Transcript of Massimiliano Mollona’s talk at LSE David Graeber tribute seminar (one of the best talks IMO): https://www.focaalblog.com/2022/02/22/massimiliano-mollona-why-the-end-of-work-will-not-be-the-end-of-capitalism/
and linked to 2022 article by massi – Why the End of Work Will Not Be the End of Capitalism
from googling massi (linked to and where i got image above) https://www.gold.ac.uk/anthropology/staff/m-mollona/:
I am interested in the relationships between art and political economy.
need: oikos (the economy our souls crave).. ‘i should say: the house shelters day-dreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace.’ – gaston bachelard, the poetics of space
I structure my fieldworks as performative research interventions, combining anthropology, visual art and critical pedagogy reflecting on the power relations entangled in the ethnographic encounter. I look on the role of art institutions and cultural organizations in relation to the bio-politics and political economy of late capitalism.
visual assembly ness et al
In my approach to research, theory and practice intertwines. My practice being situated at the intersection of pedagogy, art and activism which I explore from within projects I co-initiated like the Institute of Radical Imagination and the Laboratory of Urban Commons, which aim at co-producing research, knowledge, artistic and political research-interventions to implement post-capitalist forms of life based on the idea that art is political prefiguration and political prefiguration is art.
notes/quotes from article
by massi dated feb 22 2022 – Why the End of Work Will Not Be the End of Capitalism – [https://www.focaalblog.com/2022/02/22/massimiliano-mollona-why-the-end-of-work-will-not-be-the-end-of-capitalism/]:
By showing that capitalism is a cultural and ideological social construction, which we unconsciously reproduce every day, Bullshit Jobs opens a potential space of *collective refusal. By understanding the performative dimensions of economics, we can appreciate that, if we decide so, **we can produce a different society, first, by eliminating bullshit jobs. The policy of ***Universal Basic Income is a possible means to such end.
2\ if we create a way to ground the chaos of 8b legit free people
Humorously parodying the kind of pointless categorizations that populate the bullshit workplace, David’s classification is loose and unground. On a closer inspection, it turns out that most bullshit jobs he mentions are in fact, shit jobs
James Suzman’s (2021) blockbuster book Work: A Deep History from Stone Age to the Age of Robots.
james suzman et al
David’s intuition about the value of maintenance and reproductive labour is a very important one. But, if nearly all human actions are reproductive in large sense, reproductive of the existent world and of existent institutions, how can we distinguish between those which reproduce capitalism such as unpaid housework, and those which reproduce life outside it? .. t
can a sense of agency emerge from empowering other people’s actions or in the realization that all actions are ultimately equally powerless because deeply relational? ..t
In fact, both managerialism and feudalism are forms of abstraction from real production, in which appropriation and distribution of goods, rather than actual production, creates elaborated ranked hierarchy.
to me.. production is a form of abstraction/distraction.. irrelevant.. to living alive ie: in undisturbed ecosystems ..the average individual, species, or population, left to its own devices, behaves in ways that serve and stabilize the whole..’ –Dana Meadows.. we need to let go of analyzing/labeling/productivising.. all part of sea world.. all whalespeak.. all same song
managerial feudalism et al
David’s Weberian and Foucauldian understanding of contemporary capitalism as a weird form of moral punishment and productive madness is a radical change of direction from his previous Marxist analysis of capitalist labour as an inverted form of slavery (Graeber 2006).. David shows that capitalism and slavery share the following traits: both rely on a separation of the place of social (re)production of the labour force, and the place where that labour-power is realized in production – in the case of slavery, this is achieved by transporting laborers bought or stolen from one society into another one; in capitalism, by separating the domestic sphere (the sphere of social production) from the workplace.
gare enslavement law et al
The central theoretical reference in David’s theory of reproductive labour is the feminist scholar Nancy Folbre (2020). For Nancy Folbre, patriarchy is the systematic devaluation of the power of reproducing life by women or alien men such as slaves, which is achieved through three main mechanisms: (1) the creation of property rights and laws that limits the circulation of people and put it under male control; (2) restrictions of rights of women children and sexually non-conforming individuals and (3) under-remuneration of care work.
nika & silvia on divorce et al
But the best part of the book are the descriptions of the creative strategies of resistance of this new precarised and dispossessed class of bullshitters consisting of Wikipedia ghost-writers, occupational poets, toilet graffiti artists, deluded rock stars, professional dropouts, and gossipers. It is precisely in the creative agency of these workers, and in David’s empathy towards them, that the book’s call to action emerges. After all, the book is based on interviews with individuals who had read David’s original article and identified with his political project of demystifying the corporate world. That is, the book is based on a sense of solidarity between David and the bullshitters. In this sense, Bullshit Jobs’ greatest potential is as a work of fiction or an ethnography of direct action, which in defiance of the tragic post-workerist sociological narrative, gives voice to the creative withdrawal, artistic desires, and post-capitalist fantasies of platform workers – whose anti-heroic politics resonates with that of the lost people of Madagascar.
David’s optimism reflected the hopes about the end of capitalism that opened after the economic crisis of 2008 and embodied in the UK by Corbynism with which David had a strong affiliation. At the time, even the gigantic productivist trade union UNITE supported the elimination of bullshit jobs via the Universal Basic Income as a way into what Aaron Bastani (2020) imagined as a ‘fully automated luxury communism’.
This sense of hope was wiped out by the recent global pandemic, which, if anything, widened the gap between overpriced bullshit jobs and undervalued shit jobs. On the one hand, the lawyers, corporate accountants, the platform managers, the internet influencers and gurus. On the other, the Amazon Turkers, the IT engineers who build new Zoomified working environments, or install powerful optical Internet cables in middle class neighbourhood, the gig workers who deliver groceries, parcels, or health services; the nurses, teachers, and carers who continue to be responsible for the reproduction of life. Deadly on humans, the global pandemic didn’t singlehandedly eliminate any useless job or revaluate productive labour..t If anything, it introduced the new category of spectral labour, the labour of nurses who are both underpaid and operate daily under deadly working conditions. If a pandemic cannot change capitalism, interstitial changes, operating ‘through the cracks of capitalism’, as John Holloway (2010) would say, or cultural prefigurations of ‘what could be’, to use a term of Murray Bookchin (1971), won’t do that either..t
need: means to undo our hierarchical listening
I have been working on Universal Basic Income project in Brazil for some time, and I must say that the problematic associated with Bullshit Jobs alerted me of the perils of thinking that work can be eliminated with targeted policy measures without the elimination of capitalist social relations. From where we stand now, and looking back at 2013, when the article was written, seems to glance into a different era, one of intellectual hope and political mobilization, so fully embodied in David’s charismatic figure of scholar and activist. His call to action, as hard to follow as it may seem, continues to strongly resonate with me.
Massimiliano Mollona is Associate Professor at the Department of the Arts at Bologna University and Visiting Research Fellow at the Anthropology Department, in Goldsmiths College, London. He specializes on the anthropology of class, labour and political economy, and the anthropology of art. Mollona is currently working on an ethnography of Universal Basic Income (UBI) in Marica’ Brazil, in collaboration with economists from the Federal Fluminense University of Rio de Janeiro.
This text was presented at David Graeber LSE Tribute Seminar on “Bullshit Jobs”.
which says seminar took place feb 18 2022.. maybe video recording will pop up soon.. lse graeber series et al