Digital Labor

Andrea Fumagalli


Andrea Fumagalli is Professor of economics in the Department of Economics and Management at University of Pavia. He is member of Effimera Network, founder member of Bin-Italy (Basic Income Network, Italy) and member of the Executive Committee of BIEN (Basic Income Earth Network). He is active in the San Precario network. Among his recent publications, Bioeconomics and Cognitive Capitalism: towards a new accumulation paradigm, Carocci, Roma, 2007, The crisis of the Global Economy. Financial markets, social struggles and new political scenarios, Semiotext(e), Mit Press, 2010, “Twenty Theses on Cognitive Biocapitalism”, in Angelaki. The Journal of the Theoretical Humanities, Vol. 16, 2011 and “Life put to work: towards a theory of life-value”. Ephemera, vol. 10, 2011 (with C. Morini).

The Concept of Subsumption of Labor To Capital: Towards the Life Subsumption in Cognitive-Biocapitalism
Capitalist exploitation is described by Marx with two forms of subsumption: “formal” and “real”, as outcome of the historical evolution of capitalism and the continuous metamorphosis of the capital-labor ratio. Those two subsumptions refer to two different concepts of surplus value: absolute and relative. The historical period of formal subsumption corresponds to the period of pre-industrial capitalism which reaches the threshold of the Industrial Revolution and the first stage of capitalism, in which the exploitation of labor and its submission to the capital takes place “on the basis of a working process that pre-exists” (K. Marx, The Capital, 1, ch. VI unpublished, p. 53). In this context, the added value derived from the extensification of labor through the continued lengthening of labor time. With the transition to real subsumption, the process of exploitation and valorization is based on the intensification of the labor process, through parcelization of labour activity and the exploitation of static and size scale economies (Tayloristic mode of accumulation).Nowadays, with the shift towards what some post-workerist scholars define “cognitive bio-capitalism”, we assist to a new metamorphosis of the capital-labor ratio and the emergence of a new form of subsumption, called life subsumption. This paper tries to define it and the main elements about the new form of valorization and governance.

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