At the core of Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri's thesis that a new global form of sovereignty has replaced a previous imperialist geography is their claim that the capitalist mode of production has undergone a shift from a modern era in which “industrial labor“ was hegemonic to a postmodern era in which “immaterial labor“ has become hegemonic. In this article, I argue that capitalism in Europe (let alone other areas of the world) does not conform to this model. I draw on the history of Italian manufacturing and on my ethnographic research on the silk industry of northern Italy to question the analytic usefulness of their distinction between “industrial“ and “immaterial“ labor and to show that the latter has always been crucial to industrial production. I conclude that Hardt and Negri's attempt to expand the definition of productive labor to include the “multitude“ unwittingly parallels an emerging discourse that serves to legitimate transnational hierarchies of labor.
On false binaries in Hardt and Negri's trilogy
Reconfiguring labor, kinship and relational obligation
Keir Martin, Ståle Wig, and Sylvia Yanagisako
Interdependence is a fundamental characteristic of human existence. The way in which certain dependencies are acknowledged as opposed to those that are hidden, or the ways in which some are validated while others are denigrated, is central to how social inequalities are reproduced and recreated. In this introduction we explore how particular dependencies are categorized, separated, and made visible or invisible as part of their performative effect. In particular, we explore the distinction between wage labor and kinship as two forms of relatedness that are often separated in terms of the (in)dependence that they are seen to embody. Even though they are practically entangled, their conceptual separation remains important. These conceptual separations are central to how gender difference is imagined and constituted globally.