I would say that the struggles of the "sans papiers," the illegal aliens in France reveals a fundamental thing: the demand really for a right of citizenship, and thus for biopolitical intensity, for presence on the social terrain. It is a radical demand for the right of citizenship for those who move around. It represents in itself a subversive element of the national legal order and represents a first political translation of a situation that is becoming generalized. This is becoming a demand for legal recognition, for the rights of citizenship for all who work. This development thus creates a political integration of the new world productive order and the movements that arise from it.
We have to be able to imagine the fact of being citizens of the world in the fullest sense, realizing no longer the Internationale of workers but a community of all the people who want to be free.
This text is a transcription of an interview video, Retour vers le futur, which was produced in the days leading up to Negri's return to Italy and to prison. That video, which is in Italian with French subtitles, can be ordered from L'Yeux Ouverts, B.P. 624, 92006 Nanterre CEDEX, France, for 250FF (around $50 US). An extended version of the interview has been published by Editions Mille et Un Nuits under the title Exil (Paris, 1998).