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02 2012

Materiality of Knowledge

Therese Kaufmann

Translated by Aileen Derieg


In several more recent texts on the conditions and manifestations of cognitive capitalism, critical tones can be heard now and again in reference to the relevant theory development.[1] These apply not only to the analytical figure of cognitive capitalism per se, nor do they fundamentally question the quite divergent positions – depending on the respective theoretical-political background – that declare knowledge, the immaterialization of labor and its affective and creative qualities as the determining paradigms of today’s productivity.[2] In asides or single references, rarely in the form of an extensive engagement, what can be heard are primarily doubts about the possibility of a smooth and coherent representation of the conjunctions of knowledge, information and communication as the foundations of economic growth and the so-called control society with its changed time regimes and mechanisms of precarization.[3]

This essay follows some of these considerations along the warps and multi-dimensionalities within the critique of “cognitive capitalism”, its symptoms, impacts and meanings in today’s knowledge paradigms. One of the starting points for this analysis is the tension between over-estimation and imperceptibility, leading beyond the biopolitical and geopolitical aspects of a global dimension to a post- or de-colonialist perspective. The latter seems particularly interesting, because it establishes an immediate reference to the epistemic dimension of colonialism (historical colonialism as well as its re-formulations in global capitalism) and to what could be called, following Enrique Dussel and other authors, the “coloniality of knowledge”.

An investigation of this kind thus queries the global, inherently disparate power structures of cognitive capitalism, but at the same time and partly connected with this, it most notably brings us “down”, so to speak, to its material basis. It points out the materiality of the reproductive backgrounds of immaterial labor, the existential abysses of affective labor, or the simple physical forms of relations of inclusion and exclusion, as they become apparent in two key elements of the postfordist paradigm, namely control and mobility. What is shifted to the center of attention here – and only seemingly in contrast to the knowledge paradigm – are the corporeal dimensions of cognitive capitalism. The racialization and gendering of labor and production proceed just like the production of subjectivities, so essential to cognitive capitalism, through racialized, gendered and subalternized bodies. Its materiality bears the traces of the past and present of power relations and power divides, but also of resistance, subversion and struggles.

Here it is by no means a matter of re-establishing or newly constructing the old dichotomies between material/immaterial or spirit/body. What I intend to undertake is the radical questioning of exactly those historical-political distinctions and demarcations, to which the difference between the subject and object of knowledge also belongs. When the question is raised in the course of this essay, “Which knowledge?”, in relation to the question of its management[4] – by reference to individual disciplines relevant to the present context – then this is also an indication of its twofold character. Knowledge is not purely object, but rather becomes, in a sense, itself an actor, which has history, power and, most of all, a specific situatedness[5] at its disposal.

The following two sections are devoted to an exploration of the ruptures and dissonances within the theory of cognitive capitalism, as exemplified by reproductive or “affective” labor and the question of a “new” international division of labor. An excurse entitled “Which knowledge under which conditions?” focuses, as previously mentioned, on the role of knowledge in its geo-historical, institutional and disciplinary contingencies, whereas the final part of the essay returns again to the initial question of the materiality of knowledge production and the extent to which an embodied production of knowledge also implies its multiplication.

Imperceptibilities and Ruptures

If the knowledge paradigm appears hegemonic today, then there are very different political, but also scholarly-analytical motives for this. When knowledge and knowledge work are declared motors of today’s societal developments and economic growth, this functions not only as a diagnosis, but also – overlapping with creativity and innovation, for instance – as an expression of a desideratum, a goal of neoliberal politics. With the watering down of the social welfare state, knowledge and creative economies become the carriers of hope in global competition, which reached a visible culmination in the objectives formulated by the European Union of turning Europe into the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economic area of the world. Conventional mainstream discourses continue to amplify this notion of a so-called knowledge society.

In contrast to this kind of over-affirmation, the theory of cognitive capitalism criticizes the conditions and consequences of this “third capitalism”[6] on the basis of engagement with the social struggles in Italy in the 1960s and 70s and the crystallization of the category of “immaterial labor”. What is central here is that the subjectivities engendered in relation to the new forms of labor produce the communication and cooperation connections that become the source of today’s capitalist exploitation.

This somewhat condensed portrayal is not intended to ignore the diversity of theoretical foundations and concepts within the theoretical approach of cognitive capitalism; instead I would like to refer to the very different directions of current approaches and perspectives that are evident in critical engagements with creativity, affect and experience, among others[7]. Gigi Roggero, for instance, in his book The Production of Living Knowledge, does not consider the theorem of “cognitive capitalism” as a fixed category. He speaks of an “explorative concept” that has been developed in order to understand and describe the role of knowledge in today’s forms of production, but which needs a more in-depth engagement in order to overcome some of its “problematic theoretical aspects”.[8] This can be read as an indication of the fractures and dissonances that are too easily overlooked in generalizing theoretical concepts or repressed into imperceptibility.[9]

When cooperation, communication and affect, for example, are presented as the new, paradigmatic modes of production in cognitive capitalism, this cannot be affirmed as something fundamentally new, nor as something to be taken for granted as universally valid. For this reason, Gerald Raunig also calls for caution in relation to generalizing diagnoses of upheaval:

First of all, the “new” forms of affective, cognitive and communicative labor are not fundamentally new. Anti-colonial and feminist movements have long pointed out the gendered and racialized division of labor, which banishes everything that does not apply to a certain form of materiality and production, even if it massively contributes to value creation, to gray areas outside the measure of perception. Then in Europe, about a quarter of all workers still work in the industrial sector. And finally, the considerable remainder of dirty work does not simply vanish altogether, but simply is out of the sight of neo-colonial “industrial nations” that have increasingly become post-industrial now […].[10]

When Gerald Raunig subsequently describes the changes within industrial production, how large factories and production sites are shifted into ever new territories to minimize production costs, he targets the first of the frequently raised critical arguments in this discussion: the concealment of the “underside”[11] – to use a term from Enrique Dussel and transfer it from decolonial critique to this context – of the immaterialization and informatization of labor. The “new” forms of affective, cognitive and communicative labor could not be envisioned without the manual, industrial or reproductive labors repressed into imperceptibility, because these forms can also only be sustained with food, clothing and a cleaned house. Their value is just as imperceptible as the labors themselves.

In light of the evidence of slave-like working conditions even in the countries that consider themselves centers of knowledge-based production, e.g. in the context of undocumented, illegalized workers in fruit and vegetable farming, in light of child labor and the most diverse forms of the deprivation of rights in agriculture, mining, etc., the massive productivity and the share of these forms of labor in capitalist value creation cannot simply be ignored.[12] In an essay about the political implications of the use of the term “cognitive capitalism”, George Caffentzis and Silvia Federici point out the disparities inherent to the system and develop a line of historical references by relating the role of the slave laborers of the 19th century to the industrial production of that time in the North. Starting from this they ask about the situation of the workers in sweatshops, mines and the new agricultural plants of the South. By further addressing the exponential growth of illiteracy since the 1970s (especially among women)[13], they link the topic of today’s labor and production conditions with that of global education systems and policies both in their historicity and in relation to current mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion. In the following, the relation between production and the institutions of knowledge and education is to be discussed in greater detail.

An objection could be raised to the critique above that the work of the “cognitariat” does not at all consist solely of high-flying knowledge work, but is also carried out in “the pits” of call centers, commercial graphics or the service industry partly under highly precarisized conditions, extreme pressure to constantly invent more and more creative, eternally young and self-rejuvenating subjectivities. However, the critique does not signify a lack of appreciation for these problems, but rather targets the tendentially universalizing representations that can be traced back to traditional colonial and patriarchal patterns of thinking and analysis. For this reason, and also from a feminist perspective, Silvia Federici calls for grasping “the logic of capitalism” today “by looking at the totality of its relations, and not only to the highest point of its scientific/technological achievement”.[14] What we are thus confronted with is a complex image of the coexistence of fordist and postfordist working conditions, traversed by the historical lines of their coloniality and gendering.

A “New” International Division of Labor?

The second point of critique, which overlaps with the first, relates to hierarchizations within labor regimes and their historical lines of tradition. It relates to the question of the extent to which a lesser value is attributed to certain forms of labor and production within cognitive capitalism in comparison with others, and whether new forms of a division of labor arise from this.[15] Just as “new” and “old” divisions of labor seem to interlock, they can also no longer be fixed to models of center-periphery by simply presuming that industrial production is relocated to the territories where it becomes imperceptible. What emerges in the metropolitan centers of global knowledge and creative economies, as well as in some “emerging economies”, is an immediate, partly brutal juxtaposition of fordist and postfordist divisions of labor and sometimes even feudal and colonial forms of production. A specific development of this juxtaposition is found, for instance, in affective labor, care and housework, in short: in reproductive labor.

I would like to consider this example in more detail: in her book Caliban and the Witch, Silvia Federici impressively demonstrates that although a specific “labor function” has always been attributed to the (re-) productive work of women in the development from feudalism to capitalism, it has been mystified as a quasi natural resource and devalued in terms of its contribution to capital accumulation.[16] Even under the massively changed postfordist modes of production, this devaluation and hierarchization within a gendered division of labor still seems long not yet overcome. Partial shifts due to an increasing presence of women in the labor market and a “new” racialized and ethnicized division of labor in terms of housework, care and childcare instead demonstrate the modulating force of historical codings under changed conditions. For this reason, Encarnación Gutiérrez Rodríguez notes:

Set within the context of migration regimes domestic work becomes a neuralgic point in order to understand how the logic of capital accumulation operates on the basis of feminization and the coloniality of labor. The devaluation of domestic work as racialized feminized labor emerges within a logic, in which this labor is socially and culturally codified as “nonproductive” labor.[17]

The devaluation of housework and the way it is considered “unproductive” is based, according to Encarnación Gutiérrez Rodríguez, on a cultural and social codification that is inscribed in bodies through feminization and racialization or coloniality and is manifested in them.[18] I will return to this aspect of embodiment again at the end of this essay. Not only does capital invest “in this labor in so far as it is artificially maintained outside of the circuits of capital accumulation by ignoring and negating its constitutive contribution to it”, but it is also inseparably linked with the historical genealogies of the international “division of labor” from slavery to the servants of the aristocracy. In the postfordist world of work, traces of feudal structures and thus of “temporalities and conditions” can be found, which are “absent from a script of modern progress and prosperity”.[19]

The relation between “productive” and “reproductive” labor is further complicated by the term that is regarded as one of the most significant in the present discussion: “affective labor”. In affective labor, all the most diverse social and communicative abilities within immaterial labor are bundled, with the production of affects itself becoming a product or commodity. On the one hand, an extremely high degree of productivity and thus value is attributed to it[20], but on the other, the critical discussion of the term shows several of the points that have already been addressed here in relation to reproductive labor. The relation between the communicative, affective and cooperative aspects of labor, which is so central to cognitive capitalism, and the reality of domestic or sex workers, often under exploitative conditions and the stigma of worthlessness, seems strangely blurred and undefined.

For this reason, George Caffentzis and Silvia Federici take the position that “nothing is gained” with the label “affective labor”, because for them it is extremely problematic to presume that the various forms of paid or unpaid domestic work, care work or sex work have anything in common with the work of net artists, programmers, etc.[21] In comparison, a similar direction is taken, although under different premises, by the term “feminization of labor”, which describes general changes in working conditions in neoliberalism in the sense of elements becoming hegemonic, that were previously ascribed primarily to women (and thus reinforcing a heteronormative idea of the division of labor). The “feminization of labor” means the increase in affective, communicative, etc. professional requirements or qualifications and an increasing informalization, a changed economy of time, in which working time and non-working time tend to merge, a lack of secured existence and falling wages.[22]

What becomes evident in these terms is their dimension of the gendering of labor and the question of the value attributed to it: how it is produced and appropriated and who determines the circumstances and manner of the use of labor.[23] The traces run through the materiality of the body, its racialization and gendering, and they are always coupled with its relation to borders, civil rights and forms of inclusion and exclusion. It is significant that sex work is missing in the theory of cognitive capitalism, as is an engagement with sexualization, even though there is mention – partly with reference to earlier feminist texts on “emotional work” that have been largely repressed and forgotten – of a pornographization of labor, for example. The following passage from Beatriz Preciado’s book Testo Junkie is one example of this:

The best high-tech dick-licking machine is the siliconized silent mouth of a politically inactive transsexual without access to a sex change and identity papers. The sexual machines of the third millennium are living bodies denied access to the political sphere, barred from political discourse, without union rights, the right to strike, without medical assistance, without unemployment insurance. There is no competition between machine and worker here (as in fordism); the worker becomes a sexual bio-machine.[24]

Excurse: Which Knowledge Under Which Conditions?

In allusion to the Marxian category of living labor, Gigi Roggero speaks of “living knowledge”, thus addressing its central role in the production process as well as its immediate appropriation for capitalist value production. What he means by the “production” of living knowledge is 1. its constitution, 2. its productive power (potenza) that is appropriated and exploited by capital, and 3. the productive force of autonomy, of resistance.[25] Taking recourse to Marx, Roggero speaks of the “secret laboratory of production[26] between appropriation and autonomy, valorization and self-valorization. The valorization of knowledge, its being turned into a product and its control exactly in the sense of the creation of values and “worldings”[27] are the aspects at the core of the globalized economies as well as in the strategies of resistance and struggles against them.

Although this excurse can only mention a number of themes and points of reference in terms of these three levels of the “production” of knowledge and attempt to provisionally relate them to one another, it should illustrate where they are situated in terms of the aforementioned imbalances and differences within a geo-historical, institutional and disciplinary, political frame of reference.

[…] it is knowledge that definitely loses the assumed ahistorical and neutral character that theorists of “human capital” have attributed to it, not to mention those nostalgics of the ivory tower. In cognitive capitalism knowledge is at once the border of exploitation and the terrain of struggle.[28]

The background is an increasingly globalized education market, the invocation of a “global university”[29] as a model of a “distinctive homogeneity”[30] that is as complex as it is emblematic, seeking to make use of a transnational combination of consumers and clients between market liberalization and offshoring. At the same time, new alliances are forming among university struggles, student movements and other political actions.[31]

In the interplay of traditional and new mechanisms of elite education, gaining distinction and social segregation within national educational systems and at the global level, the institutions of knowledge formation are often marked by various forms of a racialized division of labor.[32] Directly linked with this is a complex interlocking of increasingly restrictive legislation in the fields of copyright and intellectual property, various projects of a consumist fiction of free, worldwide access to education and information through online publications or eclectic collections of various academic contents,[33] while an inherently diverse Open Source movement has been working on alternatives and collective solutions for years. Yet due to the very limited, if not nonexistent access to the Internet and new media, this is again only relevant for a certain part of the world.

Back to the university and its changing role in the cognitive age: if there is talk of its increasing “porosity”, this is less a fundamentally new phenomenon, but rather one that adapts in its individual elements to the hegemonic order of economy and labor market, which characterizes life today – such as when universities or colleges are increasingly managed like large companies and when they take immediate “production” for the labor market as their objective. It is becoming evident that the story of the “ivory tower” has always been far more of a myth than reality, if we look at the ideal of humanist education, for instance, to name the most prominent example that is still hardly called into question today. In no way detached from the history and economy of its era, it must be seen in the context of colonial expeditions, conquests and economic exploitation.

The traditional European ideals of education are also the background of the “epistemic violence”[34] that Gayatri Spivak speaks of. With this, she shifts the focus to a crucial feature of colonialism, which still evinces the most diverse impacts up to the present: the gigantic project of the production, appropriation, communication and the radical obliteration of knowledge, which was tied to a process of dividing up the world, as it is compellingly described, for instance, by John Willinsky in Learning to Divide the World.[35] This division of the world also includes the “division of labor” between subject and object, between researcher and researched, and consequently also between teacher and taught, between the knowledge that has been passed on, preserved and disseminated, and that which was exposed to violent destruction, negation and also devaluation:

The clearest available example of such epistemic violence is the remotely orchestrated, far-flung, and heterogeneous project to constitute the colonial subject as Other. This project is also the asymetrical obliteration of the trace of that Other in its precarious Subject-ivity.[36]

This trace can be further followed on the basis of what could be described as a “division of labor” between anthropology and sociology[37], namely that sociology was regarded as responsible for “modern” societies, whereas (cultural) anthropology was supposed to confirm and illuminate specifically the “Other” and “outside”. Or, for instance, in the engagement with the theory production by authors such as Valentin Y. Mudimbe[38] or Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o[39], whose research on the topic of knowledge production have been little received in current discussions of the so-called knowledge paradigm in a global context. In contrast, the traces of the “coloniality of knowledge” can be found up to the present in today’s migration regimes, integration discourses and specific pedagogical practices related to them. Kien Nghi Ha describes this connection in his historical genealogy based on the example of Germany and the so-called “integration courses” in their functions as national-pedagogical instruments of power.[40]

Whereas the aforementioned “division of labor” relation between sociology and (cultural) anthropology can be read as an indication of the coloniality of the disciplines, it appears to me that the example of the relatively new Postcolonial Studies, following from these directions, is especially interesting for an investigation of the complex overlaps and links between resistance and capitalist valorization addressed by Gigi Roggero.[41] The close interweaving of political struggles and theory development was one of the basic preconditions for the emergence of Postcolonial Studies, supported by pioneers such as Frantz Fanon or Léopold Senghor, often continued and in close exchange with the cultural field and art movements, such as the Harlem Renaissance, as the article by Christian Kravagna[42] in this issue shows, or later, for example, in the UK of the late 1960s with the Black Audio Film Collective as a political film group, whose work is meanwhile part of the inventory of a certain art canon and an integral part of the academic contexts of Postcolonial and Black Studies. Today these courses of study, depending on the economic and local situation, are just as much a part of the circulation of export and merchandise products in the knowledge economy as an object of marginalization and increasing austerity measures.

On the one hand, behind these forms of “disciplining” a certain knowledge, turning it into an academic discipline, which is/was part of the struggles and emancipation movements, there is the act of “self-invention” that runs through a historiography of its own and a “re-invention of knowledge production”[43], as it took place, for instance, in the context of the student revolts around 1968 or in feminist contexts through self-education and the often collective development of resistant or buried knowledge. On the other hand, however, increasing academization and canonization eventually also resulted in the processes of appropriation, commodification and valorization that is criticized by Encarnación Gutiérrez Rodríguez as “postcolonial rhetoric”[44]. In other words, this turns postcolonial critique into a label in the global competition of education economies, while simultaneously marginalizing exactly the queer-feminist, decolonial perspectives that it is actually supposed to call for. Rumina Sethi thus criticizes the “complicity” of Postcolonial Studies with global capitalism and the concomitant neocolonial endeavors, calling for a fundamental repoliticization:

If postcolonial studies is to be relevant today, it must become the voice of the people and theorize about movements against globalization, rather than becoming part of its grand design. […] they must step away from current theories of hybridity and multiculturalism, and focus on the extra-literary concerns that can help link postcolonialism with activism in the world outside the academy, working to carve out a space within the academy for rigorous self-examination and for the inclusion of the voices from international resistance movements.[45]

Bodies and Control

We can thus consider “knowledge” in the context of the heterogeneity of today’s postcolonial capitalism[46] as a field of struggles, in which emancipatory goals and economic exploitation, resistance and cooptation are often extremely close to one another:

Therefore we speak of an ambivalent genealogy of cognitive and flexible labor as internal to capital understood as a social relation or to the antagonism that constitutes its plane of tension and development. […] the category of ambivalence is precisely genealogical and not dialectical: it does not indicate, therefore, a linear progress of history but tracks down the subjective matrix of a process determined by a field of antagonistic forces, focusing on the new terrain of conflict and its possibilities outside of every deterministic premise, therefore illustrating its elements of historicity and contingency.[47]

What this concluding chapter focuses on again is that part of this field of antagonistic forces is also always the material resources[48] it relies on and the lives and bodies, through which the traces of history and contingency run. Immateriality and materiality, knowledge and bodies, deterritorialization and reterritorialization are in a constant mutual interplay with one another, a “modulation mode”[49] beyond a framework of temporal succession, in which the paradigm of progress attributed an earlier “stage” to the material.

“In modulation, as a modality of the exercising power, it is always a question of bodies, but now it is rather the incorporeal dimension of bodies that is at stake,”[50] writes Maurizio Lazzarato. Yet the separation he undertakes between the embodied memory of the disciplinary society and memory as “spirit” in control society could itself be seen in the sense of the mode of modulation, within which its subjects are produced just like intellects and indeed also bodies. Maria Ruido therefore speaks of “bodies of production” and proposes defining not only everything that disciplines and stresses the body as labor, but also everything that constructs it:

[...] the working body has expanded and diversified. With the dissolution of the usual hierarchies of industrial capital and the imposition of a false reticularity that expands everything that is related to work to all spaces and times, we all have become ‘bodies of production’.[51]

The thesis of an “embodied capitalism”[52] illuminates this specific centrality of the body in today’s labor, border and mobility regimes. It is not a coincidence that in the context of an analysis of the transnational recruitment of IT workers, “body shopping”[53] is openly mentioned. Capitalist value production runs through diverse forms of (re-)produced, constructed corporealities in interplay with control and mobility or their concurrence as central elements of today’s modes of production. “Today, the recombination of emergent bodies and materialities and the porocratic control of mobility both become the sources and means of value creation,”[54] as the authors of the book Escape Routes summarize, reinforcing the necessity of a more fundamental theoretical engagement with the role of the body in the sociology of labor, which has previously tended to be neglected.

The concept of an “embodied knowledge” can situate the materiality of knowledge production in such a way that “race, gender and class” are able to become newly effective as political categories. Encarnación Gutiérrez Rodríguez has therefore developed this approach in reference to feminist position theories, among others, and their insistence on the ontological dimension of epistemology on the one hand, and on the other with recourse to Bourdieu’s description of the corporeality of social power.[55] When she criticizes a “postcolonial rhetoric”, as described above in relation to the commodification of Postcolonial Studies in global competition in the educational market, this is directly linked with the mechanisms of exclusion with regard to the racialized, sexualized body by the personnel policies in the institutions of education. The way that these racialized forms of a division of labor within the global “informatized university of the 21st century” quite specifically reflect a “differential racism”, is demonstrated by Ned Rossiter in his analysis.[56]

The question of the constitution of the body under the postfordist paradigm of immaterial production calls to mind Donna Haraway’s demand from the late 1980s: “We need the power of modern critical theories of how meanings and bodies get made, not in order to deny meanings and bodies, but in order to build meanings and bodies that have a chance for life.”[57] This chance for life and a future is decided, not least of all, by one of the most paradigmatic elements of postfordism: the paradigm of control. This is probably most obviously embodied in the manifold border and mobility regimes that are in turn challenged by the various forms of fluid, clandestine, multi-directional forms of mobility.[58]

A specific example in the field of institutions of education is the tightening of restrictive limitations to access, which directly correspond with the respective – more or less permeable – border regimes.[59] What dominates in knowledge production and research, on the other hand, is a “methodological nationalism”, as Encarnación Gutiérrez Rodríguez[60] calls it, and the management language based on control, regulation and various “systems of measure”[61], which are intended to quantify the value of labor. When Ned Rossiter, in his analysis of the mobility of IT labor, but also of the mobility of goods and things (e.g. electro-trash), describes the “global logistics industry” as a method of organization, but also and especially of government, which determines the material living conditions of many people, it is exactly this connection between cognitive labor and control that becomes visible. According to Ned Rossiter, this also indicates the direction of new struggles: “Key here is the return of materiality to computational and informatized life.”[62]

This engagement with the epistemic basis of the ontological dimension of labor also allows the “traces of the repetition of ‘primitive accumulation’”[63] to become visible, which are particularly – even if not exclusively – evident, according to Sandro Mezzadra, in the management, monitoring and control of migrant labor. As Encarnación Gutiérrez Rodríguez similarly remarks, in reference to G. Spivak:

“[…] Spivak reminds us about the axiological and textual implication of the materialist predication of the subject. […] Spivak stresses that original forms of capital accumulation have not been replaced by the new modes of production in advanced capitalism. Rather, they work simultaneously, […].”[64]

This simultaneity, dissonance and fragility of every current perspective of the relation between knowledge and work, as can be seen in racialized, sexualized and gendered bodies, also asks, I believe, for a multiplication of the concepts of knowledge[65] itself.


[1] For example, Gigi Roggero, The Production of Living Knowledge. The Crisis of the University and the Transformation of Labor in Europe and North America, Philadelphia: Temple University Press 2011.

[2] Cf., for example, the divergences between the positions of Antonella Corsani with her fundamental critique of political economy and Carlo Vercellone, who points out the relevance of Marxian categories: Antonella Corsani, “Wissen und Arbeit im kognitiven Kapitalismus. Die Sackgasse der politischen Ökonomie”, in: Thomas Atzert, Jost Müller (Ed.): Immaterielle Arbeit und imperiale Souveränität. Analysen und Diskussionen zu Empire, Münster: Westfälisches Dampfboot 2004, p. 156-174; Carlo Vercellone, “From Formal Subsumption to General Intellect: Elements for a Marxist Reading of the Thesis of Cognitive Capitalism”, in: Historical Materialsm 15 2007, p. 13-36,

[3] A further-ranging discussion of these critical points has so far often taken place from within activist contexts, such as the edu-factory collective or Precarias a la Deriva; cf. Towards a Global Autonomous University. Cognitive Labor, The Production of Knowledge, and Exodus from the Education Factory, Autonomedia 2009;; Precarias a la Deriva, Was ist dein Streik? Militante Streifzüge durch die Kreisläufe der Prekarität, Wien: Turia und Kant 2011.

[4] Sunil Sahasrabudhey and Amit Basole describe the significance of knowledge management as follows: “In short the global economy and the Internet have created the conditions to use a ‘market meter’ for all knowledge. This is a practical metric and theoretically the new outlook refuses to accept any hierarchy in the world of knowledge, save knowledge management, which sits at the top, declares itself a genuine member of the world of knowledge and proceeds to assume the command. It is now knowledge management that reorders the world of knowledge once ordered by science.” Sunil Sahasrabudhey and Amit Basole, Re-inventing the Indian University: Arguing from a Lokavidya Standpoint, Vidya Ashram, Sarnath, Varanasi, India, March 2011.

[5] In her well known essay on “situated knowledge”, Donna Haraway introduces the term “vision” as an alternative to the alleged scientific objectivity she criticizes. For her, “vision” serves not only to avoid binary oppositions, but is also always linked to a corporeality, indicates a “marked body”. Cf. Donna Haraway, “Situiertes Wissen. Die Wissenschaftsfrage im Feminismus und das Privileg einer partialen Perspektive”, in: Die Neuerfindung der Natur. Primaten, Cyborgs und Frauen, Frankfurt/Main, New York: Campus 1995, p. 80.

[6] Yann Moulier Boutang, “Marx in Kalifornien: Der dritte Kapitalismus und die alte politische Ökonomie”, in: Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte (B 52-53/2001),  

[7] What seems essential to me here is the link between subjectivity and experience in postfordism. Cf. Niamh Stephenson und Dimitris Papadopoulos, Analysing Everyday Experience. Social Research and Political Change, Palgrave Macmillan 2006.

[8] Cf. Gigi Roggero, The Production of Living Knowledge. The Crisis of the University and the Transformation of Labor in Europe and North America, Philadelphie: Temple University Press 2011, p. 41.

[9] Cf. Sandro Mezzadra in this issue: “How Many Histories of Labor? Towards a Theory of Postcolonial Capitalism”, in: transversal 01 2012,

[10] Gerald Raunig, Fabriken des Wissens. Streifen und Glätten 1, Zürich: diaphanes 2011, p. 16-17. See also Maria Ruido, who refers specifically to the materiality and (often feminine) corporeality of large transnationally operating industrial production sites. María Riudo, “Just Do It! Bodies and Images of Women in the New Division of Labor”, February 8, 2011,

[11] Cf. Enrique Dussel, The Underside of Modernity: Apel, Ricoeur, Rorty, Taylor and the Philosophy of Liberation, Atlantic Highland, NJ: Humanities Press, 1996.

[12] Cf. George Caffentzis and Silvia Federici: “Again, why at the peak of an era of ‘cognitive capitalism’ do we witness an expansion of labor in slave–like conditions, at the lowest level of technological know–how – child labor, labor in sweatshops, labor in the new agricultural plantations and mining fields of Latin America, Africa, etc.? Can we say that workers in these conditions are ‘cognitive workers’? Are they and their struggles irrelevant to and/or outside the circuit of capitalist accumulation? Why has wage labor, once considered the defining form of capitalist work, still not been extended even to the majority of workers in capitalist society?” George Caffentzis and Silvia Federici, “Notes on the edu-factory and Cognitive Capitalism”, in: transversal 08 2009,

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid. and cf. Silvia Federici, Precarious Labor: A Feminist Viewpoint, Lecture October 28th 2006,

[15] Cf. María Riudo, Just Do It! Bodies and Images of Women in the New Division of Labor, February 8, 2011, and Silvia Federici, “Reproduction and Feminist Stuggle in the New International Division of Labor”, in: Mariarosa Dalla Costa,Giovanna Franca Dalla Costa (Ed.), Women, Development, and Labor of Reproduction: Struggles and Movements Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 1999, p. 47-82.

[16] Cf. Silvia Federici, Caliban and the Witch. Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation, New York: Autonomedia 2004. Cf. also the so-called “housework debates” of the 1980s and the demand for “wages for housework” formulated by the Italian Operaist Mariarosa Dalla Costa.

[17] Encarnación Gutiérrez Rodríguez, “Politics of Affects. Transversal Conviviality”, in: transversal 08 2011,

[18] Ibid.

[19] Ibid.; on the question of temporalities, see also Sandro Mezzadra, „How Many Histories of Labor? Towards a Theory of Postcolonial Capitalism”, in: transversal 01 2012,

[20]  “[…] the processes of economic postmodernization that have been in course for the past 25 years have positioned affective labor in a role that is not only directly productive of capital but at the very pinnacle of the hierarchy of laboring forms.” Michael Hardt, “Affective Labour”,

[21] Cf. George Caffentzis and Silvia Federici, “Notes on the edu-factory and Cognitive Capitalism”, in: transversal 08 2009,

[22] Very different meanings have been attributed to the term “feminization of labor”, but the definition used here seems to be the most current and the most relevant in this context. See also Maria Mies, “Hausfrauisierung, Globalisierung, Subsistenzperspektive”, in: Marcel van der Linden and Karl Heinz Roth (Ed.), Über Marx hinaus. Arbeitsgeschichte und Arbeitsbegriff in der Konfrontation mit den globalen Arbeitsverhältnissen des 21. Jahrhunderts, Berlin/Hamburg: Assoziation A 2009, p. 257-289.

[23] Cf. Gigi Roggero, “The Power of Living Knowledge”, in transversal 08 2009,

[24] Beatriz Preciado, Testo yonqui, Madrid 2008, p. 262, quoted from Cornelia Möser, Immaterielle und unsichtbare Arbeit. Überlegungen zu einer queerfeministischen Ökonomiekritik, Phase 2.37, 2010,

[25] Cf. Gigi Roggero, The Production of Living Knowledge, p. 26.

[26]  Gigi Roggero, “The Power of Living Knowledge”, in transversal 08 2009,

[27] Here I use Spivak’s concept of “worldings”; cf. Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty, A Critique of Postcolonial Reason. Towards a History of the Vanishing Present, Cambridge / London: Harvard University Press 1999, p. 114.

[28] Gigi Roggero, The production of Living Knowledge, p. 79.

[29] Andrew Ross, The Rise of the Global University, in: Towards a Global Autonomous University. The Edufactory Collective, New York: Autonomedia 2009, p. 18-31.

[30] Brett de Bary, Introduction, in: Universities in Translation. The Mental Labor of Globalization, Hong Kong University Press 2010, p. 2.

[31] Such alliances include the networking between university struggles and labor struggles or with the Occupy movement. The occupation of universities has repeatedly involved generating and spreading “occupation knowledge” (cf. The Occupation Cookbook or the Model of Occupation of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences in Zagreb, Autonomedia 2009), but also a focus on marginalized, politicized and emancipatory forms of knowledge and research practices, such as in single working groups.

[32] Cf. Ned Rossiter, “The informational university, the uneven distribution of expertise, and the racialisation of labour”, in: EduFactory Web Journal, 0 Issue January 2010, p. 62-73.

[34] Gayatri Chakravortry Spivak, Can the Subaltern Speak? Postkolonialität und subalterne Artikulation, Wien: Turia und Kant 2008, p. 42.

[35] John Willinsky, Learning to divide the world: Education at Empire's end, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press 1998: “We need to learn again how five centuries of studying, classifying, and ordering humanity within an imperial context gave rise to peculiar and powerful ideas of race, culture and nation that were, in effect, conceptual instruments that the West used both to divide up and to educate the world.”, p. 2-3.

[36] Gayatri Chakravortry Spivak, Can the Subaltern Speak?, in: Cary Nelson and Lawrence Grossberg, Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture, p. 271-313, here p. 280..

[37] Cf. Stuart Hall: “[O]ne of the surprising places where its [the discourse of ‘the West and the Rest’] effects can still be seen is in the language, theoretical models and hidden assumptions of modern sociology itself.” Stuart Hall, “The West and the Rest: Discourse and Power”, in: Stuart Hall and Bram Gieben (Ed.), Formations of Modernity, Cambride: Polity Press, p. 275-320, here p. 318. For a more in-depth engagement with the topic, see Gutiérrez Rodríguez, Encarnación/Manuela Boatc/Sérgio Costa (Ed.), Decolonizing European Sociology. Transdisciplinary Approaches, Ashgate 2010 orr Julia Reuter, Paula-Irene Villa (Ed.), Postkoloniale Soziologie. Empirische Befunde, theoretische Anschlüsse, politische Intervention, Transcript 2010.

[38] Valentin Y. Mudimbe suggests the term gnosis for discussing the relation between philosophy and various knowledge practices in Africa: “African discourses today, by the very epistemological distance which makes them possible, explicit, and credible as scientific or philosophical utterances, might just be commenting upon rather than unveiling la chose du texte. This notion […] could be key to the understanding of African gnosis.” Valentin Y. Mudimbe, The Invention of Africa. Gnosis, Philosophy and the Order of Knowledge, James Currey and Indiana University Press, 1988, p. 183.

[39]  Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, Decolonising the Mind. The Politics of Language in African Literature, Oxford, Nairobi, Portsmouth, 1986.

[40] Cf. Kien Nghi Ha, Integration as Colonial Pedagogy of Postcolonial Immigrants and People of Colour: A German Case Study, in: Encarnación Gutiérrez Rodríguez, /Manuela Boatc/Sérgio Costa (Ed.), Decolonizing European Sociology. Transdisciplinary Approaches, Ashgate 2010, p. 161-177, here especially p. 164.

[41] Although the concept of Postcolonial Studies/Postcolonial Theory itself can hardly be fixed, represents no individual schools and is permeated by constant debates, also in the sense of a self-critical engagement. Cf. for instance Maria do Mar and Nikita Dhawan: “For this reason, we call Postcolonial Theory an anti-disciplinary intervention, which attempts to work out the roles that academic disciplines have played in the framework of colonial systems of domination, and how they reproduce(d) (neo-) colonial epistemes and material relationships that seek to fix the ‘Others’ in the position of the ‘Others’.” Maria do Mar Castro Varela and Nikita Dhawan, Feministische Postkoloniale Theorie: Gender und (De-)Kolonisierungsprozesse, in: Femina Politica. Zeitschrift für feministische Politikwissenschaft 02 2009, p. 9-18, here p. 9.

[42] Cf. Christian Kravagna, “The Trees of Knowledge. Anthropology, Art and Politics - Melville J. Herskovits and Zora Neale Hurston – Harlem ca. 1930”, in: transversal 01 2012,

[43] “From the experiences around and after 1968, we can learn that resistive modes of subjectivation and struggles are by no means solely reactive, but also productive and inventive. In the 1960s there was resistance against the patriarchal, authoritarian and disciplinary university; however, it was also a matter of re-inventing knowledge production.” Gerald Raunig, Fabriken des Wissens. Streifen und Glätten 1, diaphanes 2011, p.25.

[44] EGR, “Decolonizing Postcolonial Rhetoric”, in: Encarnación Gutiérrez Rodríguez/Manuela Boatc/Sérgio Costa (Ed.), Decolonizing European Sociology. Transdisciplinary Approaches, Ashgate 2010, p. 49-67.

[45] Rumina Sethi, The Politics of Postcolonialism. Empire, Nation and Resistance, London: Pluto Press 2011, p. 12.

[46] Cf. Sandro Mezzadra in reference to research by Anna Tsing, Mezzadra, and others: “Living in Transition”,, and Gigi Roggero, p. 36

[47] Gigi Roggero, The Production of Living Knowledge, p. 21.

[48] Cf. the essay by Lina Dokuzović in this edition: “However, with finance capital, sub-prime lending and banks playing a dominant role in the crisis in the ‘developed’ world, the reality behind those immaterial assets is a very real crisis of material resources and the subsequent loss of livelihoods.” Lina Dokuzović, “The Resource Crisis and the Global Repercussions of Knowledge Economies”, in: transversal 01 2012,

[49] Gerald Raunig, “In Modulation Mode: Factories of Knowledge”, in: transversal 08 2009,

[50] Maurizio Lazzarato, “The Concepts of Life and the Living in the Societies of Control”, in: Martin Fuglsang and Bent Meier Sorensen (Eds.), Deleuze and the Social, Edinburgh: EUP, 2006, p. 171-190, here p. 185.

[51] María Riudo, Just Do It! Bodies and Images of Women in the New Division of Labor, February 8, 2011,

[52] Papadopoulos, Dimitris ; Stephenson, Niamh ; Tsianos, Vassilis: Escape Routes. Control and Subversion in the Twenty-first Century, London: Pluto Press 2008, p. 223.

[53] Cf. Xiang Biao, Global “Body-Shopping”: An Indian Labor System in the Information Technology Industry, Princeton: Princeton University Press 2007.

[54] Papadopoulos, Dimitris ; Stephenson, Niamh ; Tsianos, Vassilis: Escape Routes. Control and Subversion in the Twenty-first Century, London: Pluto Press 2008, p. 224.

[55] Encarnación Gutiérrez Rodríguez, “Decolonizing Postcolonial Rhetoric”, in: Encarnación Gutiérrez Rodríguez, Manuela Boatc, Sérgio Costa (Ed.), Decolonizing European Sociology. Transdisciplinary Approaches, Ashgate 2010, p. 51.

[56] Ned Rossiter, The Informational University, the Uneven Distribution of Expertise and the Racialisation of Labour, in: Edufactory Web Journal, zero issue January 2010, p.62-73, here p. 68.

[57] Donna Haraway, “Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective”, in: Feminist Studies, Vol. 14, No. 3. (Autumn, 1988), p. 575-599, here p. 580,,%20Situated%20Knowledges.pdf

[58] Cf. Gigi Roggero: “[…] mobility becomes a decisive battlefield in the relationship between cognitive labor and capital.”, Gigi Roggero, The Production of Living Knowledge, p. 100. Across from this and without completely dissolving the aforementioned hierarchies, in the paradigm of “knowledge management” there is also a cooptation, a draining and harnessing of various marginalized, invisible or ostracized forms of knowledge. The exploitation of indigenous knowledge or genetic information, both linked with the body of the subaltern, may serve as one example, just like, for instance, a “knowledge of migration”, the clandestine knowledge that the border protection authorities seek to obtain, while the knowledge of migrants in the sense of migration experience and history is largely ignored.

[59] See, for example, the report by Valérie Hartwich about the effects of the introduction of a point system and control systems by the Home Office in the UK: Valérie Hartwich, Fortress Academy. The Points-based Visa system and the policing of international students and academics, Manifesto Club Report, Februar 2010.

[60] Encarnacion Gutiérrez Rodríguez, Migration, Domestic Work and Affect, S. 30.

[61] Cf. The Edufactory Collective, “Intro”, in: Edufactory Web Journal Issue 1, September 2011,

[62] Ned Rositer, Logistics, Labor and New Regimes of Knowledge Production, in: Transeuropéennes. New Knowledge, New Epistemologies, 2011, (my emphasis).

[63] Cf. Sandro Mezzadra, “How Many Histories of Labor? Towards a Theory of Postcolonial Capitalism”, in: transversal 01 2012,

[64]  Encarnacion, Migration, Domestic Work and Affect, p. 142.

[65] Cf. Encarnación Gutiérrez Rodríguez’ differentiation between knowledge and wisdom in the discussion of a “survival knowledge” in the writings of Gloria Anzaldua, for instance. Encarnación Gutiérrez Rodríguez, Migration, Domestic Work and Affect, p. 32-33. The concept of experience in reference to a knowledge of migration, of mobility, but also to a racialized, gendered body could also be part of this discussion.