Global Networks and the Materiality of Immaterial Labor
This chapter focuses on one of the central issues in contemporary debates over the status of labor in the digital economy: the issue of immaterial labor. Writers such as Antonio Negri and Manuel Castells—who provide the basic framework of assumptions for all contemporary theories of immaterial labor—propose that digital technologies change the way in which value is produced and, as a result, that the economy is shifting away from the production of material commodities and toward immaterial commodities including information and affect, as well as the terms of life itself. In effect, they represent digital technologies as shifting the economic terrain of the global economy away from issues of class and exploitation and toward a new form of capitalism based upon immaterial labor. In contrast, I offer an extended analysis of the contemporary global economy and explain why we are actually witnessing the heightening of the economic contradictions between labor and capital rather than their resolution.