principle, fictitious capital always arises when a money owner leaves
his money to another person and in return receives a title of
ownership (bond, share, etc.) representing the claim to this money
and its increase (e.g. in the form of interest or dividends). In this
way, the original sum of money is doubled. It now exists twice and
can be used by both parties. The recipient can spend the money on
consumption, investments or financial assets and for the donor his
money has become money capital, which yields a regular profit.
This money capital, however, consists of nothing more than a securitized claim representing the anticipation of future value. Whether this anticipation is actually covered becomes clear only after the fact. If the sum of money in question is invested in a production plant and this investment is successful, the value is preserved in the form of the acting capital and increases through the use of labour in the production of goods. If, on the other hand, the investment fails or the borrowed money is spent immediately on private or state consumption, the original value is consumed, but the claim to it lives on (for example in the form of a credit agreement or a bond). In this case, the fictitious capital is uncovered and must be replaced and „serviced“ by the creation of new claims to future value (such as the issue of new bonds) so that the monetary claim can be redeemed. The financialisation of developed economies can be measured by the relative size of the financial sector compared to GDP, the volume of profits realised by financial institutions compared to other enterprises, and the portfolio income of non-financial enterprises. Beyond those indicators that demonstrate the transfer of funds from the real economy to the speculative financial circuits that lenders today are characterized by, their power to select those projects that deserve to be financed is their power to select those that deserve to be financed, which in turn requires those that are dependent on credit to constantly demonstrate their attractiveness to investors and thus to align their economic activities not only to generating profit but also to the creation of creditworthiness. Above all, the stock corporations must not only strive to maximize the difference between revenues and production costs in the long term, but also to work in the short term for the benefit of the shareholders on an increase in stock prices, which are valued by the financial markets. Thus, the real success of these companies does not result exclusively from the realization of profits from the sale of products and services, but is based on the capital gain that can also be obtained from share buybacks.
Now the anticipation of future value in the form of fictitious capital belongs to the capitalistic normal operation. But in the fundamental crisis of exploitation in the wake of the Third Industrial Revolution it took on a fundamental new meaning. While the creation of fictitious capital has so far essentially served to flank and support the process of capital exploitation (for instance by pre-financing large investments), a change of role has now taken place since the basis of this process broke away. From then on, capital accumulation was no longer largely based on the use of labor in the production of goods such as cars, hamburger rolls and smartphones, but on the mass issuance of securities such as stocks, bonds and financial derivatives, which represented claims to future value. In this way, fictitious capital itself became the engine of capital accumulation, while the production of goods market goods decreased to dependent variables.
This form of capital accumulation, however, differs in one crucial respect from the previous form of capitalist self-purpose movement. Since it is based on the anticipation of value to be produced in the future, it is capital accumulation without capital utilization. Its basis is not the current utilization of labor in the production of value, but the expectation of future real economic gains, which in the last instance must come from the additional utilization of labor. However, since this expectation cannot be fulfilled in view of the development of productive power, the demands must be renewed again and again and the anticipation of future value must be stretched further and further into the future. The consequence of this is that the mass of financial stocks is subject to an increased exponential growth constraint. For this reason, the number of financial securities exceeds the number of the produced and traded goods market goods many times over. In public opinion, this „lifting off of the financial markets“ is usually criticised as the alleged cause of the crisis; in fact, however, once the foundations of exploitation have been lost, the accumulation of capital can only continue in this way.
The compulsion to exponentially increase exponential growth, however, marks a logical limit for the accumulation of fictitious capital; for the real economic reference points to which the expectations of future profits refer cannot be multiplied at will and emerge one after the other as chimera (new economy, real estate boom, etc.). Nevertheless, this limit can be postponed to a considerable extent, as a glance back at the era of fictitious capital, which has now lasted around thirty-five years, shows. However, this postponement is at the expense of steadily rising social costs, which are becoming increasingly intolerable. Income and wealth have concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, the precarization of working and living conditions has increased worldwide, and the remaining natural resources have been squandered mercilessly – just to keep the dynamics of capital accumulation going.
In order to better understand the causes of this, we must first examine what effects the shift of capital accumulation into the sphere of fictitious capital has had on the basic form of social relationship, mediation through work. Then we have to ask how the relationship between the two sides of the capitalist form of wealth, abstract wealth in the form of value and material wealth, has changed at the same time.
I have argued above that until the 1970s social mediation through labor was characterized by a mutual dependence of capital and labor. This was based on the fact that capital in its urge to exploit was dependent on living labor, while the owners of the commodity labor depended on the successful sale of precisely this commodity in order to be able to live. In the era of fictitious capital, however, this relationship changed fundamentally. Not only did the Third Industrial Revolution make masses of living labor superfluous, but more importantly, the focus of capital accumulation has shifted from the use of labor in the production of market commodities to anticipating future value. As a result, capital has become self-referential in a whole new sense in its movement for its own ends. The anticipation of future value, which is capitalized and accumulated in the here and now, remains within the logic and form of the production of goods; for it is produced through the sale of a good, namely through the sale of a title to property, which securitizes the claim to a certain sum of money and its multiplication. But the sellers of these property titles are by no means any workers who sell the promise of work in ten or twenty years‘ time, i.e. receive a kind of long-term advance whose fulfilment would remain uncertain; it is rather the functionaries of capital itself, first and foremost the banks and other financial institutions, who sell each other the securitized claims to future value and thus produce and accumulate fictitious capital. In this respect, therefore, capital has indeed become completely self-referential; the commodity that represents additional social capital arises within the sphere of capital itself.
Conversely, however, this now means that the sellers of the commodity Arbeitskraft largely lose their bargaining power. Not only can they in any case be replaced by machines or by cheaper competitors anywhere in the world in the face of the advancing development of productivity and globalization; even more decisive is the fact that their commodity is no longer the basic commodity of capital accumulation. This results in a structural imbalance. For the overwhelming majority of the world’s population, social mediation through work is still central insofar as they have to sell their labor or their work products as goods here and now in order to be able to participate in social wealth in return, i.e. to buy the necessary means of consumption. Capital, on the other hand, also remains related to social mediation through labor; for it has by no means left the universe of commodity production. To the extent that capital accumulates through anticipation of future value production, that is, anticipates the results of possible labor in the future, it frees itself from its dependence on the future.
And the work is everywhere, anytime. When oppression is absolute, there is no leisure, no „free time“. Sleep is monitored. The sense of work is then the destruction of work at and through work. But if, as has happened in some concentration camps, work consists of dragging stones to a place at a run, piling them up and then, still running, taking them back to the starting point … Then work can no longer be destroyed by any sabotage if it is already destined to destroy itself. Nevertheless, it retains its meaning; not only to destroy the worker, but, directly, to occupy him, to fix him, to control him, and at the same time to give him the awareness that producing and non-producing are one and the same thing, is also work … Maurice Blanchot to the labour camp
Isn’t today’s situation quite similar? In the mostly precarious working conditions there is a large number of meaningless and even capitalistically unproductive occupations, which Graeber calls bullshit jobs1, and which, no matter whether they are connected with long waiting in which nothing happens or intolerable hustle and bustle, are complementary to the ubiquitous circulation logic of capital (the main thing is that work circulates as employment); The affectively occupied, lightning speed that one has to cultivate in dealing with digital devices and media is often expected in dealing with people, objects and materials, and this attitude, if it is paid for, is today disguised as employment. Nonstop-doing is hip and trendy, even if it is still the very last nonsense that is carried out, at least a little spiritual profit should arise from employment, for which the rampant hobby sector from the hardware store to the nudist oasis, the boom of therapeutic wellness and leisure activities with their patchworks of self-enhancing activities and the spiritual feel-good industry from Tantra to Yoga to Thai Chi provide the affective model, whereby monetary profits from such activities are usually only obtained through mediation.
Industrial labor has always been about hiring the worker (as variable capital), whose labor was never identical to the labor he performed and created the added value for capital. Today, however, the employee (not the worker) is increasingly no longer primarily the owner of a labour force composed of wealth, skills, qualifications and potential, which the owner offers on the labour market and rents out for a certain period of time in order to function as a producer who, in addition to performing the (extra) work guaranteed by his labour force, also exists as a leisure person. As a modern consumer of work or as a customer of work (at the Employment Agency for Work), however, the employee is regarded as human capital in the 24/7 mode or as a customer of work. as a holder of a self-portfolio, to be filled with professional, social and emotional competences (not qualifications) and to be constantly improved, whereby a feeling for favourable opportunities and options in the jobs is to be developed and the speculation of opportunities is to be taken for granted, so that the employee translates into the language of the economy, can be regarded as a conglomerate of various small types of capital that is constantly in need of improvement; indeed, the employee is this conglomerate that he must credibly embody for the Employment Agency as a client by providing evidence of small securities documenting his employment history and ability. As a consumer of labor he is at the same time the small capital x, the speculative competence conglomerate, which he has to increase in his alleged inexchangeability or singularity, at least these are the neoliberal imperatives, but he always remains a profile attributed to him by companies, social media and labor agencies, a product oscillating between consolidation and versatility. At the same time, the consumer always remains frozen in a volatile work process (training for job), which is sometimes even called „life“. Wringing its hands, as far as it has reached a certain status, the competence conglomerate looks for its always refreshing talents as well as for a unique selling proposition, which of course lies in its (never to be updated) potential to embody it in the distant future, while it remains entirely subject to the techniques of the plusquamperfect of a „it will have been“, techniques that transform the future into the past in a continuous process.
Today, wage labour must endure a particular paradox. On the one hand, work is a general virtue that inscribes itself in life. Everything has become work, be it body work, relationship work, sex work, mourning work etc… Really free time thus becomes a state that should be avoided in any case. On the other hand, the importance of work as occupation and vocation decreases, so that only the job and the occupation remain, whereby a working life is often enough regarded as the accumulation of the next best opportunities, without the chance to tell his employment biography as a successful life (Sennett). In addition, fewer and fewer people have access to a job that ensures their livelihood. And finally, the fear of unemployment hangs over almost everyone who buys their labour“. Then one would have to ask why people do not understand their bullshit jobs as such.
Basically it has to be said that Marx replaced the subjectively oriented concept of alienation later on in capital by the concept of the extraction of added value, which subjectively cannot be experienced without further ado, because the separation of necessary and extra work is not visible. The added value is necessarily evoked by the capital relation.
Instead of the producer, who in the course of capitalist history had emancipated himself, at least for certain phases of his life, from his internment in the factory and from complete lawlessness in matters of freedom, and who thus nevertheless possessed the freedom to offer his labor at markets, today the employee or the consumer of „labor“, who is chained to this day and night, is increasingly taking the place of the producer. While the potential producer on the labor market embodies an offer as a labor force, the consumer of labor represents the embodied demand for the agencies that mediate labor, whereby the labor force on the labor markets is permanently designed and traded, coached, and cast; it now becomes the flexible mode for the business model of a labor-design industry that imposes permanent casting on the labor force. And even if today the producer still spends his labor force, it tends to be cut off from him insofar as he no longer defines himself solely through a production act, but also as a consumer of labor through an act of purchase. And the less today, in view of automation and the excessive increase in bullshit jobs, it is still possible to convey the necessity of work to employees, the more the demand for work is to coalesce into the ubiquitous model, which also means that potential producers are transferred into the role of consumers of „work“ via the job centres and the various private placement services.
The flexible labour market today is characterised to a large extent by precarious services, which the Federal Employment Agency, among others, offers, but which can only actually provide employment if it is also available, which is something that the Federal Employment Agency automatically assumes. Consequently, the unemployed must also be responsible for their own unemployment, which in turn implies that they are mostly lazy or redundantly unwilling to work subjects. If we now refute this claim with facts/figures, then nothing remains but the lack of work. And it is precisely this lack of work that the Federal Employment Agency, as its „service on the labour market“, must constantly deal with by miraculously transforming the lack of work into a work of potency. And if one continues to assume that work is often precarious and underpaid work, with workers either potentially hounded to death and bullied or subjected to pure occupational therapies, the lack of work will never be absent.
To repeat it, the Federal Employment Agency defiantly maintains that there is no lack of work, turning the lack of work itself into work.2 Whatever work is offered by the agency, it now seems to circulate itself as a potential commodity (the classic misconception of work as confusing or equating work with labour), but it is usually only updated for a limited time, with the potential involvement of clients in the search for work no longer a guarantee that it will result in actual participation in work. When the unemployed mutate into customers of state or private employment agencies, another reversal comes into play: unemployed people who by definition are producers without work potentially become consumers, buyers of work. It follows from this that the unemployed, as demanders of labour, are at the same time the entrepreneurs of their own who seem to buy their own labour. In any case, they have to increase their small capital X, and since this is usually zero except for their potency to be labour force, they came to the conclusion that the unemployed are the entrepreneurs of their own companies who seem to buy their own labour. In any case, they have to increase their small capital X, and since this, apart from their potency to be manpower, is usually equal to zero, the Federal Agency at work one day came up with the clever idea of improving this small capital X, password „I AG“, but more or less quickly gave up these efforts again. The precarious employee should now experience for himself what responsibility and entrepreneurship means, so that he can finally identify himself with the victims who the state and capital provide for him, in order to release the state apparatuses and companies from their legal and social responsibility.
The precariously employed person has to repeat the act of buying work quite frequently in the course of his job life, so that factors such as further training, performance potential, knowledge acquisition and improvement of qualifications and competence are set in the long term, with the result that a proliferating range of consulting, training and further training opportunities is created on the labour and coaching markets. We are dealing here with the logistification of an employment mobility regime that consists of transferring the right amount of labour, with the right skills and qualifications, at the right time and at the right cost, to the right place, with permanent tracking of labour movements in order to do justice to this type of just-in-time production, and this applies in particular to to-the-point migration (logistical frontiers 54), the management of which requires logistics of waiting times, comprehensive monitoring, control and prevention of friction.
The knowledge mostly acquired on the screen results in a fluctuating information value (of the consumer of work), whereby this has little to do with the manpower of a classical producer who is confronted with a site-bound machine park designed for a specific production. The new paradigm of employment is the computer, which is mobile and flexible and integrated into a network. In order to be successful, one has to be networked in almost all professional areas today, because this is the only way to attract investors who promote and advance one’s own humane investment capital. Through the purchase and application of affective and social skills, as well as the professional knowledge that comes from consulting, coaching and training programmes, which seem to be well informed, the consumer of work must be able to sell himself flexibly and attractively, precisely by constantly acquiring a type of asset, namely certificates, expertises, employment contracts, time vouchers, tax relief, etc., which he, as well as his identity card, must present at every presentation.
In some professions, labour is still spent, but its symbolic value, which is represented by the right to work that is fought for, has been largely eliminated. It is thus replaced by the information value of the consumer of work, who is characterized by coaching competence, the value acquired through education and training, the performance self-portfolio and the genetic code. In this fourfold connotation of the information value exists the small capital x, which covers the information processing of the competences and the purchased knowledge in self-sales. Now we can see whether the consumer of labour functions as a self-informing network or not. The act of purchase is then processed via the recognition of the assets, provided that the consumer of labour has an attractive information value (and possibly also the necessary purchasing power). And if his assets are then updated by an employment contract, then he is sufficiently mobilized for employment as a temporary worker. The assets, like all financial assets, contain a potency which, however, is only updated as participation in the work or as employment. If an asset is then also updated, then everything has to be accepted at work, because according to the Federal Employment Agency there is no unreasonable work. If, however, the capitalisation of one’s own information value does not succeed, the market will pronounce the judgement that the creation of work through its absence failed.
Temporary work and agency work put the permanent creation (and disappearance) of jobs on a permanent footing, with which nothing more than unemployment is to disappear, so that temporary work knows intermediate times without work, but no more unemployment. In these interim periods without work, the assets circulate without interruption in the form of applications by the private and state agencies, because although temporary work is limited in time, the application period is not, so that the assets are not used for work. In these interim periods without work, the assets circulate without interruption in the form of applications by the private and state agencies, because although the temporary work is limited in time, but the application period is not, so that the assets circulate on the labor market years or almost the entire life, but they are not lost years, because the assets traded by the agencies (allegedly) always serve to improve their own information and competence value. It should now be clear that the consumer of labour is a risk subject, and if he sells his information value invested in assets for a while or even forever below value, then that is his bad luck, because of all things in the „loan and temporary work game with profit and loss“ there are no insurance claims.
And to go further, unemployment benefit is only a right if the right to work is presupposed. It was fought for by the producers and their organizations in long class battles with reference to the alleged world-forming potency of the industrial labor force, which today is cut off from the consumer, with which actually also the right to unemployment assistance is cancelled and was finally consequently transformed into Hartz4, which resembles a panic laboratory with a charity (which introduces criminal law into social law), for the self-inflicted misfortune, which actually only falls to those who consider any work mediated by the „Modern Service on the Labor Market“ unreasonable. The Hartz4 recipient has no place on the official labour market where there is a highly qualified, academic, privileged wage-working class, i.e. the secured core workforce of large and medium-sized enterprises and the partly independent and at least in some phases well-earning precariat. The rest of the population is in the low-wage sector or at the level of state-subsidised and/or state-forced employment, or is completely out of employment, which only exacerbates the misfortune.3 Part of the superfluous remainder, as Hartz4 recipients, is commonly referred to forced labour, where employment itself is the marginal income, as a basic income independent of work is still strictly rejected. Forced labour means permanent mobilisation for work. And there is one more point to be made: The sharply delineated division between employment and unemployment (unemployment as the flip side of employment), which goes back to an entirely different accumulation regime (standardisation and continuity of production, hence stability and continuity of employment), has changed into an ever closer intertwining of periods of employment and periods of unemployment. The fact that unemployment has become structural does not mean that millions of people are waiting for a permanent contract, but that they are working while being registered as unemployed. Unemployment is now part of the norm of employability. To be unemployed means to be available and ready for immediate use, not for a permanent contract, but for a fixed-term contract with a duration.(Lazzarato)
If larger parts of the work, in particular auxiliary work, cannot be completely detached from the income, they become a service which does not consist in the work itself, but in the submission to work ordered by the state. As such, service today is a service to work which is expressed in compulsory labour. This is de facto labour service. And the less the service is still a service to work, the more it mutates into a service to competence and information by absorbing, processing and storing it. The information migrates into the body and its cognitive faculties and tends to become identical with the service. The demand for work, which is objectively lacking, becomes the demand for what takes its place, it becomes the demand for what replaces work: competence, information, automation and digitisation. Therefore, more and more powerful software must be available to interconnect the data and information streams with the bodies, affects and brains of individuals, who are literally imprisoned by the control, regulation and feedback processes encoded in the digital programs, because the traceability of each individual action and the anticipation of further actions are built into the circulating logic of the information streams.
The transitive normalization of behavior, i.e. the full integration of the actors into systems, in which they merely function as points in networks that are to be captured and utilized, is quite oddly transformed by the consumption of the offerings which in turn make it possible to use all the forces of self-increase in the pull of performance activities like a service. The competence, fitness and wellness status here acts like „systemic doping“, providing a host of positive placebo effects. To the same extent that the new consumer of work, who tends to be unemployed, affirms his unemployed as the execution of a service, he continually appropriates his precarious appropriation with self-responsibility, the blackmail inherent in the classical employment contract seems to be lifted, as if out of nowhere there were an endlessly creative and performatively applicable work capacity, as if the service provider were the reincarnation of the deification of positive work and competence. This also reflects the fact that the loss of work for the individuals today appears as a catastrophe that must be averted with all available means – if no one believes in work any more, only then does belief in its necessity become universal. While Marx could still dryly state that the worker does not produce for himself, but for capital, in order to really exclude any apotheosis that elevates work to an idol, the creative self-configuration through the purchase of work, which is stylishly accompanied by the constant consumption of coaching, casting and enhancement programs, rediscovers a truly uncanny joy of enjoyment in (digitized) work, whose propagandists constantly proclaim that the persons integrated into the informational networks are indeed the embodiment of creative participations and singularity demonstrations – instead of simply admitting that these persons are still mostly recipients of orders who may give each other orders in the team at a lower or middle level of the company.
Work, which is increasingly disappearing as industrial work (in the metropolises), remains a scarce commodity and an occupation that is simultaneously administered as amphetamine and tranquilizer. As a result, work, which in fact is no longer work, but employment, which consists either in waiting or, alternatively, in the worst agitation, must be embellished in a special way: it is rewritten as self-realization and self-increase, a euphemism that not only those who are in the process of doing so are able to do, who once benefited from a job center measure, but also those who do a normal job in the office – a frightening convulsion of mobbing, agitation and paralyzing boredom at the same time, as meaningless activity – can only be understood as a bad joke. If they don’t, and even show some delinquent behavior, then data science engines today extract data and signals from the web and other sources that indicate exactly this deviant behavior, and this quickly turns you into a work risk that is classified on a risk index, so that the company and its management can intervene preventively and simply put the personalized risk outside the door. Because most employees do not do anything different, they have to consume their own employment as a self-actualization project as a punishment, the maximum punishment that the capital has available for such beaten up subjects, who themselves are still denied the work in the sweat of their faces. And such a consumption of labor today often enough resembles the scrapping of labor, so that the imperative of labor is still dropped, because the new Stakhanovs of vulgar hedonism and affective competence no longer need orders to perform whole work (in itself) and for the others, they only need the emotional and empathetic touch, the impetus that the coach or leader constantly instills in them.
And this punishment continues in leisure time; as is well known, the seriousness of life – inseparable from the fun of life – begins in leisure time, in which not only the conglomerate of products, affects and events, but also consumption in a loop wants to be consumed. Designations such as leisure industry, wellness centre, leisure pedagogy and the like point to the affiliation of leisure to business, whereby leisure and work compete with each other for the highest recognition, whereby in life it is no longer just a matter of working as much as possible, but also of having consumed or enjoyed plenty of leisure time within the framework of supposedly highly individualised worlds of experience. This applies especially to the elites and the high-income part of the middle class, who, dissolved in their madness of singularity and excess of uniqueness, constantly mix leisure and work with each other and have both undergone the glamour of the „creativity“.
people who are happy all around with their kind of singular
self-increase, while the greater part of the population even in the
western feel-good oases of the West can only bear the bizarre nature
of daily occupation so well that they can somehow get to the most
precious weeks of the year and enjoy their holidays, that is to say
to hang around in some hotel bunkers in the south, that is to say to
be under the supervision and guidance of professional specialists,
coaches and entertainers, who teach you day and night how to dance,
to do gymnastics, to eat and to sleep. Wolfgang Pohrt writes about
it: „The hard fact that the capital relationship, according to
its historical purpose, transforms the wage workers into superfluous
human material, into useless eaters who can be starved to death in
poor countries, while in rich countries they have to be kept halfway
in a good mood as recipients of support, this hard fact is thus
treated with a lot of ideological fabric softener, and at the end of
the fabric softening cycle, which some call a rethink, others a label
fraud, the cleaning lady to the room attendant has transformed the
simple time killing into, for example, finding her own identity.« A
breath of mink pohrt.186
And if even the left still wants the work, which in the hip circles is now called creative work, to be understood as the self-realization of the individual one last time, then one is not at all in the neighborhood of Marx, but one is in the wake of the philosophy of life of a youth movement that cannot be killed, which, in turn, in the wake of being absorbed within a pool of „interesting options“, relies on the permanent implementation of cultural novelties with which the inflated self of little bourgeois willing to ascend is confronted with the illusion of uniqueness, in new speech, singularity, distinctiveness and ingenuity, something that the powerless specimen absolutely needs today in order not to have to visit a life-therapeutic specialist against the daily mix of paralyzing boredom and stressful occupation, which adds two and two together, namely that for living beautifully, drinking well and eating healthier must be added to the creative work, otherwise you can not be happy and content, but remain the meaningless hedonist, of whom, one must add, no one has warned you. And so the freedom to create something new out of nothing is combined with the compulsion to be constantly creative in the various attractiveness competitions, and the more everyone has to be creative, the less the individuals can still do it, but because they continue to try desperately, a world of pseudo-originality, of fakes and plagiarisms emerges, which above all shows one thing: That despite the millions of inventions and the abundance of goods with alleged uniqueness character, there is nothing left to invent. And the faster the object decays today, the more it has to be dressed up with a creative idea, from the creative fruitcake to the creative wall decoration to the creative self, which one can multiply at the labour and attention markets as the small capital x, invest or simply buy from a consulting firm. But here, as Seeßlen/Metz think, there is no destruction of old meanings and their replacement by new meanings, what they call surreal, but the energetically produced surplus of meaning only refers to the fact that meaning must be meant, what is meant is completely indifferent. But still every meaning must be capitalized.
Even today, even the less fragile life and work designs still fray the omnipresence of the cuts, with which life, employment and the generation of the surplus are divided into intervals, pressed and scattered again or recombined ever faster beyond a chronological time, thus replacing continuity with a kind of indeterminate postponement – truly a lasting state of suspense of a speculative time, with which the never-ending coming of lifelong learning and investing is also perpetuated. There is an ever deeper fragmentation of working time and life time, and both times remain caught up in the process of a furious, deterritorializing recombination in which, for example, work on the telephone can be called up for a week, a day, or an hour, thus making employment fractal and recombinant. The digital work is fragmented; the individual – itself a cellular form – experiences a recombinant fragmentation in the digitized production processes in cellular and at the same time recombinable segments. It is not only a question here of the work itself becoming precarious, but also of the work processes being constantly divided, possibly leading to the dissolution of the person as an unified productive agent, as a labor force. It is quite clear that as cells of productive time, the individuals in the punctual and fragmented forms of work processes can be constantly mobilized, incited, and recombined anew. We are dealing with an immense increase in depersonalized working time, inasmuch as capital is increasingly moving over to it, instead of hiring the worker who works eight hours at a time to rent various time packages in order to recombine them just in time (out- and crowdsourcing) – and this regardless of their interchangeable and thus more or less random carrier. Even the „self“ now fluctuates as a fluid residual ego and is recombined in ever new relations, and this formation resembles a kaleidoscope, „which shows a new pattern with every shaking. „10 This kind of spasmic recombination of employment, which extends far beyond labor relations, is also carried out today in the various social networks. In the mastery of accelerating and decelerating, stretching and postponing, compressing and resetting schedules, employees also create expanded possibilities for generating surplus for financial capital with non-chronological flows of money. Prerequisites for this kind of surplus generation, which goes hand in hand with debt, are both low wages and precarious forms of work, in which the employees have to constantly adapt to unpredictable working hours and volatile wages, not least to leveraging their debts, so that they are almost drawn into undetermined and unpredictable streams of time.
In the share economy, the digital interfaces that are now called platforms control and steer work in a completely restructured labour market. Thus, the drivers and bicycle couriers of new platforms such as Uber differ from the dependent employees of traditional companies in that they themselves offer a service, and the means to provide the service that an app on the platform gives them, be it the car or the bicycle and in any case the smartphone, must be provided by themselves. So what is worn out during the execution of the service is the property of the drivers and couriers. The drivers, who, for example, are able to pick up passengers, are under strict digitalised control and are forced to follow the platform’s algorithms. The routes they drive are dictated by the GPS, while their efficiency, availability and interaction with passengers are the subject of constant evaluation, which then continues to determine how, when and where the drivers are deployed.
The drivers and couriers do not act as official employees, but are private contractors to the companies of the platforms. Far from offering an alternative to precarious work, those who ultimately provide the service to customers oscillate in the tension between the restrictive conditions of wage labour and the risk of self-employment. Thus, service providers who use the platforms‘ services are freed from the repression of wage labour, but also from the associated social guarantees (because the platforms do not pay social security contributions). In this way, they seem to represent the epitome of neoliberal subjects. At least the personal dependence on a boss who sweetens a working day with all sorts of commands disappears, because the drivers have little to do with the organizers of the platform, even in an emergency it is hardly impossible to contact them. So it’s apparently up to the drivers themselves how they organise their daily work, but they must never become too slow during work and they have to keep up with the competition at all costs, and that’s why it’s so important to just step on the pedal whatever happens.
The companies always increase the hourly wage for the most effective of their drivers, but this means nothing more than that the permanent monitoring and automated evaluation of the drivers‘ performance ensures the competition, the comparison and the scaling in the long run. For self-employed drivers, for example, earnings are measured by the number of deliveries made. And this usually increases the driver’s willingness to take risks while driving and thus also the demand for accident insurance benefits; the rising insurance premiums reflect the courage to take risks. which in turn boosts the performance of the drivers, because they also have to earn the money for accident insurance. If no orders are received during a shift, the drivers do not receive any wages, but their working hours are converted seamlessly into free time. But because the couriers can’t and don’t want to do anything with this free time – who wants to eat their way through the paralyzing time porridge of everyday life – not only are the really stressful shifts the most popular among self-employed drivers, but they also constantly demand new shifts. Drivers usually take care of the so-called market clearance in a very reliable manner and, due to their own lack of financial resources, they also constantly register further demand for work shifts and thus increase the demand for courier workstations, which is why the algorithm can further worsen the financial conditions for its customers with every update, but this in no way leads to a noticeable drop in demand.
For many theorists, the major platforms are nothing more than the assemblage of commercial contracts between a principal authority that concludes contracts on behalf of the company and a multiplicity of agents that independently provide services to the companies. The platforms thus multiply partnerships based on purely commercial encounters that offer services to third parties without regulated employment contracts and wage earners. (However, it is still difficult for a number of companies in different sectors to produce without the recruitment of wage earners.) Finally, the new service providers are dependent not only on their own work but also on their integration into networks structured by ratings and rankings and other regulatory procedures, and this means that the exploitation of their labour resources and their risk management ultimately depend on credit, which is promoted by positive ratings and which they absolutely must accumulate. That is why one’s work performance and the promotion of one’s skills in the course of self-marketing constantly requires positive evaluation and recognition by customers, which manifests itself in scores, likes, friends and followers, and optimising these evaluations is an important task that a driver must perform. And the accumulation of reputational capital must necessarily result in an efficient credit score in order to gain the confidence of banks and insurance companies. The sustainability of the service providers‘ operations therefore depends much more on the approval of the lenders and sponsors than on the entrepreneurial ethos put into the foreground by neo-liberal ideologues or the price of human capital to be increased, whereby the sponsors are mostly financial speculators, who use production means based on digital machines for the extraction and forecasting of certain resources and raw materials (in this case the behaviour of users), which serve to profitably modify the behaviour of customers, which in turn cannot be achieved without the total control of the drivers, so that today these are also tracked on Facebook, for example, by track-reading machines.
On the web pages of the platforms where service providers and their customers can exchange information with each other, the platforms assign their service providers a specific set of assets to be continuously evaluated, which the service providers in turn have to combine, move and manage as part of their „reputational capital“. Some theorists already see the management of the reputational capital as the main resource that the mobile players must manage and cultivate in order to ascend the hierarchy or simply survive. In the end, service providers such as drivers or couriers will have to manage a Facebook hyperpage themselves, on which the various recommendations of friends, mentors, lenders, sponsors, customers and service providers are documented. These open profile portfolios, designed using algorithms, make it possible to show the attractiveness and trustworthiness of a person, to determine his or her reputation value and thus his or her ability for a job, a credit line or a partnership. Obviously, private asset managers now have to speculate on their own reputational capital or follow the speculations of others, but they are also seduced or guided into their most secret desires by using complex and yet difficult to comprehend behavioural modification machines and that is, algorithms operating in the black box or automated protocols that attempt not only to steer work behavior, but even the spread of emotions via the platforms. (zuboff)
it finally happens that the time of work and the time of non-work are
no longer separated by an exact boundary, then there is no longer any
significant difference between employment and non-work. That is why
Paolo Virno can write in all exaggeration: „Unemployment is
unpaid work; work is then paid unemployment. So with good reason you
can say that you never stop working, as you can say that there is
less and less work. Paolo Virno thus points to the fact that the
customer of the „modern service on the labour market“ has
long since corresponded to the subject Günther Anders calls
„automation servant“ or to the „work mannequin“
described by Baudrillard, which simulates the non-existent work as if
it were present, or simulates it despite the too much work as if it
was not present at all. Today, a widespread form of employment, which
is completely integrated into machine complexes, is that of the
employment mannequin, who in certain cycles carries out the activity
of waiting or pressing a key, depending on a programmed sequence of a
machine feedback system elsewhere. Thus the agility, cleverness and
speed of today’s divide, a prozak and ritalin mutant, often consists
in the devastating waiting, in waiting to be allowed to press the red
button, while the decision elsewhere has long since expired or been
made, namely in the recursive loops of the machine system
Strangely enough, this kind of abysmal desolation (employment) requires a whole series of conditions in terms of pay and control, be it the individual management of time accounts, the logging of the length of telephone calls, the meticulous recording of meetings in companies or the detailed study of compliance, sustainability and control compendia, all in all methods that intensify the hustle and bustle at the workplace. There are ADHD-producing activities where the time that office workers have to deal with various tasks is notoriously interrupted by communication via telephone, fax, email, with the times of these interruptions often being longer than those of task completion. The interruption, which is due to the rhythm of information flows in communication networks, partially suspends the time of task processing. With the ubiquitous propaganda of work, the weekends, the late evenings, even the dreams are colonized until the employees not only have a job or perform a job, but are the job itself.
Since the new management methods with their proliferating semantics and semiotics constantly place the word „performance“ at the centre of their strategies, the difference between performance, casting and pure bravado, which can also be a measure for self-modification, seems to be tending to disappear for the employees. The decisive factor is no longer just the product or the quality of the work, but the performance added as a supplement, in which one may savour all possible roles, from the ethicist to the bad guy, the performance may only not go too far and harm the company, because then one acts up a reference. The performance must in turn be assigned a profile that shows the potential that constitutes the (alleged) peculiarity of an employee and that is systematically simulated and ultimately even demanded in the company. This pseudo-difference, which makes a difference, is firmly inscribed in the company system.
Foreign singularization and self singularization interlock like a perfectly functioning zipper. (Reckwitz 3441) Precisely this tension, which drives performance activities to the cutting edge, leads not only to non-linear phases of career building, which can be influenced to a certain extent by networking potential, profile enhancement, matching and competencies, but also to the universally feared career stress that lives from fear, that one’s own performance, which is to be treated like „capital“, could not correspond to the supplementary performance (or vice versa), so that in the end one is forced to synchronize one’s own performance with the performance, which in turn means that in addition to the tiresome completion of the tasks the representation of the tasks is added. This generalized performativity, which is closely welded to the ideal of creative work and incessantly propagates self-invention and at the same time self-increase, creates the functional psychopath, who includes the subject afflicted with ADHD, in case of success, or in case of failure, the depressive subject unfolds. In addition, the acceleration of the exchange of information often enough generates further pathologies, because the employees in the offices are often simply unable to process the immense and constantly increasing amounts of information that penetrate the brains like voracious parasites via computers, smartphones, screens and electronic diaries. One reacts with a further acceleration of communication, works as well as possible on solutions and if something does not work out, then one relaxes best, according to the script of the coaches, for a few minutes in the small, pseudo-exotic and warm-hearted wellness oases of the offices under artificial palm trees or runs a round on the treadmill in the fitness room of the company.
That the employees are also busy training the readymades of neo-Buddhist-inspired coaching discourses and other soft skills in order to create something like a community of socially competent and at the same time self-reliant actors, especially in office operations, where, beyond the corridors of the factory system, wage labour continues to be the determining principle, this really makes you sit up and take notice, because a polite tone or a brief tactical conversation, which is contrary to any tendency towards „you“ or over-communication, is no longer sufficient to facilitate cooperation in the office under conditions that one has truly not chosen oneself. Large companies have been using data software for a long time, which analyses and predicts the behavior of their employees by searching the Internet for their data traces. The machine learning models of certain software companies then assign the company’s employees to a risk index, and the predictions made on this basis about employee behavior should at best be identical to the actual staff turnover. Thus, the company’s management can intervene preventively by purchasing information and forecasting products about its own employees, if it pursues an active personnel policy. But this is only the machine-objective side of the game, to which the subjective constitution of the employees must be added.
Skillful surfing on the waves of employment requires perseverance and suppleness for the employees in the mode of auto-operative manoeuvrability, in order to immediately perceive surprising options in the job or quick decisions in order to carry out new tasks almost abruptly, it demands playful opportunism as a maxim of action, with which one always keeps oneself open to a multitude of possibilities in order to seize the best that is just offered, or, in order to drop an option without hesitation, in favour of a better opportunity; so this kind of perfromative surfing requires the formulation of a cynical interest that often enough defames the same excretions made by others as unfortunate but inevitable deformations. This form of employment corresponds to a volatile subjectivity that is extended to the limits of digital mobility, in particular, in order to be able to bring in any affective and monetary surplus. In this context, Bernhard Stiegler sharply criticizes a mentality (of the functional psychopath) prevailing today, which he describes as „I-don’t-give-a-fuckism,“ a general attitude of organized irresponsibility. And the more intensively the employees of a company expose themselves to the operational rules, programs and dispositives and at the same time make use of them – including the cybernetic feedback mechanisms that no stupid state with its organs and apparatuses of surveillance and control could ever invent – due to a temporary but at the same time unrestricted agreement, because there is actually no current need for ultra-hard research, spying and imprisonment of agents of dissatisfaction (and yet this monitoring takes place) – the more the range of variation of individual options and performance in the operational field shines out. So today the office employees remain obligated to the half-hearted and nevertheless dutiful introduction into the office everyday life just because of their tormenting opportunism, which tries to use still the smallest advantage, at any time, without there absolutely must exist a bad-hard work instruction, and this happens in the context of an operational control and optimization of the own person, which like which in turn in the best case presupposes or requires 100% identification with the company’s objectives. In this, the rather whispering community of employees takes over the business of a therapeutic, secondary control, which flank and complete the primary control of the wage worker and the precarious, staged by the capitalist economy.
Instead, they are embedded in flexible technological control systems and horizontal group dispositives, which keep their own effectiveness, their status, their professional and emotional competencies and operational tasks, as well as those of the other employees, in some cases also available on the screens at all times. Being „online“ condenses the hegemonic form of work and life, constantly mobile and mobilizable availability in the context of flexible normalization is the work itself, which the employees additionally train themselves by consuming worlds of experience, wellness and fitness programs, until they virtually smoothly incorporate employment in the course of a permanent recursion with the machines. Using microtechnologies, laptops and smartphones, which are usually operated sitting down, the employees are constantly integrated into the information streams circulating in the networks of the companies, following a modular logic. The employees remain mentally stimulated to react excitedly in real time during working hours to the fluctuations of the information flows, which constantly flicker across their screens. Within the framework of technical scientific and psychological dispositives, programming and construction principles, there is hardly a workplace today that is not permanently put on evaluation and at the same time not questioned about the creative potential and the performance ability of individuals and project groups, only to be evaluated again, i.e. examined for new performance potentials, but this less due to the totalitarian pressure of a leader, but the evaluation remains mostly integrated into the team; and not a team that doesn’t demand discussions, speeches and agreements qua anglizierter language games, which Wittgenstein wouldn’t have dreamed of in his sleep. In the middle of the team, however, there is the leader who, for example, enthusiastically comments on a PowerPoint presentation in a kind of action art, so that everyone can get an idea of the company, the product or the project. Of course, the leader is not wearing a tie and on the casual, open, white leisure shirt the logo of the company shines at heart level, the grey coloured hair with white strands and the small snake tattoo on the back of the neck also reveal a little bit of individualism, which, however, is put to the service of team spirit when it counts. This situation perpetuates itself into the hair ends of the company, when contemporary bosses give themselves up, when they impose this on the employees and notoriously claim that their companies have a wonderfully flat hierarchy and an almost cosmological wellness atmosphere, while the bosses mob their employees in the same breath, often cut them off from the flow of information out of pure harassment or shower them with ill work or chase them through the various departments. Instead of proceeding strategically as before, the task of managers today is to reduce the susceptibility to errors and the slowness of human decisions in comparison to algorithmic processes, just to keep the algorithmic technocracy going. The managers themselves are completely deskilled to act as unscrupulous enforcement bodies of the companies and as social police in the organization itself. They do not give any directions and also have no explanation for the direction the company is taking, they are highly flexible, offensive and defensive at the same time, mobbing, cheering up and hurting, focused and apparently insecure, that is clever, and in the end they are limited to reflecting the imperatives of the shareholder value system and following their guidelines meticulously, spurring on the employees, but also giving them a nice violin of opinion, of course only within the framework of creative teamwork and for the benefit of the team. Anyone who is good at finishing floppy cocks has a future today.
The performance of the employees and their valorisation does not aim at the devaluation of the average at all, as Reckwitz assumes, but the average is now based on its amplitudes, configured by the team, the leader and the project you are working on, with the leaders trying to focus on reinforcing the skills and abilities of the employees and selling the enthusiasm for new tasks, a soft tolerance and tactical friendship, opportunism and quick-wittedness, the ability to present oneself in and in front of the team as potency. The project-oriented employee, who has to present his ego in fundamental casting splendidly on the stage of the office, even if the obsessive search for the ego turns out to be the search for a ghost, perhaps still for a virtual ego, which is strangely congruent with the adaptable subject, can only follow the narration of casting if coaching and casting are mutually dependent.
The ethos, which is composed of opportunism, creativity and social commitment and articulates itself in Heideggerian as talk or system-German as singularity game or communication, an ethos about which every application event today provides sufficient information, is constantly renegotiated or balanced, without a coach, who in his function as a management consultant rather resembles a postmodern itinerant preacher, constantly having to explicitly recommend it. Nevertheless, the coach in his special kind of clown remains a not unimportant figure, besides whom sometimes even the manager fades as the remixer or DJ of post-industrial production. Seeßen 97 Within the framework of the demanded and willingly also executed and above all very operatively talkative, creative and performance-impregnated forced harmonization, with the help of a pseudo-sadism, i.e. secretly mutual contempt as well as the paradoxical interest in active passivity, a fight of all against all is waged, which results in the intensification of resentment as well as of experience, which no longer knows any reference in talk, in the process of a public segregation of opinion. All stages of social exchange are tried out in the office, from games that promote community and at the same time tickle out the individual’s willingness to perform, the infamous flat hierarchies and the mixture of work and leisure, through the promotion of competition, the slapping away of failures and the surveillance of everyone by everyone to the joint consumption of performance-enhancing drugs, amphetamines and vitamins. But in the end, everyone is next to himself. „Clever is,“ writes Wolfgang Pohrt, „who knows how to take them (the others) for himself or to trick them. He who does not understand it is the fool.
(The logic of office space consists, among other things, in removing an employee, if necessary, in accordance with specific organisational strategies, without immediately replacing him with another employee, because the (social) place and not the person is constitutive for the social space of the office. If both the work productivity and the flexibility potential of this employee were miserable, then it was not necessarily due to his personal variables & coefficients, not even to his lack of motivation or creativity, not to his skills, but to certain systemic conditions, sufficient but not necessary conditions under which a place is a place. One has favoured the wrong conditions and thus encouraged the employee to all sorts of nonsense.)The key to a successful performance lies in the fact that speculations on a falling course are well balanced with those on a rising course.)
The absolute automat shifts the working world from manpower to brainpower. Just as at the beginning of industrialization there was a coupling of hand and machine, so today the brain and the machine are coupled in a new economy, which Stiegler calls „economy“. This transformation involves a transductive relation in which production is no longer based on working time but on machine time. Even with the coupling of hand and machine, it is the latter that really works, and it does so blindly and automatically, with which this process can hardly still be described as work, insofar as it always also contains an opening, while serial and automated production is always completed. In this respect, the products are then ready-made goods.
The question today is whether the (alleged) escalation of productivity achieved with automated production should end in free time or in liberated work.4 If automation liberates time in general, how do we avoid this liberated and thus available time becoming an available brain time, a time that is no longer transmitted to television, but is connected to Google, Amazon and Facebook. The social media networks create a reality that is real, but as a technology of immediacy you can’t get satisfaction even though we love them right now because of their separation from the present. They are social drugs for those who want the humane localized somewhere in time and space. It’s the pseudo-other that users connect to, not the radical other or the stranger or even the real other. We work on the weakness and vagueness to promote the exhibition of the self, but no matter how stylish, aggressive, desperate or diplomatic the promotion of the self is on the dominant media platforms, it remains part of the old logic of the media: the message is emptiness.
Liberated time must be liberated work, in which energy and its potential must not be abstracted, hand, brain and energy must be connected. Today things look quite different. Maurizio Lazzarato writes: „In order to guarantee growing revenues for financial investors, the availability for precarious and inadequate employment as well as for poorly compensated unemployment, for austerity as well as for „reforms“ must be total. To refuse work today means to deny this availability, which financialisation would like to have, without limits and in return. To practice the refusal of work under the conditions of current exploitation means to invent new modalities of struggle and organization in order not only to preserve the inherited rights of historical struggles against wage labor, but also and above all to enforce new rights, adapted to the new modalities of the exploitation of time, to construct forms of solidarity capable of preventing the expropriation of knowledge and savoir-faire, and to avoid the modalities of production being dictated by the requirements of financial valorisation that neither art nor cultural industries can escape.” Outside the unbearable system of employment, it is necessary to search again for activities in the Marxian sense that create sustainable wealth and abolish wage labor in favor of knowledge that is today completely materialized in machines, but of a transformed knowledge, insofar as time is liberated through the work of de-automation, in order to achieve a free time of transindividuation, in the sense of otium or sholhe, a leisure, new techniques of the self and the others, and that is, to work for oneself and through the other. This requires an organological revolution, the invention of new instruments of knowledge and publication, an epistemic and epistemological revolution, and this cannot then be reduced to the expansion of the service sector or the creation of new jobs, or to a minimal basic income subordinated to capitalization, the market and money. Wealth is time and time must also be available for interruptions, because it provides xer quantum leap for mental and social individuations, which in turn are formed and metastabilized by transindividuations. This time of interruptions is important to invent a new form of work that differs from entropy and promotes negentropy, an energeia, a passage to action, where energies like fossil energy can always be only a condition for neotenic energy, not itself. „The possible, the becoming and the event open up areas that are neither controlled by time nor space and that are animated by other speeds (infinite speeds, Guattari would say), be it of highest speed or of greatest slowness (Deleuze)…
Gorz assumes that his income will be divided into two parts: on the one hand, an income from creative work, which falls with the duration, and a basic social income. While Hegel synthesizes work with abolition and therefore knows no proletarization, Marx knows this negative aspect of deproletarization very well, but synthesizes work in communism again, thus eliminating the pharmacon, which is also to be considered, that it is not the proletarization of labor, but the end of employment combined with the organological mutation (freely available software) made possible by digital ternary retention, as a caring-carrying of a pharmacon transindividualized by the objectified knowledge. Today, the power of the computer – determined by the speed of microprocessors and data transfer – empties creative work and energeia, although Stiegler does not want to return to an original intuitive intelligence, because intelligence sui generis artificial, i.e. organological, i.e. the coupling of life with inorganic organs.
translated by Deepl.
Foto: Stefan Paulus