Imagine Work!


Welcome to our blog!

Here are some links to texts that could be interesting for the participants of ‘Imagine Work!’.

* Bojana Kunst, Prognosis on future collaboration

This text doesn’t need much introduction. Bojana Kunst’s texts on project time, or on performance and potentiality, are also worthwhile reading, but this text is maybe the most interesting in relation to the topic because she combines ideas on working together with ideas on performing.

* Paolo Virno, Virtuosity and Revolution

Really interesting text that talks about the possibility to act and re-thinks the relation between thinking - working and acting.

* Antonio Negri, Labor, Action, Intellect

Interesting text talking about the collapse of the boundaries between labor, human life and human intellect.

* Maurizio Lazzarato, Immaterial Labor

Basic text when it comes down to talking about labor in a post-fordist era. Maybe a bit boring, but the good thing is that it gives a clear and elaborate vision on labour.

* Joost de Bloois, Over de hardwerkende Nederlanders en andere politieke dieren

Interesting approach to the current crisis of the cultural field (especially in holland). Should be red in combination with Pascal Gielens State of the Union for the Theaterfestival.

Both texts are in Dutch.

* Mladen Stilinovic, The Praise of Laziness

Interesting and provocative text - already very acknowledged.

* Gorgio Agamben, Beyond Human Rights

Very interesting text, but maybe a bit to far off from the topic of the day. In this text Agamben claims that we should all abandon our human rights as an ultimate political and utopistical action.


And here’s a short and sketchy review of some research we’ve been doing on the theoretical framework that unfolds itself in the debates on our working situation and how we can 'work' our way around it (or at least: in the debates on the left side of the spectrum). Basically this debate seems dominated by 2 political / philosophical ways of thinking:

* Operaio or Autonomist thinking: this is a way of thinking about society that is initiated by Italian thinkers Virno, Negri, Lazzaroto and (in lesser degree) Agamben. These thinkers coin the idea of Immaterial labor (as being the implosion of life and labor). In their analyses the main problem with late capitalism is that it capitalizes on elements that are in essence not a part of the sphere of capitalism. People have to be creative, inventive and - most importantly - communicative in their work. All these qualities are actually human qualities that aren't so much related to labor, but to life. For this reason the boundaries between life and work implode and life is been put into play in the work sphere.

The solution they imagine for this problem lies exactly in the redefining of this problem; the breaking of the “spell of capitalism” lies exactly in the elaboration of “a model of action that will enable action to draw nourishment precisely from what is today creating its blockage”. As has been said the late, or post-Fordist capitalism capitalizes on essential human qualities and – by doing this – induces an implosion between life and labor. Everything is being absorbed into the work sphere. The upside for this is that capitalism cannot produce these human qualities, which it capitalizes on. It is dependent on qualities, which it cannot produce and thus cannot fully control. For these reason the essential human qualities have the potential to undermine the capitalist strategies and to put life back to the forefront.

Concretely the idea comes down to a strategy of exodus and public disobedience. We should withdraw from the capitalist system of labor. Autonomists believe in the idea of self-organization (of which the name is also derived). In relation to this they developed the concept of 'the multitude' or the 'many'. This is a group of people that doesn't form a unity but is able to live together trough a common base: the possibility to communicate; a group of people that uses it’s potential to communicate in order to (trough communication) organize itself.

* Post foundationalists: the political post-foundationalist philosophy has Lefort, Laclau and Chantal Mouffe as its most famous representatives. The most important difference between the post-foundationalists and the Autonomists is that the post-foundationalists don't believe that it is possible to build a society on pure self-organization. Every society has to have a certain hierarchical organization. More specific: every society has to have a representation of society. The reason for this is that a representation of a society is not something that is deducted from society, it is something that is at the basis, or foundation of society. The unifying image is constitutive for society. Every society is founded by a point that transcendent the individual relations interprets these relations and by this gives them a meaning. Every society starts from an image from where society can understand itself and the individuals can understand their place in society. Every society has to have a vantage point that gives the society a certain meaning and unity.

For this reason the post-foundational theorists don't believe in the strategy of exodus. They don't think you can escape society and form an autonomous self-organizing community. Instead you always need a certain image, or foundation. This foundational image is always related to power. The foundation is always 'imaginary' it is never essential. The image that unites society can be any image. As long as there is an image (that works) the society can be built. This means that every image is arbitrary. Only, to be stable every society will have to try to 'forget' that this foundation is arbitrary. The foundation has to feel natural (think for example of a red light: it is completely arbitrary and still it feels natural).

On the other side: if the image becomes to stable the risk grows that the image becomes fundamentalist and dictatorial. The constitution of society is in other words: finding a balance between showing both the stability and the arbitrariness of the image. In relation to the showing of the arbitrariness of the image art plays an important role. Artist should think about other possibilities. There labor is of great importance in a society that can never become fully stable. At the same time there is also no 'utopian' way out. They can imagine new images, but only to re-imagine others once these images are becoming stable. To do this it has to use systems of exclusion to keep other images out and to stay hegemonic. This is good not bad, it is just as it is.

What is the problem in the current situation is that the capitalist society tries to blocks every possibility. It presents itself as the only possibility, while actually it is as arbitrary as all other possibilities. The resistance to this is thus the re-thinking of society and the presentation of different 'unifying images' that can mobilize the society in a different way. As vanguard party art plays a crucial role in this re-thinking of these images and to make sure that no image gains full stability.

In relation to art you can say that the difference between both comes down to the following: the autonomist state that art should seek for different ways to become independent and to help in the creation of autonomist societies. The Post-foundationalists on the other hand pose that art should be firmly rooted in society. Via these roots they should search for other possibilities to critically rethink society. This discussion is very visible in the state of the union for de Theaterfestival 2011 of Pascal Gielen (which was very much inspired by the post-foundational thinking) and the reactions of both Rudi Laermans (talking about communalism as possible tool for self organization) and Joost De Boois (talking about an 'alliance of the precarious'). The last two texts where more inspired by the Operaist ideas.