Wednesday, October 3, 2012


Some aspects of Terranova’s diagnoses seem pessimistic, particularly with regard to the totalizing nature of capitalism. Is resistance possible within the system she describes, or does everything [always-already] take place within capitalism? Early in the book, she evokes the now-familiar notion of the individual as an invention in the interest of the market. She points out how attempts to differentiate, to individualize, to humanize, on the basis of race, gender, and sexuality (and, one might add, though she doesn’t, other preferences) create a situation where these things are “reduced to recombinable elements, disassociated from their subjects” (35). These “identities” become the content of measurements and statistics, dehumanized and valuable in their utility. In her chapter on free labour, this subsumption is far more pronounced (and troubling); “the familiar logic of capitalist exploitation” seems to accurately characterize free labour in the digital economy. However, Terranova wants to abstain from simply labeling the process as exploitive, as well as the temptation to read the “high-tech gift economy” as the “reemergence of communism … just at the moment when [it] seems defeated. As noted in lecture, Terranova instead notes that cultural production on the internet (this “free labour”) “does not exist as a free-floating postindustrial utopia but in full, mutually constituting interaction with late capitalism” (77, 84). This, paired with her more-familiar observation that subcultures often participate in mulitnational capitalism, creates a picture of a system with no apparent space for resistance (except, perhaps, not producing at all?).

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