And labor is everywhere, at all times. When oppression is absolute, there is no more leisure, no more “free time. Sleep is supervised. The meaning of work is then the destruction of work at and through work. But if, as it happened in some concentration camps, work consists in dragging stones to a place at a run, piling them up, and then, still running, bringing 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 consciousness that producing and not producing are one and the same, are also work … Maurice Blanchot on the labor camp.
Isn’t the situation today quite similar? In a recent interview in Die Zeit, Giorgio Agamben speaks of “businesslessness” as a corrective to the ubiquitous production logic of capital. This thesis, however, only becomes understandable when the dispositif of (wage) labor is fundamentally attacked and destroyed.
The first thesis here is that there is no general, consistent concept of labor in Marx, nor can there be. The maneuvering of Marx himself when he speaks of dead and living labor, of productive and unproductive labor, of concrete and abstract labor, or even of labor sans phrase, all this shows that the concept of labor is ultimately missing in Marx. (One might add to this the highly topical distinction between sensuous and nonsensuous labor, the latter often wrongly referred to as immaterial labor). One of Marx’s first interventions against classical national economics was to attack its transhistorical determination of labor as the fundamental source and measure of all value. If labor were truly the source of all value, what would the value of that source have to be? Probably this universal value would have to drag the entire economy of equivalence into the vortex of its heroic immeasurability and inestimability, out of whose uncertainties only the liquefaction of labor into abstract working time would help, as Marx also partly demonstrated, as whose external measure money, like an ideal unit of value, would carry out the quantitative comparison of different things. Marx could have found a way out of the dilemma of the value of labor, if he had found an objective measure in the much-invoked “tertium comparationis”, which he regards as abstract labor-time (and money), on which the comparison of capitalistically produced commodities is based. But in this way the infinite regress cannot be averted, for neither can the unity of a simple (versus a complicated) labor be so readily determined (low versus higher reproduction costs), nor can the immanent measure of abstract labor be readily coupled with the external measure of money.
Marx is perfectly clear that living labor creates value but has no value itself. And, as is so often the case, Marx proposes another (displaced) solution, which consists in posing a new problem, that is, in the strategy of inventing and regrouping concepts and their associated constellations. It is not labor, but labor power that possesses value, that is bought and sold, writes Marx, and this statement is more than just a trifle that is implied there with the concept of labor power and is perpetuated in the determination of the difference between labor and labor power. In the midst of labor itself, the writing of a difference is discovered in order to discredit from the outset any substance or essence that is commonly imputed to labor. To state that the production of labor-power itself requires labor, labor-power must be physically maintained, through training, qualification, etc., in order to enter into circulation as a property possessing value (and precisely not as labor); it is, according to Marx, labor-power that is bought at its value, and its use in the labor process results in a value created by it that is greater than it represents itself as exchange-value. By thus undermining one of the fundamental theorems of classical national economics, Marx at the same time obstructs the way to conceive of a further teleology of labor. The difference between labor and labor power indicates that labor is not an economic category. What remains decisive is that the worker can be value-producing only when capital productively enacts labor, which is in itself unproductive, and this happens through the renting of labor power, which is a productive asset whose use-value is there only for capital. Only in relation to capital is labor value-generating; otherwise it is a valueless nothing, not even employment, to which labor is reduced today.
Deleuze/Guattari also tie in with this theorem in the “Thousand Plateaus” when they state that surplus labor is not that which goes beyond labor, but conversely that labor follows from surplus labor and presupposes it. Labor and surplus labor are simply the same thing, “the former standing for the quantitative comparison of activities and the latter for the monopolitical appropriation of labor by the entrepreneur (not the owner).” This insight, which follows on from Marx, was largely buried not only by traditional labor-value Marxism, but also by the new critique of value (from Kurz to Heinrich), in the case of the latter with the still fruitless discussion of the concept of abstract labor, which is grasped at one time as a substance (Kurz), at another time as a theory of consciousness (Heinrich).
Labor understood as essence or as a transhistorical principle, as social-democratic and Marxist-Leninist orthodoxies have demonstrated ad nauseam in the history of the labor movement, fits exactly into the hylemorphistic scheme that strains the (ontological) difference of matter and form to inscribe a universal meaning in the history of mankind in the sign of labor, which here proves to be the shaping of matter. The traditional concept of labor, which has its discursive and procedural place in the artisanal world and, as a consequence, can also think of machines only as means, must deny the principal mediality and technicality of the operation of labor. Work is subject to determinations of form, but is not itself to be understood as content that expresses itself; Nor is labor the substance on which general wealth is based or a finality- and result-fixated action that takes on a form qua shaping of matter, and this already because the determinations of form are to be grasped medially. Your relations are imposed on labor quasi from the outside in order to attach themselves to the products through the forms, and ultimately labor sans phrase congeals into the trace of a machinic movement that produces labor and productivity in the first place and does not even know the duality of content and form. The deprivation of labor consists in the fact that it neither really belongs to the buyer of labor power nor to the application by machinery, and if it does, then it is applied by the formal, machine movement temporally, that is, for a limited period of time. In general, nothing can be said about labor sans phrase, having become speechless it staggers around in the rift of the symbolic, sans phrase it remains precisely not symbolizable or expressible, it remains not determinable and cannot be tied to any logic of desire or a metaphysics of expression, rather a difference (between labor power/labor) perpetuates itself in and with it, while money sits on the difference, the trace of which can hardly be located with it, because money traverses the real, the imaginary and the symbolic. By becoming explicit in money, the symbol not only encounters all other economic expressions, but also faces itself as and in expression. Set as an end in itself, money as capital must lead to its utilization, because otherwise it threatens to evaporate in the tautology of money as money. What matters, then, is that the tautological identity of money as money contains a potency to be laid out in production, in which a difference is to be discovered that is responsible for the fact that money, by realizing the results of production, records a multiplication of money to be determined purely quantitatively. The money is laid out in the production process in a twofold meaning, stretched out as credit and spread out as production process, in order to come back to itself afterwards with a more. The quantitative increase implies a productive force that realizes the money and thus it also holds a difference to itself that turns out purely quantitative. In order for this realization to indicate that the interpretation of money has led to its multiplication, whereby money is decisive for the multiplication but cannot itself perform it – if we initially disregard fictitious capital – Marx has to invent the difference between labor and labor power at this point, and in this the difference of labor power as exchange value and use value proves decisive (and with it labor is invented). The money-symbol thus settles on labor sans phrase, and at the same time, in the self-reference of money, G-G`, a hitherto concealed difference will have to be discovered, the difference between the exchange-value that labor-power produces and the exchange-value, which labor-power represents – and this difference owes itself again to the use-value of labor-power, which ever already falls into time, for the labor-capacity, which consists in producing commodities of greater value than labor-power itself is worth, cannot produce equivalence and non-equivalence at the same time; it can do this only in time.
Today, in a duplicitous mechanism, income, wages, and savings are being sucked into the machinery of financialization on a large scale by transforming wage earners into small financial investors themselves with the help of such factors as occupational pensions, insurance, and pension funds. Already in the neoliberalist theories of the Chicago School, wage-earners no longer appear as dependent employees of a company, but are constantly transforming themselves into “human capital” (physical-genetic manifestation, totality of learned abilities or results of one’s own “investments” qua nutrition, education and training) or entrepreneurs, who make their respective investment decisions entirely on their own responsibility, in order to optimize their subjective utility, which is expressed in money. One transforms in the regimes of neoliberalism above all also the members of the so-called precariat to enterprises of their own. And it is hardly surprising that this kind of generalization of the corporate form today congeals into a social model, within which the actors, however, strangely enough, function less as producers of goods and services, but rather as consumers of labor (who are considered in the labor market as embodied demand for labor and precisely not as embodied supply) on the drip of the labor market, where they mutate into customers of agencies, into buyers of labor, whereby a shift takes place insofar as labor power is not primarily consumed in production, but is temporally actualized, in particular, via an act of purchase.
Oliver Marchart speaks at this point of a transversal precarization, which in the neoliberal accumulation regime would affect almost all wage-dependents from the toilet woman to the start-up entrepreneur and would still have an impact on the contract-based sectors of normal work. Due to the transversal effects, the phenomenon of precarization can no longer be limited to certain social strata or generally unstable employment relationships such as temporary or fee-based work; rather, as a process of insecurity and wage reduction, it tends to cross all strata and sectors in the social body. If, as postoperaism recognized early on, the work spaces of the factory expand across the entire social field, while at the same time the intellectual qualifications required for the production of certain goods (services, knowledge, language, affects) expand to include the entire social labor potential, then the contours of the classical concept of work, including its temporal ordinances and localizations, become definitively blurred. In labor markets, the share of project work structured in networks is currently growing continuously, with these mobile and flexible production processes not only blurring the boundaries between leisure and working time, but also permanently tapping into the technologies of self-exploitation as a productivity resource, ultimately fueling the desire for self-control and self-affirmation of entrepreneurial subjects more and more. As a result, the syntax of precarious labor relations, in the form of a coded hypothesis promising creativity and self-realization to those involved, obsessively invades the neural networks and psyches of dividers. While the classical labor contract still included the claim to the preservation of labor power, which was guaranteed by an indirect wage even in case of job loss, today the precarization of labor power corresponds to a ubiquity of labor, which, however, manifests itself as an existential risk, that is, precarization ties incomes more or less directly to the risky development of interest and profit rates, above all of financial capital, whereby a fall in rates has the effect of putting pressure on all production processes, so that employees either work with greater intensity or longer, have to accept wage deductions, or are simply laid off. In this, capital formulates its social relations: Risk does not simply shape itself as a mere form of calculation, as a way of knowing uncertainty, but opens up a whole new mode of social being. Perhaps for this very reason, the therapeuticized and at the same time therapeutic work of the precarious middle classes mutates into a new kind of extreme sport. In the process, the various technologies of the self are screwed together with the economic logic of precarization, and the latter calls for taking on all the risks and costs of the social, which have already been privatized for the most part, so that private debts, low and precarious income (work on a fee basis) or competitively oriented social benefits are to be managed on a purely individual basis.
The sickening impoverishment machinery, which constantly spits out cheap labor and welfare recipients, is the inescapable horizon of this kind of unfolding of the employment system. Its real place is the virtual labor camp: 40 square meter booths where the unemployed are hooked up to digital consoles. With consequences: “The still common expression stempeln gehen (to stamp) originates from a time when the unemployed had to appear daily at the employment office with their stamp card and stamp it. No one shirked this official procedure because it was connected with the payment of the daily ration of support. It goes without saying that there were queues and crowds. Today’s monthly bank transfer is more convenient, but at the cost of leaving an unemployed person alone in front of the TV with a discount beer. Without causing a stir or becoming a public nuisance, this case resolves itself over time. If, on the other hand, a hundred individuals stand around waiting and feel provoked by the harassing procedure, grumblings can ensue, and the grumblings can build up to a riot. It can even happen that the individuals feel themselves to be a mass and act that way, for example, by tearing up the furniture and storming the counter.” (Wolfgang Pohrt)
Today, however, social welfare recipients really have to do even more than just phasically secure their lives by visiting the “Stalinist” forced feeding, clothing, and one-euro chains; rather, sometimes driven by panic (the panic of self-preservation), they have to integrate themselves into the social by providing the state with a guarantee to repay the alimony they have received, not in the form of money, however, but by permanently handing over activity logs, a continuous effort that consists in justifying in a very practical way one’s status as a debtor by affirming even the vaguest willingness to engage in any kind of employment and then to carry out this employment – it is about the permanent execution of a free disponibility, a kind of full-time activity that finds its meaning in enduring all the constraints, such as the notoriously annoying coaching advice, correspondence from the job centers and their training measures; Measures that, at best, produce something like the experience of meaninglessness. Loosely based on a practice that has actually already taken place of equipping Hartz IV recipients with pedometers, which are probably intended to help physical exercise and purify the psyche, one could now formulate the following: The pedometer transforms wired actors into streamed streams of flesh whose numbers, distribution, health status, etc. are always known in real time. The industrial keeping in motion of the virtual meat streams (with as little storage as possible) transforms the actors into databases and the job center supervisors into controllers of technically coded social processes, which they carry out on behalf of the state. The precarious subject is potentially coupled to this logic – as it actually is today, when it is supposed to behave as an entrepreneurial subject even with regard to the organization of mini-jobs, with regard to the investment in individual insurances, the organization of education, consumer credits or other loans, so that indebted subjects tend to coincide with their precarious functions of being employees, receiving social welfare, and consumers of service, while the financial economy works through the paradox that those whose wages and fees are cut at all levels should be the consumers with the most purchasing power, which of course can only be “solved” by granting consumer loans.
In the place of the producer, who in the course of capitalist history had emancipated himself at least for certain phases of life from his internment in the factory as well as from complete lawlessness in matters of freedom, who thus at least possessed the freedom to offer his labor power on markets without any ifs and buts, nowadays – with the permanently taking place execution or non-execution of service – increasingly the consumer of labor is taking his place. While the potential producer on the labor market as labor power still embodied a supply, the consumer of labor represents the embodied demand. (The labor force is designed and traded on the labor markets, it is coached and cast, it becomes the flexible mode for the business model of a labor design industry, which exposes it to permanent casting and finally, in public tele-casting as a television image, to the cannibalism of an interactively deciding audience, which in turn has copied its taste criteria from an (ostensibly) sacred jury, whose members are trained specialists, or rather Participants of that notorious acclamatory and redundant media industry, which is well versed in producing phantom images on a continuous basis by luring actors into the recording apparatus, who from now on behave in almost every situation as if they were just standing in front of a camera). And even if today the producer, of which there is no doubt, still spends his labor power, it tends to be stripped from him, because he no longer defines himself solely through an act of production, but moreover as a consumer of labor through an act of purchase. And the less the necessity of work can still be conveyed nowadays, the more the demand for work is supposed to congeal into a ubiquitous model, whereby the potential producers are put into the role of consumers of “work” via the various placement services of the job centers, which corresponds to a networking and control of body, language, affect and knowledge in the socio-economic field – this requires neither the phasic internment for the purpose of wear and tear and dressage of labor power, as was still the case in the industrial capitalism of the factories of the 19th century. Nor does it require a kind of internalization of labor discipline that regulates the subject in itself, as was the case throughout most of modernity. Rather, what we have today is the installation of a dispositif of service that, in the wake of the informationalization of money, the corporation, and the body and its cognitive faculties in toto-language, affect, knowledge, etc.-allows for the extraction of a surplus value whose level is now inextricably linked to the level of control. And this is based, from the subjective side, on service providers who no longer produce anything in the classical sense, but rather manage information in order to simultaneously consume the service as pure information – a service that means control, maintenance, and governance through information, that no longer requires any form of objectification through labor, that propagates interconnectivity and feedback, while the networks involved and the controls in charge eat into the homes and sleep of dividends. Baudrillard writes early on that in service, performance is no longer separable from the person performing, and this is documented in the pure performance of time in the course of a duty of attendance, thus “retotalizing” work as service. The “Modern Service” can rely on the fact that the purchase of “work” will occur through the demand presupposed for it, not only with regard to the consumer’s subjective lack of work, but also with regard to the consumer’s need for advice, training and further education on the labor market, since the consumer remains dependent on this acquisition of knowledge, which serves to increase his information value. The less the service is still service to work, the more it mutates into a biotechnically increased service to information by means of absorbing, processing and storing it. Thereby, the information about the service migrates into the body and its cognitive faculties and tends to become identical with the service (performance). The demand for labor, which is objectively absent, becomes the demand for that which takes its place, it becomes the demand for that which replaces labor: Information, automation and digitalization. More and more powerful software is ready to interconnect the information flows with the bodies, the affects and the brains of dividends, literally imprisoning them by the control, regulation and feedback processes encoded in the programs, because with the feedback a traceability of every single action is built within the circulating logic of the flows. This transitive normalization of all situations, that is, the integration of the actors into the systems in which they function as target points in networks, is supplemented quite peculiarly by the consumption of the offers of the enhancement industries, which in turn make it possible to make use of all the forces of self-enhancement like a service. One’s own fitness and wellness status acts like “systemic doping,” which, however, can hardly be distinguished from placebo effects. To the same extent that the new consumer of work, who tends to be unemployed, affirms his being unemployed as the completion of a service, he continuously and peacefully appropriates his being precariously appropriated, the blackmail immanent in the classical employment contract seems to be lifted, as if there were an infinitely explorable creative capacity for work outside of capitalist reality, as if the service provider were a reincarnation of the deification of work. This reflects the fact that the loss of labor appears to the actants today as a catastrophe that must be averted by all available means – if no one believes in labor anymore, then the belief in its necessity becomes universal. If Marx could still dryly state that the worker does not produce for himself but for capital, thus really excluding any apotheosis that elevates labor to an idol, then with the creative self-configuration through the purchase of labor, stylishly accompanied by the constant consumption of enhancement programs, a truly uncanny enjoyment of (digitized) work is rediscovered, whose propagandists constantly trumpet that the dividers integrated into informing networks are actually the embodiment of creative co-participation instead of pure recipients of orders, who of course may give each other orders in teams.
At the same time, even the less fragile designs of life and work today break down at the ubiquity of the cuts with which life, like service, is ever more rapidly divided and dispersed into intervals, replacing continuity with a kind of indefinite postponement-truly a persistent state of limbo that also perpetuates the never-ending nature of lifelong learning in the institutions of education and training. Fragmentarization of working time and living time occurs, and both times remain locked into the process of frenzied, deterritorializing recombination. Paid time can be accessed as an extraction of surplus value on the phone and/or for a week, a day, or an hour, making service fractal and recombinant like financial capital itself. Qualification, too, remains permanently integrated into the ubiquitous flows of money, data, and information, by which both the wage-earners and the sham-employed precarious workers allow themselves to be absorbed and carried away, as if they were waves rising and falling. “The man of discipline,” writes Deleuze, “was a discontinuous process of energy, while the man of control is more wave-like, in a continuous beam, in an orbit. Everywhere, surfing has already replaced the old sports.” He goes on to write, “Individuals have become ‘divisive,’ and masses samples, data, markets, or ‘banks.’” Divided here in the sense of divisibility, an informationally regulated division, among other things by means of the dispositives of demoscopy and data collection, by means of machineries that not only ask the world-shaking, everyday questions, but also quasi-tautologically still provide or prescribe the corresponding answers. The individuals thus become accessories of the financial system and its apparatuses, of the media apparatuses and the welfare state and its collective institutions (Internet, schools, hospitals, TV, museums, etc.). And that one ascribes a soul to companies, of all things, is really the biggest scare story in the world, Deleuze finally complains, and in the same breath calls marketing an instrument of social control (in the context of demoscopic social espionage, one should add). And it is necessary to add that the enterprises – fractalized labor systems – quite materially produce bodies of labor as dividers of a willed predicate, which is called labor service. In other words, the corporate system invents the servant as its predicate.
The second-hand lifestyles, whose chemical, fashion, and neurological modeling takes place on the basis of rules, codes, and their biopolitical controls, also require the purchase of fitness and wellness programs from the ubiquitous life-counselor and (mental) cosmetics industry, which are taken up like a service. And this, above all, in order to function “wholly” in any labor relations with the constant potentiation and effectivization of one’s own performance level and profile, whereby lifetime is not completely absorbed into working time – the latter still being the valid measure, but somehow no longer appearing to be the correct measure, as Virno writes, yet today has to be regarded as rarely constitutive of the quantification and shaping of working time itself. As capital seeks to seize the life-time of dividends, work and life potentially form a unity, albeit a fractured one, guaranteed by the consumption of coaching programs, training, and casting events, all of which serve to integrate people into “working life.” And large segments of the population have to buy this kind of full-time activity by going into debt for life, in both senses of the word. However, this terribly new conflation of work and life has long been inherent in the separation of lifetime into work and leisure that Adorno castigates, under the unequivocal dominance of capitalist exploitation (and its potential for destruction). Adorno writes: “The rigidly scrutinizing, spellbinding and spellbound gaze, which is characteristic of all leaders of horror, has its model in the appraising one of the manager, who calls the job applicant to take a seat and illuminates his face in such a way that it mercilessly disintegrates into the brightness of usability and the darkness, disreputability of the unqualified. This situation is perpetuated right up to the present day, when contemporary bosses act in an emphatically relaxed manner, virtually force the “you” on their employees, and notoriously claim that their companies have a wonderfully flat hierarchy and an almost cosmological wellness atmosphere, while in the same breath the bosses mob their employees, cut them off from the flow of information, or alternatively overwhelm them with work and chase them through the various departments.
When it finally comes to the fact that the time of work and the time of non-work are no longer separated by any exact boundary, then there is also no longer any essential difference between employment and non-employment. That is why Paolo Virno can write with all rhetorical exaggeration: “Unemployment is unpaid work; work is then in turn paid unemployment. With good reason, then, it is just as easy to say that one never stops working as it is to say that less and less is being worked.” Paolo Virno thus points out, among other things, the fact that the customer of the “Modern Service in the Labor Market” has long since corresponded to the subject dubbed by Günther Anders as the “automation servant” or the “labor mannequin” described by Baudrillard, which simulates the non-existent work as if it were there, or that stimulates itself through the too much available work as if it were not there at all. In the same breath, leisure activity would also be discernible as a service, insofar as it requires mobilities and mobilizations similar to those of service, similar investments in the machinic “human capital” that welds service and performer; and thus the labor mannequin is supplemented, this lowest common denominator, “the piccolo as the basis of an unreal principle of labor.” And Günther Anders writes: “Truly, one can become frightened when one realizes that even now, at this moment, hundreds of millions are engaged in such gymnastics, and that these hundreds of millions are even grateful that they, in contrast to millions of less fortunate ones: the unemployed, are still granted to do this gymnastics; and that they doggedly proclaim the right to this gymnastics as a basic political right, in fact they have to proclaim it, because without such futile gymnastics they would stand in nothing, or – but this ‘doing’ is only a dressing up of doing nothing – they would sit in front of the screen; and because they would be forced to eat their way through the time mash that is piling up before them every day. “And very similarly, Tiqqun write, “What MAN calls work today, MAN rated as leisure yesterday – ‘video game testers’ are paid to play all day long, ‘artists’ are paid to be the public’s clowns; a growing mass of incompetents MAN calls psychoanalysts, mapmakers, coaches, or just psychologists are paid fat to listen to the lament of others …”
This kind of abysmal desolation (of employment), oddly enough, requires a whole set of conditions in terms of pay and control, whether it’s the individual keeping of time accounts, logging the length of phone calls, meticulous recording of corporate meetings, or the detailed study of compliance, sustainability, and control compendiums. It is not that one imitates work, as first glance might suggest, but something quite different seems to be the case here: One simulates the work by means of generating its appearance, and finally, nowadays the social sense of this kind of semiosis congeals into the same as its definition: The flexibilized and mobile performance of a service that is, in the final analysis, the simulation itself (implosion), and this in rigid connection with the practiced optimization of the modes of self-enhancement through the libidinous-nihilistic use of counseling, fitness, lifestyle, and sense-making programs (which may be bought on credit), as well as the constant control of these operations by social and governmental institutions and organizations within the framework of a sliding duty of attendance. In the work process today, purely abstract time is consumed in many cases, which includes precisely the simple presence at a job in the absence of work. Corresponding to this specific form of postmodern service is “work” in the enclosure or system of machine feedback: the pressing of a button as a function of a process programmed elsewhere – thus human work is in fact nothing more than the famous residual invented and integrated by machinery. However, there are also the ADHD-producing activities in which the time during which office workers are still engaged in a task is periodically, even notoriously, interrupted by communication qua telephone, fax, e-mail, the times of these interruptions being longer than those of task completion. The interruption, due to the rhythm of information flows in communication networks, suspends the time of task processing. No matter how, the residual human gesture finally appears only as a fragmentary gesture, as the so-called appendage of a subjectivation that is controlled, integrated and eliminated again by the diagrams of the machines. The organization of labor and the subjectivation complementary to it is today above all the field of a diagrammatic pragmatics. Linguistic imperatives would not be able to have such an impact on processes of subjectivation if they were not supported by asignificant semiotics (budgeting, software, accounting, control managements, etc.) – asignificant semiotics that do not speak but function. It seems that the (technological) machine itself has still penetrated into the heart of desire, whereby the residual human gesture in the midst of the imaginary totality of the individual – that is, the function of [i – a] in Lacan – appears purely as the stain of a marking by the machine, and whereby, it can be logically concluded with Baudrillard, work is only “professed, as one professes one’s subservience.” The more the (objective) necessity of work can no longer be represented, the more work is heroized or enjoyed in the course of its universal presence, and this goes so far that even the unemployed and children are obsessed with work, insofar as there is no doubt that one must rent out one’s labor power to secure one’s livelihood. With the ubiquity of a propaganda of work comes the colonization of weekends, late evenings, even dreams, until the servants, as so-called human capital, not only have a job or perform a job, but are the job itself, such correspondence of job and ego coinciding with an act of pleasure, which approaches what Günther Anders calls the “totalitarianism of pleasure,” which occurs when precisely all activities, including “work,” acquire a veneer of acts of pleasure.
The work-mannequin expressing work gives evidence of a largely automated work, and this most efficiently when it nowadays manages property titles and financial derivatives in the financial industry, to which the Internet has in turn contributed decisively – thus the screen as interface becomes the constant companion of the broker, whose body and brain itself congeal into a 24-hour monitor, which absorbs information, market rumors and news in the form of pulsating data packets or optionally disseminates them, in order to remain interconnected with the hyperpulse of the market movements, which continue to be unpredictable despite the permanent use of probability calculations, until finally the broker himself becomes what he processes and studies in accelerated clocked permanence: To a “pulsating and fibrillating beacon of money.” (Kroker, Kroker, Cook 1999: 105) And truly strangely, Baudrillard’s labor mannequin corresponds with the so-called industrial slave of a Pierre Klossowski, who saw in her a new type of labor force that includes prostitutes, models, film and pop stars, a species that differentiates the sale of its own charms, now often produced by means of plastic surgery, into a new way of life and existence.3 Today, we find the previous endpoint of a thoroughly mediatized working mannequin in light celebrity, which is perpetuated in the financial industry in a complementary way to derivative transactions by establishing a functional relationship between derivative and the ubiquitous commodity celebrity – for example, the attention value of a professional football player is continuously symbolically charged by the price of a multitude of derivative products. The market success of the goods he promotes will increase his own price, while goods, because they bear his name and thus an image, mutate into derivatives themselves, both kinds of derivatives being there for each other. Obviously, the professional footballer supports the goods he advertises, and vice versa: both varieties of derivative raise their price in pure reciprocity by mutually authenticating themselves in the media gutters of the picture industry. The light celebrity then draws the final consequence from the modes of hyper-capitalization, namely when the investment for the attainment of individual wealth and security is connected to the logics of dividends and rising portfolio prices.
Since the new management methods, with their proliferating semantics as well as semiotics, constantly place the word “performance” at the center of their strategies, the difference between performance and pure bragging rights, which may well also be a measure of self-modification, seems to tend to disappear for those providing the service. But this is precisely what leads to the universally feared career stress, which thrives on the fear that one’s own performance, which is supposed to be treated like “capital,” might not be matched by one’s supplementary performance (or vice versa), so that one ultimately feels compelled to equate one’s own performance with performance, which corresponds to Baudrillard’s tendency to simulate work, only that here the pure presence in grey time is replaced by the combination of achievement and performance to be striven for, which in turn means that the presentation of the tasks is added to the tiresome completion of the tasks. Truly a strange form of free cultivation of operating with oneself plus being operated by others, as Peter Sloterdijk formulated it in his book Du mußt dein Leben ändern as a demand for a new vertical virtuosity. Performance calls for dividers who constantly oscillate between radical competition (which is articulated as a self-accelerating activity of the immortal and, in the course of this, as ADHD production) and depression – whereby in intra-competition one must not only continuously mobilize one’s own resources in order to maximize personal advantages, but it is competition itself, after all, that aims at a continuous demand for performance. This generalized performativity, welded to the ideal of work that ceaselessly propagates self-invention, creates the depressive or the ADHD-afflicted dividend. In general, the acceleration of information exchange generates pathologies because the dividend is simply unable to still process the immense and ever-increasing amounts of information entering the computers, smartphones, screens, electronic diaries, and brains.
The fact that the new consumers of work are additionally busy training themselves in the readymades of neo-Buddhist-inspired coaching discourses and other soft skills in order to create something like a partial community of socially competent and at the same time self-acting and self-responsible actors, especially in the office, where beyond the restraints of the outdated factory system the parameters of wage labor and competition continue to be the determining principle, that really makes one sit up and take notice, because for a long time now a politely cooperative tone or a short tactical conversation, which is repugnant to any tendency to over-communicate, has no longer been sufficient to facilitate cooperation in the office under conditions that are truly not of one’s own choosing; rather, in the office of all places, the monadology that Max Horkheimer diagnosed in his notes as the active principle of social life in capitalism is strangely obliquely deconstructed as a mere illusion: The decline of public life as a result of the cybernetic fabrication of consensus appears strangely virulently withdrawn today precisely in the office; indeed, the end of the public sphere finds active compensation in the office, so to speak, and this as the status-attesting collective design of a resentment that constantly propagates abstract participation in the social, and at the same time as the status-generating bestiality of a thoroughly possessive individual who constantly tries to get rid of his dividend. In the medium of operating and being operated on, non-resistance, flexibility and relaxation reign – indeed, wellness, health and fitness become the hard-earned residual item to which the reminiscence of an “other life” alone can still cling.
In order to establish and ensure the monetarily measurable attractiveness of one’s own person, one installs on oneself the most diverse rules, regulations and dispositives of lifestyle entertainment, for which the finely adjusted training units in the ubiquitous psycho- and fitness studios as well as the strict adherence to those meticulously standardized fitness and wellness programs also speak. For surfing the waves of service demands stamina and suppleness in the mode of auto-operational agility, to instantly seize surprising options in the job and abruptly execute new tasks, it demands opportunism as a general maxim of action, by which one always keeps oneself open to a multitude of possibilities, to seize the next best one that presents itself, or, to drop an option, without hesitation, in favor of a better opportunity; so this kind of surfing commands the formulation of a cynical interest that defames the same singling out of the interests of others as regrettable but nevertheless unavoidable deformities. And this form of service corresponds to a volatile subjectivity that is extended to the limits of digital mobility in order to still be able to reap its surplus. In this context, Bernhard Stiegler extremely sharply criticizes a mentality that prevails today, which he describes as “I-don’t-give-a-fuckism,” a general attitude of organized irresponsibility – and this happens complementary to the rise of the “stupidity, sillyness, crazyness” of dividends, which Stiegler describes as “the destruction of attention, an irresponsibility, an incivility, ‘the degree zero of thought’.” And the more intensively the employees of a company expose themselves to the company rules, programs and dispositives on the basis of a temporary, but at the same time unrestricted consent, and at the same time make use of them – including the cybernetic feedback mechanisms, which no stupid state of mind with its organs and apparatuses of surveillance and control could ever invent, because there is actually no current need for ultra-harsh exploration, spying and imprisonment of agents of discontent (and yet this surveillance does take place) – the more the range of variation of individual options in the operational field shimmers. Thus, nowadays, office workers remain committed to the half-hearted and yet dutiful involvement in everyday office life precisely because of their agonizing opportunism, which tries to exploit even the slightest advantage, at all times, without there necessarily having to be any hard and fast work instructions, and this takes place within the framework of an operative control and optimization of one’s own person, which in turn presupposes or requires, in the best case, 100% identification with the company’s goals. In this, the nevertheless rather murmuring community of company employees takes over the business of a therapeutic, secondary control, which flanks and completes the primary control of the wage worker and the precarious, orchestrated by the capitalist economy.
No longer are office workers subject to the terrorizing command of a central office; instead, they are embedded in flexible technological control systems and horizontal dispositifs that keep both their own effectiveness, status, tactical conditions, and operational tasks, as well as those of other workers, available on screens at all times. Being “online” condenses into the hegemonic form of work and life; constantly mobilizable availability in the context of flexible normalization is the work itself, which servants additionally train themselves to do by consuming educational, mental wellness, and fitness programs until they incorporate the service quasi-frictionlessly in the course of their permanent recursion with the machines. By means of microtechnologies, laptops, and smartphones, most of which are operated while seated, employees themselves, following a modular logic, are constantly incorporated into the streams of information circulating in corporate networks. Unceasingly mobilizable and potentially available around the clock, employees remain mentally stimulated to react excitedly in real time to the fluctuations of the information flows flickering across their screens. Within the framework of techno-scientific and psychologistic dispositions, programming and construction principles, there is hardly a workplace today that is not permanently put to evaluation and not scrutinized for the creative potential of dividers and project groups, only to be evaluated again, i.e., examined for new performance potentials, but this is less due to the totalitarian pressure of a leader; rather, the evaluation usually remains integrated into the team; and there is no team that does not demand debates, speeches and agreements qua anglicized language games that Wittgenstein would not have dreamed of in his sleep. The homogeneous ethos of opportunism, responsible couplehood and social commitment, which is articulated quite Heideggerian as talk or system German as interaction or communication, an ethos about which every letter of application today provides sufficient information, is constantly renegotiated or balanced without the coach, who in his function as a management consultant resembles a modern itinerant preacher, having to recommend it specifically. Within the framework of the demanded and willingly carried out and above all very operative-talking forced harmonization, at the same time with the help of a politicized pseudo-sadism, i.e. secretly mutual contempt as well as the paradoxical interest in operative passivity, a fight of all against all is led, which results in the intensification of the resentment as well as the cunning, which after all no longer knows any reference in talk, in the process of the public segregation of opinion. “Clever,” writes Wolfgang Pohrt, “is the one who knows how to win them (the others) over or trick them. He who does not understand it is the stupid one.”