Acknowledging that work has become a conspicuous theme within postcapitalist theory and political activism today, this essay reconnects the politics of work with the workers movement by reconsidering the relationship between contemporary postcapitalism and the longer history of the so-called traditional left. This essay maps current debates on work within postcapitalist theory and proposes that the demand for the abolition of work should be replaced not with the affirmation of work but the specifically postcapitalist critique of alienated labour.

Prophecies of the absence of the wage or the lack of a boss fall short of the vision of the absence of abstract labour measured in units of average socially necessary labour time. Since contemporary political debates are marked by the twin tendencies of the revival of a politics of work and a renewal of debates of postcapitalism, there is a new urgency to the question of what constitutes work or labour―or human transformative activity―in a world after the complete renunciation of wage labour.

The contemporary political tendency of postcapitalism, therefore, I will argue here, typically does not make a case for the supersession of capitalism. Close enough to the so-called “traditional left” to set it a new agenda, the new political imaginaries of postcapitalism have substituted the “new commons” for communism and proposed “changing the world without taking power” in place of revolution. But insofar as a shared political project can be assigned to the term, the formulation of the rejection of work in postcapitalism is too imprecise to steer us beyond the specific forms of work in capitalism. Despite class politics remaining relatively low in the order of the intersectional urgencies of postcapitalism, work has become more prominent within contemporary politics than it has since the 1960s, when the centrality of the labour movement was challenged by the student movement, civil rights, feminism, anti-colonial struggles and so on. However, work has re-emerged as a political terrain since 2000 by shedding the form that it took within the socialist, communist and Marxist traditions. Rather than arguing for a return to the politics of labour of the so-called “traditional left”, my inquiry attempts to overthrow the binary opposition between the emancipation through work and the emancipation from work.

The title of this short study does not refer to practices of work in a social formation after capitalism, but to contemporary discourses of work in theories of postcapitalism. Work, I want to argue, has been dramatically reconceived within postcapitalist theory. An aspect of this re-conception is a shift in the perception of the artist and a realignment of the politics of labour in art. Anti-work, post-work and the disaggregation of work and the wage have been at the core of radical thought on post-Fordism, precarity, cognitive labour, domestic labour, care, the multitude, universal basic income, automation and platform capitalism. This is possible as a result of the disaggregation of the politics of work from the politics of class. This disaggregation, I will argue in this essay, is symptomatic of postcapitalist theory.

Postcapitalist discourse is always utopian in the sense that it consists of thought experiments about what life and labour might be like under conditions freed from the need to work or the drive for capital accumulation, but it can also be utopian insofar as it proceeds on the basis of the kinds of rational arguments that Charles Fourier and Robert Owen hoped would persuade good sovereigns and sensible governments to implement sound legislation against the private interests of capitalists. If Marx could explain that utopian socialism was given its specific political character by the immaturity of the workers as a class that could pose a real threat to the bourgeois state, postcapitalism’s utopianism is an effect of two parallel declines: namely the weakening of the workers’ movement and the rejection of the political project of the revolutionary seizure of power. As such, the Marxist critique of the traditional left can be redeemed as a corrective to the postcapitalist critique of the traditional left.

Postcapitalism has established a distinctive context for the re-examination of Marx’s theory of labour. Michael Heinrich’s important clarification of Marx’s concepts of labour and communism is explicitly prefaced with reference to the Arab Spring, Occupy and the politics of the 99%, as well as to Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq. A theoretical line in the sand is drawn with reference to Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Manuel Castell’s The Information Age (1996-1998) and David Graeber’s study of debt. These debates, Heinrich notices, “employ Marx’s categories to a greater or lesser extent: partly they are used to analyze contemporary developments; partly they are criticized as obsolete”. 1 If Marx has returned to the pages of contemporary political publishing as thinkers attempt to understand capitalism and how it might be superseded, however, he has done so with “superficial treatment” and “empty phrases”, according to Heinrich. 2This gives a fresh urgency to Heinrich’s project of returning to the original texts and possibly supplies a new readership for an introduction to the three volumes of Marx’s Capital (1867). Hence, Heinrich’s introduction begins not with the assertion of Marxist orthodoxy, but the recognition that “[c]ontemporary societies are traversed by a variety of relations of domination and oppression”, such as gender relations, racist discrimination, anti-Semitism, prejudice against sexual orientation and property ownership. In some sense, therefore, Heinrich’s project is to find a place within postcapitalism for Marx and to correct misrepresentations of Marxism within postcapitalism.

Wolfgang Streeck has charted the vogue for theorising the end of capitalism since the financial crisis of 2008 and in doing so points out that the concept of capitalism “from the time the concept was first used in the early 1800s in Germany and the mid-1800s in England, were always theories of crisis”. 3 Capitalism, in this sense, has always appeared to be on the verge of collapse. Postcapitalism, therefore, is as old as capitalism itself. Not only have there been various theories of what will bring about capitalism’s imminent breakdown, but today, according to Streeck, there are multiple competing theories of capitalism’s demise that indicate for his thesis of capitalism’s internal death-drive, less the presence of widespread error among experts than “a diagnosis of multi-morbidity”. 4Postcapitalism, within Streeck’s theory, will be a disorderly, indeterminate affair, not the transition from one system to another. “What comes after capitalism in its final crisis, now under way, is, I suggest, not socialism or some other defined social order, but a lasting interregnum.” 5
I don’t cite Streeck to ventriloquise my own position, but to highlight a feature of postcapitalist theory; namely that it envisions a future after capitalism that does not correspond to traditional leftist anticipations of socialism and communism. The “post-capitalist interregnum” that Streeck narrates may be unusually pessimistic, but it is as typical of the genre of postcapitalism that emerged in the early 2000s as it is untypical of the history of thinking about the supersession of capitalism in the nineteenth and twentieth century. 6 Although postcapitalism, in the form of utopian and scientific anticipations of socialism and communism, is inaugurated with the industrial revolution, if not earlier, the term post-capitalism (with or without the hyphen) has established itself as a term within political theory only very recently. Postcapitalism is a trope that has only established itself since the early 2000s. What is distinctive about postcapitalism, I want to argue, is that it is a brand of political discourse characterised by a post-Marxist emphasis on direct activism and the specificity of separate but related issues.

The roots of postcapitalism can be traced to the global resistance movement and the anti-capitalist street protests and the success of the Zapatistas in the mid-1990s. Specific references to “post-capitalism” can be found in texts by the Midnight Notes collective from the late-1990s. 7 A turning point came with the publication of Hardt and Negri’s Empire in 2000, although the term itself is not used in this book. Here, Hardt and Negri describe the global resistance movement as follows:

First, each struggle, though firmly rooted in local conditions, leaps immediately to the global level and attacks the imperial constitution in its generality. Second, all the struggles destroy the traditional distinction between economic and political struggles. The struggles are at once economic, political, and cultural—and hence they are biopolitical struggles, struggles over the form of life. 8

Empire was a global publishing event that set a new agenda for political thought. The development of postcapitalism as an emergent discourse or genre was built on it, especially its analysis of what is new about global activism at the end of the twentieth century. Initially the politics of labour was marginal to or absent from postcapitalism. Workers of various kinds were included within the political imaginary of postcapitalism as activists in specific struggles against gentrification, ecological devastation, globalisation, genetically modified food, unpaid domestic labour, debt and so on.

What I am calling postcapitalist theory―or postcapitalism for short―consists of at least three mutations of the politics of work: it is post-Marxist insofar as it rejects class struggle as the primary lens for the analysis of capitalism; it is a pragmatic politics of the multiple forms of power operating in an expanded terrain of work that contests the capitalist designation of what counts as work (i.e. its concept of what counts as work is post-capitalist); and, insofar as it reanimates the politics of work through racial, gender and other “dimensions of difference”, it extends the agency of exploitation from the capitalist specifically to a spectrum of agents within or representative of social systems and discourses (i.e. it is post-capitalist). That is to say, whereas for the traditional left workers confronted capitalists, for postcapitalist theory workers (as women, people of colour, and so on) confront the husband, the racist, the heteronormative family unit, the state, advertisers, numerous specific institutions, the white working class and so on. Postcapitalism, therefore, has lodged itself within social reproduction theory, intersectionality, the anti-work movement, the politics of precarity and left accelerationism as a micro-politics of work.

Already in 2002 Ronaldo Munck could acknowledge a metamorphosis of the politics of labour in “the ‘new’ social movements around environmental, gender and peace issues”, saying “a certain type of trade-union and labour politics may well be defunct, [but] the workers’ movement has been at the forefront of many ‘new’ movements for change.” 9 He explained: “They stress their autonomy from party politics and prioritise civil society over the state. Power itself is redefined not as something to be ‘seized’ but as a diffused and plural element woven into the very fabric of society.” 10 This is the politics of “one no, many yeses” to which someone like Gustavo Esteva, the “mestizo” historian and philosopher of the Zapatista movement, has given a distinctive voice and vocabulary. Munck attempted to bridge the gap between the traditional left and postcapitalism, but postcapitalism does not reject the politics of work, but assigns issues around wages, questions of exploitation and so forth a minor place within a broader, more diverse set of issues and movements.

The material basis for the marginalisation of class and work within postcapitalism is not only the diminished power of the labour movement under conditions of neoliberal deregulation and the seeming obsolescence of workers within a projected future of full automation, but also the intensified dissolution of workers as a class as a result of the spatial asymmetries of the exploitation of workers in which the lifestyle of western workers “depends on the low wages and the barbaric working conditions in the ‘developing’ world”, 11 and the leaders of the workers’ movements in the West are “so remote from each other spatially that they never meet, do not speak the same language and never experience together the community and solidarity deriving from joint collective action.” 12 Postcapitalist theory redefines the politics of work as the social force of the workers’ movement declines and its hegemony within the struggle against capitalism palpably wanes.

For the most part, the category of the traditional left is not clearly defined within postcapitalist theory, although it is spoken of as if we all understand what it is and what is (or was) wrong with it. John Holloway, who is a longstanding Marxist scholar and political activist, wrote Change the World Without Taking Power (2002), to address “the crisis of the traditional forms of anti-capitalist struggle”. 13 Holloway’s primary line of argument is political: his criticism of Marxism argues that there is no standpoint from which to take a correct position and therefore that the struggle must be based on actual experiences: the multiple “screams” against capitalism and oppression.

Moishe Postone defined the traditional left in 1993 as bearing a twin commitment to redistributive economics and the affirmation of work. This, arguably, is the official politics of the reformist labour movement (the trade unions, social democratic parties and so on), but the term “traditional left” also evokes, for some, Leninism, Trotskyism, Stalinism, Maoism or Marxism generally (sometimes treated as one unified tradition), or refers to the socialist and communist movements prior to May 68. Always, we can say, is the traditional left deployed as a category to identify only those specific elements of the Left to be jettisoned by the new generation or the new politics, and, therefore, is necessarily a distortion. As such, the primary problem with the category of the traditional left is that it represents the breadth of socialist and communist traditions from the perspective of what they lack, and, as a result, when the workers’ movement aligned itself with anti-colonial, feminist, ecological and peace movements, for instance, these instances are extracted from the traditional left as if they did not belong there.

In her book Work: The Last 1,000 Years (2018), Andrea Komlosy differentiates her theory of work from the traditional left by saying that the labour movement stuck to a very narrow concept of work. 14 Housework and subsistence work were not included in their definition of work or their conception of exploitation and appropriation and this denied non-paid, household and care activities the character of work. She claims that a feminist and postcolonial framework allows us to include all types of work and labour, including commodified labour, reciprocal or subsistence labour and tributary labour. It may be possible to identify certain individuals or organisations within the workers’ movement of the nineteenth and twentieth century that held such a narrow conception of work, but other examples could be found―particularly within the Marxist tradition―which acknowledge at least as wide a variety of modalities of labour as Komlosy enumerates.

The term postcapitalism marks a political project tangential to the Marxist, socialist and communist traditions of superseding capitalism. Some contributions to the postcapitalist debate have been less hostile to the traditional left than others. Gar Alperovitz’s America Beyond Capitalism (2005), for instance, is a sympathetic, if moderate, updating of support for welfarist techniques, including universal health insurance, non-profits and worker-owned firms. 15 Holloway, Massimo de Angelis, Gustavo Esteva, Monty Neill, Naomi Klein and John Jordan, who were early advocates of the new global anti-capitalism of the 1990s and early 2000s, all have strong connections with the traditional left, too, but their writings can be seen as indicators of a tendency in which the supersession of capitalism can only be conceived in terms of a simultaneous supersession of the perceived narrow class politics of the labour movement. Articulated in contrast with the revolutionary tradition and the valorisation of the worker, postcapitalism has an agenda which Rosi Braidotti designated as posthuman. Braidotti speaks for both when she says, “[f]or me, as a student of Foucault, Derrida and Irigaray, the crisis of Humanism means the rejection of all forms of universalism, including the socialist variation.” 16 Posthumanism articulates postcapitalism’s reservations about a workerist tradition that is the heir to the Enlightenment concept of Man and which remains anthropocentric if not classically individualist. Postcapitalism’s critique of the traditional left initially could be read as vacillating between a rebooted communism for the twenty-first century and a rejection of both communism and the workers’ movement (sometimes in the form of a communisation or commoning untethered from the Communist Party and social democracy), as obstacles to a diverse set of specific struggles.

These debates on work have also been conspicuous within the analysis of the online prosumer by Christian Fuchs and others. Identifying leisure and rest as work has become the trigger of a new politics. Work has taken on novel political meanings as a result of the diminished power of the labour movement in the passage from welfare state capitalism to globalisation, but also due to the transformation of debates on work by feminist and post-colonial activists and theorists. In particular, for this investigation of politics of labour, work has been both depoliticised and repoliticised within the discourses of postcapitalism as a sphere of micro-political contestation. Mark Fisher, too, focused on the psychopathologies of work knitted into a post-punk rebooting of sub-culture studies. For him, as well as other postcapitalist theorists, politics is an aesthetic practice of the transformation of subjectivities and lived experience. “The kind of reconstruction of subjectivity and of cognitive categories that post-capitalism will entail’, Fisher argued, ‘is an aesthetic project as much as something that can be delivered by any kind of parliamentary and statist agent alone.” 17

My point, here, is not to advocate a narrow workerist politics or condone the historical affiliations of sectors of the workers movement with patriarchy, colonialism and the Anthropocene, nor to underestimate the political significance of the adjacency of postcapitalism with socialist and communist traditions, but merely to trace the preconditions for the contemporary theoretical debates on the politics of work. Work has returned as a major political concern in the political terrain cleared by postcapitalism, but this was not the original intention for it. Initially, on the contrary, work receded as a political issue not only because other issues took its place, but also because it seemed tied up with vanguard and bureaucratic forms of social change that appeared indifferent or hostile to the biopolitics and micropolitics of the new commons.

Paul Mason’s book Postcapitalism (2005) and the left accelerationist writings of Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams, which are probably the most prominent of all the contributions to the debate so far, give a false impression that the postcapitalist debate is a strain of thinking that issues from Marxism. Postcapitalism originally emphasised a combination of feminism, indigenous struggles and ecological activism as the centrepiece of a politics in which the emancipation from capitalism was conceived as simultaneously an emancipation from the labour movement, which was perceived as masculinist, white, colonialist and insufficiently critical of industrialisation. In the book A Postcapitalist Politics (2006), by Katherine Gibson and Julie Graham, for instance, it is only “when activists (refus[e] to root their poverty and problems in any ultimate origin (such as capitalism)” that “a politics of possibility in the here and now ” emerges. 18 In my reading, therefore, Mason’s Postcapitalism and Srnicek and Williams’s Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work (2015), are best understood as reclamations of the term postcapitalism for Marxism.

Holloway argues that Marxism had always conceived of liberation from work rather than liberation in work. Indeed, every nineteenth-century communist, from Owen to Proudhon and from Hess to Marx, argued, in relative terms, for the reduction of the time spent in work and an increase in the time spent in forms of rest, leisure and self-development, and in absolute terms, for the abolition of the wage system altogether. However, this position has become the shibboleth of postcapitalism insofar as it operates as an implicit or explicit bracketing off of the traditional left’s alleged advocacy of labour. This conscientious break from the trade union and Soviet traditions aligns Holloway firmly with the French and Italian post-Marxist discourses of the 1960s and 1970s. The refusal of work becomes, in Holloway’s writing, not only a political demand necessary for postcapitalism, but also, despite his claim that Marxism was always a politics against work, a distinctive motif of post-Marxism and therefore clears the ground for the redirection of the politics of labour. By lodging labour into a framework of protest and activism in which the worker is principally a political subject with grievances against a system that must be changed, labour is preserved as a theatre for social change after the decline of the traditional left.

“Whatever else it may be, the vision of postcapitalism privileged in the autonomist tradition”, Kathi Weeks stresses, “is not a vision of the work society perfected, with its labors rationally organized, equally required, and justly distributed. Rather, it is a vision of the work society overcome”. 19 Weeks carefully navigates the “problem” of work between the critique of the “work ethic” and the recognition of political value of the feminist campaign for wages for housework. Within her impressively formulated argument for a “life beyond work”, Weeks makes a case for rejecting the kind of distinction between work and labour that is exemplified by Hannah Arendt’s differentiation of work, labour and activity. (I will do the same thing for different reasons below.) Weeks describes her rejection of distinguishing between work and labour as a method for “blocking access to a vision of unalienated and unexploited work in the guise of living labor”. 20 She acknowledges the importance of Jean Baudrillard’s theory of “productivism” in her conception of the dangers of affirming labour within a critique of work. For Baudrillard, productivism names the presence of the work ethic within the Marxist analysis of labour. This is the blueprint for the postcapitalist concept of the traditional left and it is pivotal to Weeks’s account of the contemporary politics of work.

When Baudrillard asserts that production “reemerges, idealized, behind the critique of the capitalist mode of production”, he attempts to snare Marxism by discovering a common denominator for capitalism and its critique. 21 By choosing the vague idea of production and its normative and absolute representation productivism, Baudrillard sacrifices analytical efficacy for the sake of polemical advantage. His merging of capitalism and Marxism renders Baudrillard’s own theory incapable of distinguishing between productivity (a measurable increase in the proportion of economic output to economic input), the labour theory of the production of value (i.e., variable and constant capital), and the social ontology of the production and reproduction of society (i.e., labour as the appropriation and transformation of natural resources and raw materials for material and immaterial use).

However, the accusation of productivism for Baudrillard is not oriented around the refusal of work but, as he reveals in the final chapter of the book, the rise of consumerism.

The bourgeoisie knew how to make the people work, but it also narrowly escaped destruction in 1929 because it did not know how to make them consume. […] the problem was no longer one of production but one of circulation. Consumption became the strategic element; the people were henceforth mobilized as consumers; their “needs” became as essential as their labor power. 22

Productivism is problematic for Baudrillard primarily because it fails to recognise the explosion of advertising and the boom in consumption in the 1950s and 1960s as well as the oligopolistic reorganisation of capitalism in Keynesian planning in concert with the rise of identity politics. In this regard, Baudrillard’s analysis belongs not to postcapitalist literature but to the theory of the post-industrial society that Daniel Bell was formulating at the same time as characterised by computerisation, service industries, information economies and so on. What Bell and Baudrillard share, which anticipates postcapitalist theory, is that they identify precisely those emergent features of what Ernest Mandel called “late-capitalism” that appear to discredit or marginalise the Marxist critique of political economy. 23

Weeks proposes a more far-reaching systemic critique of capitalism and a “political project of ‘life against work’”. 24 This, she claims, addresses the relationship between production and reproduction that had been raised more narrowly in the wages for housework campaign as well as the abolition of the wage-labour system and the rejection of the traditional left’s affirmation of the dignity of labour. Weeks acknowledges how the opposition of work and life has been co-opted within the management of labour itself in the exploitation of what Peter Fleming calls the “authenticity” of the worker in their jobs. 25 Nevertheless, the terms of Weeks’ opposition of work and life appears to fall some way short of Miya Tokumitsu’s critique of the “unofficial work mantra for our time”, namely “do what you love”. 26 Peter Frase, in his compact book Four Futures: Life After Capitalism (2017), steers away from a Marcusean-style “erotics” of labour but nevertheless extrapolates the effects of automation and the implementation of a universal basic income to decommodify labour to the extent that “work wouldn’t be work at all any more, it would be what we actually choose to do with our free time.” 27

These issues around work, labour and human fulfilment were given a very different treatment by Bruno Gulli in 2005 through a poststructuralist philosophy of labour that developed out of Hardt and Negri’s Empire and Italian post-workerism generally. 28 On the basis of the refusal of work, Gulli insisted nevertheless that labour is the ontological basis not only of work, but also those forms of human activity that exceed work, principally in his account artistic production. In some sense Gulli’s argument draws on the tradition of Marxist scholarship, following Marcuse’s interpretation of Marx’s 1844 Manuscripts, which regarded artistic labour as the paradigm of freedom. Even so, Gulli’s post-Marxism is expressed through his principled rejection of any and all economic analyses of labour. While the revitalisation of a politics of work that establishes its distance from the traditional left of some variety is typical of postcapitalist theory, Gulli’s affirmation of labour is uncharacteristic of the genre.

One of the reasons why artistic labour no longer serves as the model of unalienated labour in postcapitalism―as it did for Adolfo Sánchez Vásquez, Carol Gould and Phillip Kain in the 1970s, and continues to do so for Gulli today―is that the production of contemporary art is no longer characterised exclusively by aesthetic processes of composing, authoring, making and mark-making. As John Roberts expresses it, the deskilling of art after Duchamp diminishes the technical difference between artistic production and “general social technique”. 29 Readymades, paintings produced over the telephone, photomontages and monochrome paintings, or producing art through acts of buying, finding, spilling, instructing, gluing, tracing and erasing, deliberately confronts not only the presence of handicraft in art but also the politics of labour that turns on art as a paradigm of non-capitalist labour. This is why the avant-garde so often realises its critique of aesthetic labour by embracing mechanisation, automation, commerce and business.

There is nothing more alien to contemporary art than the hope placed in aesthetic labour processes exemplified by Harold Rosenberg. “A painting that is an act is inseparable from the biography of the artist”, he argued, knowingly contrasting painting with the alienation of the worker from the labour process. Underscoring this point, he wrote that “the act-painting is of the same metaphysical substance as the artist’s existence. The new painting has broken down every distinction between art and life.” 30 Or, even more emphatically, he says, the test of action painting is “the degree to which the act on the canvas is an extension of the artist’s total effort to make over his experience.” 31

Art’s avant-garde critique of aesthetic labour is not one of the standard arguments within postcapitalism for the rejection of artistic labour as a model of postcapitalist labour. Such changes in artistic practices are not acknowledged by Andrew Ross or Angela McRobbie when they interpret the artist as the premier model of the ideally flexible worker (perhaps because they are concerned primarily with the idealisation of the artist in a form divorced from the actual social relations of artistic production itself). 32 Mark Banks confirms this, arguing that “In the cultural industries, workers surrender themselves to ultra-intensive work patterns in order to be recognised as properly creative subjects.” 33 Sarah Brouillette warns against “a rhetoric celebrating the self-managing, flexible personality as the engine of economic growth” and that “the idea that they should be committed heart and soul to their work.” 34 Whereas Hans Robert Jauss and others argued in the mid-1970s that art was the paradigm of non-alienated labour, drawing on the sociological work of Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiapello, whose analysis of the new spirit in business studies that modelled labour on the erosion of the distinction between life and work in art has become a staple of postcapitalism, this argument treats the Western Marxist vindication of aesthetic labour as fully recuperated in Post-Fordism. 35

Åke Sandberg’s study of the Swedish experiment in creating humane work in Volvo’s Uddevalla plant, which closed in the 1993 after only 4 years of production, concludes that the plant was “outstanding in its human-centredness and the quality of work with groups building whole cars based on theories of holistic human learning”. 36 Sarat Maharaj detects a “creativity pandemic” in the same episode. 37 Andrew Ross’s analysis of high-tech start-ups of Manhattan in the 1990s does not reject all hope in humane work and the humane workplace but focuses on its hidden costs. As well as charting the passage from digital handicraft to digital drudgery, Ross acknowledges the serious shortfall between the politics of the humane workplace and the “just workplace (with protection for all, democratic control over the enterprise, and assurances of security beyond the job)”. 38

Ross draws directly on the study of the “white collar” worker by Charles Wright Mills at the beginning of the 1950s. The argument that all work should be reorganised according to the model of handicraft, which Mills develops in dialogue with the legacy of nineteenth-century Socialism exemplified by William Morris is also found in the French humanist workerism of Georges Friedmann after World War II. It has deeper roots also in the utopian socialist affirmation of the historical possibility of “attractive labour” inaugurated by Charles Fourier in the early years of the nineteenth century and therefore precedes historically―and provides the blueprint for―the ideal of the artist as an anticipation of the worker after capitalism. Mills switches the centre of gravity from the piety of hard work to the ideal of artisanal production and proceeds to measure all non-handicraft activity against the ideal model of work as a reward in itself. Mills sharpens his ideal and unrealised conception of handicraft labour against a list of negative characterisations of human activity. It is, therefore, a humanist argument not only in its overt avowal of the fully developed human being in the meaningful, free activity of work no longer split from play, life and culture; it is humanist in its methodology insofar as it fails to acknowledge that human individuals are “not the constitutive subjects of history, but constituted subjects in history”. 39

Jacques Rancière anticipated the postcapitalist critique of pleasure and self-realisation in work in the early 1980s and in his essay “The Myth of the Artisan” from 1986. “Whenever workers speak in the name of work, affirm its rights or glorify its greatness”, he says, “we run the risk of inferring a false picture of the collectivity they represent or of the realities that underlie their speech.” 40 This argument specifically targeted those left-wing social historians who built a politics out of the affirmation of work within the labour movement. With Rancière in mind, we can argue that handicraft appears as ideal for Mills because he derives the model of satisfaction in work from the intellectual critique of capitalism rather than from the industrial workers’ demand for a reduction or elimination of work. Mills does not make this argument, though, because following Leo Lowenthal, he groans about the rising importance of leisure, which “becomes the center of character-forming influences, of identification models: it is what one man has in common with another”. 41

Leisure, consumption, entertainment, idleness and laziness constitute a significant portion of a spectrum of pejorative alternatives to work within the discourses of anti-work and post-work in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Some of these have been the subject of critique in recent years. Maurizio Lazzarato’s argument in favour of Marcel Duchamp’s laziness is a prominent example of this. As unlikely as it sounds, Duchamp is cast as an opponent of capitalism because he represents laziness as the absolute refusal of artistic work and wage labour. Duchamp’s laziness is presented as exemplary of both anti-work and anti-art. “Duchamp”, Lazzarato claims, “maintained an obstinate refusal of both artistic and wage-earning work, refusing to submit to the functions, roles, and norms of capitalist society”. 42 The problem with work, for Lazzarato, is the impoverishment and standardisation of subjectivity imposed by “work”. 43 He turns the postcapitalist critique of the workers’ movement into an absolute opposition to the worker’s attitude to work arguing it “turned workers into eulogists of their own enslavement”. 44 This is the basis of his endorsement of Duchamp’s judgment that “working in order to live is idiotic”. 45

Lazzarato asserts that ”laziness undercuts the primacy of labor” and “subverts, one by one, exchange, property, and work and does so outside the Marxist tradition”, but again this argument can be made only in ignorance of the strong emphasis on the abolition of labour and the reduction of work time in Marx and Marxism. 46  Clearly, Lazzarato is trading on a caricature of Marxism, communism and the workers’ movement that allows him to think that his argument against work does not have deep roots in the traditions that he rejects. Lazzarato poses the problem of the politics of work through a binary of “freedom from work or freedom through work”, which, in the lexicon of postcapitalism, is a choice between postcapitalism and the traditional left. 47

It is worth pointing out, here, that while it is possible to conceive of individual freedom in terms of the liberation from work, Marxism, communism and the workers’ movement have tended to emphasise the collective goal of abolishing the wage system and the expropriation of the means of production. This is an important difference because, when Lazzarato argues that Duchamp’s laziness―his refusal to work―“challenges the three mainstays of capitalist society” (i.e. exchange, property and labour), he allows this “challenge” to be limited to the level of the individual non-conformist, the fortunate soul, who escapes from the system, rather than destroying the system. 48 What’s more, Lazzarato appears to be blind to the gender implications of his affirmation of Duchamp’s laziness. “The readymade”, he claims, “is a lazy technique because it involves no virtuosity, no special know-how, no productive activity, and no manual labour.” 49 In saying ”Duchamp simply picked them off the shelf of the lazy man’s hardware store” Lazzarato underestimates the labour involved in processes of sourcing and purchasing items. 50 Unlike contemporary feminist philosophers, therefore, Lazzarato fails to recognise that shopping is a form of labour and therefore undermines his own claim that laziness “undermines social and sexual identities”. 51

Lazzarato’s postcapitalist vindication of laziness can be compared with Bertrand Russell’s defence of idleness from 1935. 52 Russell constructs his argument around four positions, two types of work and two types of idleness. There is an active worker and a passive worker who only tells people what to do rather than doing it herself. And there is a passive idler and an active idler who produces culture and science. Work, for him, can be active (production) or passive (management), and idleness, too, can be active (cultivated) or passive (consumerist). Active work consists of “altering the position of matter” and the passive works consists of “telling other people to do so”, or, if you prefer, altering the position of workers. These two types of work constitute two social classes.

Russell points out that a third social class lives off rent drawn from land ownership and these engage in neither of the two types of work because “landowners are idle”. His book has the title In Praise of Idleness but it is no endorsement of the landowning class. Russell explains: “Unfortunately, their idleness is only rendered possible by the industry of others; indeed their desire for comfortable idleness is historically the source of the whole gospel of work. The last thing they ever wished is that others should follow their example.” 53 When Russell advocates idleness, therefore, he is not speaking of an individual form of idleness that constitutes a privilege in relation to the waged and the salaried. On the contrary, he says, “the road to happiness and prosperity lies in an organised diminution of work”. 54 That is to say, idleness will have to become universal. However, Russell does not adhere strictly to the binary of work and idleness. Instead, he displaces the division between work and labour into idleness itself. Urban entertainment, he says, has become “passive” 55 in contrast with folk culture, which survives in “remote rural areas”, and the pastimes of the “leisure class”, both of which he describes as “cultivated”. 56

In Friedrich Schiller’s terms, Russell rejects both idleness and toil in order to promote aesthetic activity. For Schiller, the division between work, idleness and activity, based on Aristotelian distinctions between poesis, praxis, phronesis, techneand theoria, correlate with social divisions between workers whose subjectivities are ruined by drudgery, aristocrats who are made subjectively derelict by idleness, and the middling kind of people who might embody freedom through aesthetic activity. 57 As György Lukàcs points out, Schiller is the first to weaponise aesthetics in the critique of existing society by “extending the aesthetic principle far beyond the confines of aesthetics, by seeing it as the key to the solution of the question of the meaning of man’s existence in society.” 58 Russell, however, breaches Schiller’s distinction by arguing that there is both an idle and active form of idleness and, symmetrically, both an idle and active form of activity. Russell divides toil into manual and intellectual drudgery and straddles idleness across Schiller’s distinction between idleness and activity.

Despite his enormous debt to Immanuel Kant, it is Schiller’s lacing together of art and play as an exemplary of freedom that has been consistently taken to be the origin of the philosophical reconceptualisation of art and labour. For him, poetry and the aesthetic occupy a utopian third place between “on the one hand intensive and exhausting labor, on the other enervating indulgence”, that is to say, between toil and idleness, or again between “painful labor” and the “repugnant spectacle of indolence”. 59 Kant’s remark about art being a form of play is magnified by Schiller and elaborated through an extended and clear articulation of art’s relationship to labour and leisure. If Kant’s conceptual formulation of artistic activity can be redescribed as neither leisure nor work, Schiller’s concept of play is conceived as being “active without working”. Play is the activity of freedom.

Schiller’s advocacy of aesthetic activity is a Romantic reworking of Aristotle’s hierarchy of poesis, praxis and theoria. Praxis differs from poesis (production) for Aristotle insofar as it is its own end. “In recommending the theoretical life Aristotle says that whereas contemplation ‘aims at no end beyond itself’ fine actions do ‘aim at some end and are not desirable for their own sake’; but in recommending the life of action he says that doing noble and good deeds is a thing desirable for its own sake, and that ‘those activities are desirable in themselves from which nothing is sought beyond the activity’.” 60 For Aristotle, contemplation is the pinnacle of activity, whereas the labour used to make products is the most dehumanising kind of activity. Means and ends are given diametrically opposed values. Physical work that produces goods is a means to an end and therefore not a good in itself. Activity as an end in itself, for Aristotle, cannot be mere technique, since any work drawing on craft is determined by habit. Actions are done for the sake of other things, and things we can do are not themselves the ends with a view to which we do them, yet.

The medieval hierarchy of activities―praying, fighting, working, or the religious life, the military life, and the life of toil―is a variant of Aristotelian priorities. In addition, the academic elevation of the Fine Arts above handicraft in the seventeenth century is an Aristotelian project. Schiller’s notion of aesthetic activity is, at once, recognisably Aristotelian in its structure and, at the same time, a calculated rebuttal of its normative matrix. Schiller’s aesthetic education can be read as a specific form of contemplation, but he cautiously steers his argument away from the established category of contemplation towards the aesthetic in order to point towards something else.

Schiller’s methodology is dialectical. It turns on a reconciliation of “two contrary forces”. He typically understands each single force or element to be one-sided, determining and constraining, and time and again he opposes a negative force with another negative force in order to bring about a synthesis in which the faults of each are neutralised in a third state that unifies them. Play is the third term that reconciles toil and idleness. Play, for him, is the unity of the modern bifurcation of work and pleasure. This is evident in Schiller’s concept of genius. Genius is “naïve” insofar as it is natural rather than sophisticated, childlike rather than worldly, feminine rather than masterly, innocent rather than corrupted and ancient rather than fashionable. The genius does not proceed by rules or tradition or any known principles, but rather to enthusiasm, ideas and feelings that form an internal compulsion to act. 61 Genius is a figure of freedom articulated through an undetermined mode of activity. Genius is also, pertinently, a personification of labour without labour or work without work, that is to say, of a workless condition lodged within the individual itself.

Hannah Arendt’s distinction between work and labour, in which the former produces commodities and the latter reproduces life, was framed within a three-part division that is credited to Aristotle but resonates more with the normative agenda of Schiller. In both The Human Condition, originally published in 1958, and Labour, Work, Action, originally a lecture given by Arendt in 1964 at a conference on Christianity and “Economic Man” in Chicago, Arendt distinguishes work and labour from “action” or the vita activa. 62 Labour originally connotes pain, whereas work referred to products before it was associated with the processes of producing them. Although Hannah Arendt drew on the methodology of Heidegger and Husserl, which stressed the originary meanings of terms in distinguishing work and labour, she transposes rather than preserves the etymological sources of these two terms. Labour is rejigged to refer to the processes of reproducing life, while work is refashioned as the process rather than the result of producing things. As such, Arendt deliberately constructed a conceptual distinction between work and labour by policing language use. Arendt divides the single category of work or labour into two categories, based loosely on a real but obsolete difference within language.

Making things, manufacturing commodities, sustaining life through cooking, cleaning and care and so on are recognised as necessary by Arendt, but they are contrasted with the civic life of political participation in democratic governance which is the core element of ”action”. If Schiller converted the idleness of the ruling class into the aesthetic “activity” of the bourgeoisie, Arendt reinstates a version of idleness―as the freedom from toil―as the precondition for living politically and therefore living fully.Paolo Virno reconstitutes Arendt’s distinction between work, labour and action in order to oppose politics and work so that the refusal of work becomes the prerequisite of the resistance to capitalism. “The key to political action (or rather the only possibility of extracting it from its present state of paralysis)”, he says, “consists in developing the publicness of Intellect outside of Work, and in opposition to it”. 63 As with Arendt, Virno transposes Aristotle’s description of the political life of an elite ruling minority into a vision for a counter-hegemonic mass of people. The freedom from work is therefore changed from a privilege to a universal condition. As such, Virno’s politics hovers over the question of whether the freedom from work is the precondition for postcapitalism or postcapitalism is the precondition for the freedom from work. This difficulty does not arise for Aristotle, but it does for all theories of aesthetic and political “activity” after Schiller, because, although the privileged freedom from work is empirically given, an explanation is required for the universalisation of the freedom from work.

Schiller opposes activity to contemplation, leisure and toil, but activity, for Schiller, is not understood as a form of labour. It is possible to read certain passages in the “Letters” as suggesting a radical reorganisation of labour in order to bring about the universal reign of aesthetic activity, as Phillip Kain does, but Schiller was ultimately incapable of formulating a concept of aesthetic labour, because, for him, this conjunction would be a contradiction in terms. 64 It was not labour, but a specific kind of activity independent of labour, that held the promise of freedom for Schiller. Marcuse’s philosophy of work, which sets the tone for later theories of nonalienated labour, can be read as a Schillerian critique of work transposed into a theory of work itself.

In 1932 Marcuse published a review of Marx’s 1844 Manuscripts, entitled “New Sources on the Foundation of Historical Materialism”. 65 The following year he published his essay “On the Philosophical Foundation of the Concept of Labor in Economics”. In the former, he said, “if we look more closely at the description of alienated labour we make a remarkable discovery: what is here described is not merely an economic matter. It is the alienation of man, the devaluation of life, the perversion and loss of human reality”. 66 In the 1844 Manuscripts, Marx develops, for the first time, a theory of alienated labour. Marcuse reads this as if Marx primarily theorised non-alienated labour but could do so only by outlining its negation. “Marx grasps labour”, he says, “beyond all its economic significance, as the human ‘life-activity’ and the genuine realization of man”. 67 Marcuse’s critique of Stalinism prompts this reading of the “early Marx” as the theorist of labour as an aesthetic and subjective activity. In effect, Marcuse reads Marx through the ideas of Moses Hess.

Hess was a close collaborator of Marx in the 1840s and one of the leading inheritors of utopian socialism who converted its principles into a fully-fledged communism. In 1843 Hess argued that within “free human society… free human occupations… ceases to be ‘labour’ and becomes totally identical with ‘pleasure’”. 68 At first, the blending of work and pleasure is only one element of his political vision, but by 1846 it had become the leading principle of his communist ethos. His Communist Credo begins with the question “What is the meaning of working?”, and he answers: “Every transformation of matter for the life of mankind means working”. 69 Beginning with such an ontological definition of work, Hess’s vindication of labour is not reducible to a myth of the happy labourer. 70 Indeed, it is based on the critique of the existing system of work: “Only under the conditions of alienated property is pleasure divorced from work”, he said in his important publication, Twenty One Sheets from Switzerland. 71

For Hess, the difference between unpleasant work and work that is identical with pleasure is not morphological―he does not base it on the difference between work conducted in the factory and the skilled labour of the artisan’s workshop, for instance―but on its social relations, specifically whether it is free or forced. “Free activity is all that grows out of an inner drive”, he says, whereas a worker “who looks for the wages of his work outside himself is a slave”. 72 Hess goes on to ask “[c]an we nowadays act according to our true human nature or truly enjoy our human life?”, to which he answers, “Absolutely not”. This is because, he says, “[a]lmost every activity in our society comes not from an inner drive of our human nature, not out of passion and love of labour, but out of external pressure, usually because of need or money”, 73 and “those life activities which are caused by inner drives, which we call pleasure or virtue, are perverted in such a way that they hurt the living enjoyment of human nature even more than this occurs through coercive labour”. 74 Among his descriptions of the “hurt” that is characteristic of pleasure under existing conditions he says, “drinking turns into boozing” and “taking a rest from strenuous work into laziness, scholarship into pedantry” and “virtue into self-torture”. 75

From what we have considered so far, we can identify three different types of postcapitalism. Utopian postcapitalism can name the element of postcapitalism in utopian socialism; revolutionary postcapitalism refers to the socialist and communist project of abolishing the capitalist mode of production; and political postcapitalism refers to the experimental organisation of society in the here and now according to principles and strategies that, if universalised, would bring about the end of capitalism. However, contemporary postcapitalism does not consist simply of the shift from revolutionary postcapitalism to political postcapitalism. For the full picture of contemporary postcapitalism we need to acknowledge the emergence of technological postcapitalism and post-work postcapitalism.

Marx’s contribution to the history of thinking about labour in his notebooks of 1844 and in his published work after that date has been underestimated by the tendency to read his discussion of alienated labour as a theory of labour combined with a philosophy of alienation rather than as a twin critique of existing theories of labour and alienation within the specific theory of alienated labour. Marx’s intervention in the history of thinking about labour is not fully acknowledged by merely observing that Marx introduced the concept of labour into his thought in 1844, or that Marx realised his critique of G.W.FHegel through the examination of labour exemplified by the proletariat. As such, from the outset, Marx did not theorise labour generically but alienated labour in particular. When writers read Marx’s chapter on “Estranged Labour” as a redeployment of the Hegelian and Feuerbachian idea of alienation―sometimes completely failing to refer to the concept of alienated labour altogether―or when thinkers interpret the concept of alienated labour as a lamentable or revolutionary revitalisation of the concept of alienation, the whole concept of alienated labour is fractured and diminished and its specificity is sacrificed.

Marcello Musto traces three rival interpretations of the 1844 Manuscripts that competed within the Marxist tradition between the 1930s and the 1960s. The first group, which consists of heterodox Marxists, theologians and existentialists, “stress the theoretical pre-eminence of the former work”, and this position survives in the various claims that the 1844 Manuscriptsor the Grundrisse ought to be taken as superior to Capital and the alleged economic determinism of orthodox Marxism. 76 The second argue for a break between the early and mature work in which only the later work is considered to represent Marxism proper, and this position, both the official line of Marxism-Leninism and the elaborated by Louis Althusser and the Althusserians, continues to be asserted in which the Marx of the 1844 Manuscripts is seen as “the Marx most distant from Marxism”. 77 And “a third tends toward the thesis that there is a theoretical continuum between them and Capital”, which is epitomised by Western Marxism generally and is the position, specifically, of Marcuse and Lukàcs as well as Henri Lefebvre and Mandel, among many others. 78

Each position on the early notebooks of Marx, we can say, has its own implications for the concept of alienated and non-alienated labour. The first and third group have generated theories of alienated labour, whereas the second group have opposed this concept as part of their more general rejection of the humanist theory of alienation. Alfred Schmidt, for instance, “opposed the widespread Western European, often neo-Existentialist, tendency of the 195os to reduce Marx’s thought to an unhistorical ‘anthropology’ centred on the alienation problematic of the early writings”. 79 The concept of alienated labour is the first critical theory of labour and the first labour theory of alienation. Where Hegel and Ludwig Feuerbach might talk of the activity of man, Marx in 1844 talks about labour by referring to the worker, and, against the political economists, who regard the worker as both the source of value and the owner of a commodity (labour) which is sold for a wage, Marx shows that the labour of the worker produces not only commodities and wealth but the conditions of the worker’s material and spiritual impoverishment.

The 1844 Manuscripts comments on two separate discourses on labour―one philosophical and one economic―which Marx critiques simultaneously in the concept of alienated labour. The proper names that signify the two components of Marx’s thinking on labour are Hegel and Smith. Marx’s concept of alienated labour sits at the intersection of these two schools of thought. Whatever else it is, therefore, the concept of alienated labour is a significant intervention in the theory of labour as this was developing in philosophy, politics and economics in the first half of the nineteenth century. Alienated labour, as conceived by Marx in 1844, performs a double rupture, simultaneously altering the course of the theory of labour and the philosophy of alienation. On the one hand, the economic conception of labour as the source of value is challenged by viewing labour from the perspective of the worker; and, on the other hand, the Hegelian conception of alienation, which resolved all its negative moments in a positive conception of self-realisation, is critically reconfigured around the idea of the alien product appearing to the worker as a hostile thing, of the process of production being alienated from the worker who is no longer in control of work, and of the alienation of labour power as a saleable commodity.

Heinrich’s introduction to Marx belongs to the “new reading of Marx” tendency that was established as a body of literature in the 1990s by Hans-Georg Backhaus, Moishe Postone and others. His emphasis on value theory in Marx diminishes other crucial aspects of Marxist theory, but it has the benefit of clarifying certain questions about labour that have been misperceived in postcapitalist theory.

The difference between services and physical objects consists of a distinction of the material content; the question as to whether they are commodities pertains to their social form, and that depends upon whether objects and services are exchanged. And with that, we have sorted out the matter of the frequently stated argument that with the “transition from an industrial to a service economy” or in the left-wing variant of Hardt and Negri ―the transition from “material” to “immaterial” production―Marx’s value theory has become outmoded. 80

Reading Marx’s formulation of the relationship between concrete labour (making things and doing things) and abstract labour (producing value), Heinrich states emphatically that “not all labor has a twofold character but rather only commodity-producing labor”. 81 This has been stated before, but it takes on new meaning in the context of postcapitalism, in which every act of labour―considered under the general heading of “work”―appears to produce value or is considered to be identical with or only contingently differentiated from wage labour.

Such detailed analyses should not be taken to prove that the concept of labour is superior to the concept of work in any general sense. Labour and work are synonyms. The mistake of over-investing in the words themselves goes back at least to Engels, who said, in a footnote to the fourth German edition of Marx’s Capital, that “the English language has the advantage of possessing two separate words for these two different aspects of labour”, such that work refers to the qualitative production of use-values and labour refers to the quantitative production of value. 82 The idea that common language use had already established the distinction between use value and exchange value that even in Adam Smith had not been formulated accurately is fictional. Ben Fowkes points out that “unfortunately, English usage does not always correspond to Engels’ distinction”. 83 In fact, there is no pattern in English usage which distinguishes between work and labour as distinct categories of activity. Work and labour are synonyms, although they have separate etymological roots.

Postone, for instance, who was an early advocate of the postcapitalist critique of the traditional left’s affection for labour and the labourer, distinguishes between theories of postcapitalism that are distributive (and redistributive) and the historical elimination of abstract labour, that is to say the supersession of a social system that mediates production and consumption through the abstract operation of value (average socially necessary labour time). At the heart of abstract labour, Peter Hudis points out, is the problem of exchange, which “represents an object-object relation”, and therefore at the heart of the supersession of abstract labour is the abolition of earning a living from labour, value and capital. 84 Abstract labour, he says, insofar as it is characterised as the worker’s activity “turned against him” (the words are Marx’s), can be understood as the application of Marx’s early “critique of subject-predicate inversion to the labour-process”. 85 When an individual worker takes three hours to produce something that is only worth one hour of socially necessary labour, it is clear that external, objective forces dictate and regulate the activity of the individual. That is to say, in a social system based on capital and the accumulation of value the “very activity of the subject becomes the predicate―a thing apart that dominates and controls the real subject”. 86 Postcapitalism consists, therefore, not only of the end of work or wage labour or productive labour, but the end of value and the supersession of the inversion of the subject-predicate relation.

Heinrich, Postone, Hudis and others have supplied clarifications of the Marxist theory of labour not primarily in order to confront errors in postcapitalist theory, but in dialogue with the Marxist tradition itself, especially with the so-called traditional left and its utopian hope to abolish capitalism through state ownership and control of the means of production. This is why the preference for speaking of work rather than labour in postcapitalist theory has to be understood as conceptually impoverishing insofar as the discourses of work―from Max Weber onwards especially―sacrifice the analytical precision of the subcategories of labour such as concrete labour, abstract labour, necessary labour, surplus labour, living labour, dead labour, productive, unproductive and reproductive labour, as well as the formula of average socially necessary labour time. The discourses of work do not have equivalents for these subcategories of labour and therefore inevitably conflate and confuse them.

This extends to the question of what constitutes postcapitalism. To be for or against labour (or work) is too blunt, since capitalism is not characterised specifically by the presence of labour (or work) but only by the dominance of abstract labour over concrete labour. Hudis concludes his close reading of Marx’s theory of postcapitalism by saying “wage-labour will come to an end with the abolition of alienated labour”. 87 This is why Hudis rejects Marcuse’s argument against work. “Marcuse is led to conclude that a new society, for Marx, entails the abolition of labour per se”, rather than the abolition of alienated labour specifically. 88 Marcuse repeats the same mistake when he describes a socialist (or post-capitalist) society as “a society in which free time, not labour time is the social measure of wealth and the dimension of the individual existence”. 89 Hudis underlines how Marx does not argue for the conversion of labour into enjoyment, in the style of Hess, but how, in communism, ”the whole opposition between work and enjoyment disappears”. 90 Labour “as an activity distinct from the enjoyment of a wealth of sensuous possibilities”, Hudis argues, “is abolished”. 91 It is vital that we acknowledge the depth of this abolition. It is not merely a certain modality of labour that is laid waste: what must end is abstract labour. Anti-work is a resonant political slogan, but the only route to postcapitalism is through the abolition of labour reduced to average socially necessary labour time.


  1. Heinrich, Michael. An Introduction to the Three Volumes of Karl Marx’s Capital. New York, NY: Monthly Review Press. 2012 [2004], p. 8
  2. Ibid., p. 9
  3. Streeck, Wolfgang, Buying Time. The Delayed Crisis of Democratic Capitalism. London: Verso. 2017. p. 3.
  4. Ibid., p. 13
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ibid., p. 14
  7. See Midnight Notes 1998, available online at http://www.midnightnotes.org/12intro.html (accessed 2018-04-04.)
  8. Hardt, Michael and Negri, Antonio. Empire. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 2000. p. 56.
  9. Munck, Ronaldo. Globalisation and Labour: The New ‘Great Transformation’. London: Zed Books. 2002. p. 20.
  10. Ibid., p. 20.
  11. Streeck, p. 25.
  12. Ibid.
  13. Holloway, John. Change the World Without Taking Power. London: Pluto Press. 2002. p. 217.
  14. Komlosy, Andrea. Work. The Last 1,000 Years. London: Verso. 2018
  15. Alperovitz, Gar. America Beyond Capitalis. Reclaiming Our Wealth, Our Liberty, and Our Democracy. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2005.
  16. Braidotti, Rosi. “Can the Humanities Become Post-Human? Interview with Rosi Braidotti”. Relations 4.1. 2016. p. 97
  17. Fisher, Mark. “”A social and psychic revolution of almost inconceivable magnitude”: Popular Culture’s Interrupted Accelerationist Dreams”. E-flux #46. 2013. https://www.e-flux.com/journal/46/60084/a-social-and-psychic-revolution-of-almost-inconceivable-magnitude-popular-culture-s-interrupted-accelerationist-dreams/
  18. Gibson-Graham, J.K. A Postcapitalist Politics. Minneapolis, MN and London: University of Minnesota Press. 2006. p. xxvi.
  19. Weeks, p. 101.
  20. Weeks, p. 15.
  21. Baudrillard, Jean. 1975, The Mirror of Production. Translated by Mark Poster. St Louis: Telos Press. p. 17.
  22. Ibid., p. 144.
  23. See Mandel, Ernest. Late Capitalism. Translated by Joris De Bres. 1975. London: Verso.
  24. Weeks, p. 230.
  25. See Fleming, Peter. Authenticity and the Cultural Politics of Work: New Forms of Informal Control. 2009. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  26. Tokumitsu, Miya. Do What You Love and Other Lies About Success and Happiness. 2015. New York: Regan Arts.
  27. Frase, Peter. Four Futures: Life After Capitalism. London: Verso. 2016, p. 41
  28. Gullì, Bruno. 2005. Labor of Fire: The Ontology of Labor between Economy and Culture. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.
  29. Roberts, John. The Intangibilities of Form. Skill and Deskilling in Art After the Readymade. London and New York, NY: Verso. 2007.
  30. Rosenberg, Harold, “The American Action Painters”. Art News. Vol. 51. No. 8. pp. 22-23 & pp. 43-50. p. 23
  31. Ibid., p. 48.
  32. See Ross, Andrew. No-Collar: The Humane Workplace and its Hidden Costs. Philadelphia: Temple University. Books 2003; McRobbie, Angela. Be Creative: Making a Living in the New Culture Industries. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press. 2016
  33. Banks, Mark. “’Being in the Zone’ of Cultural Work”, Culture Unbound: Journal of Current Cultural Research. Volume 6. 2014. P. 241
  34. Brouillette, Sarah. “Academic Labor, the Aesthetics of Management, and the Promise of Autonomous Work”. Nonsite.org #9. 2013. https://nonsite.org/article/academic-labor-the-aesthetics-of-management-and-the-promise-of-autonomous-work
  35. Boltanksi, Luc and Chiapelli, Ève. The New Spirit of Capitalism. London: Verso. 2005.
  36. Sandberg, Åke. Enriching Production: Perspectives on Volvo’s Uddevalla plant as an alternative to lean production. Aldershot: Avebury. 1995. p. 1
  37. Maharaj 2012, p. 135
  38. Ross 2003, p. 20
  39. Elliot 1987, p. 46
  40. Rancière 1986, p. 327
  41. Wright Mills 1972 (1951), p. 238
  42. Lazzarato, Maurizio. Governing by Debt. South Pasadena, CA: Semiotext(e). 2015 [2013]. p. 5.
  43. Ibid., p. 35. Emphasis added.
  44. Ibid., p. 7. The dominated, he says, are “clamouring” (41) for a job. He credits the workers’ movement with nothing other than the invention of the strike and rejects the communist tradition, in which, he says, “the notion of work has always been at once the strength and the weakness”. (6)
  45. Ibid., p. 41. Duchamp (and Lazzarato) appear to be making a judgement about the mental abilities of workers rather than the system of wage labour in which one class owns the means of production and the other class supplies labour for the self-augmentation of value.
  46. Ibid., p. 9.
  47. Lazzarato, Maurizio. Marcel Duchamp and the Refusal of Work. Translated by Joshua David Jordan. Los Angeles: Semiotext(e). p.6
  48. Lazzarato, p. 8.
  49. Ibid., p. 19.
  50. Ibid., p. 20.
  51. Ibid., p. 27.
  52. Russell, Bertrand In Praise of Idleness. London: Routledge, 2004 (1935)
  53. Ibid., p. 4.
  54. Ibid., p. 3. Emphasis added.
  55. Ibid., p. 13.
  56. Ibid., p. 12.
  57. See Schiller, Friedrich. On the Aesthetic Education of Man, trans. Reginald Snell. 1954. New York, Dover Publications.
  58. Lukàcs, György. History and Class Consciousness: Studies in Marxist Dialectics. Translated by Rodney Livingstong. 1971. Cambridge (Mass.): MIT Press.
  59. Schiller 1954, p.35.
  60. Ackrill, John. “Aristotle on Action”. Mind, New Series, Vol. 87, No. 348. 1978, p. 595
  61. See Schiller. Naive and Sentimental Poetry and On the Sublime, translated by J.A. Elias. 1966 (1795). New York: Ungar
  62. See Arendt, Hannah. The Human Condition. 1998 (1958). Chicago: University of Chicago Press; “Labor, Work, Action”. The Portable Arendt. Edited by Peter Baehr. New York: Penguin Books.
  63. Virno, Paolo. ‘Virtuosity and Revolution: The Political Theory of Exodus’, translated by Ed Emory, Radical Thought in Italy: A Potential Politics, edited by Paolo Virno and Michael Hardt, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press 1996, p. 196
  64. Kain, Philip. Schiller, Hegel and Marx: State, Society, and the Aesthetic Ideal of Ancient Greece. 1982. Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press.
  65. When this essay was translated into English in 1972 the title was changed, reflecting the long delay between publications, to “The Foundation of Historical Materialism”.
  66. Marcuse, Herbert. “New Sources on the Foundation of Historical Materialism”. Heideggerian Marxism. Edited by Richard Wolin and John Abromeit. 2005. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. p. 90
  67. Ibid., p. 22
  68. Hess, Moses. The Holy History of Mankind and Other Writings. Edited by Shlomo Avineri. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2004. p. 111
  69. Ibid., p. 116
  70. For a philosophical account of labour as an ontological category see Gullì.
  71. Hess, p. 107.
  72. Ibid., p. 117.
  73. Ibid.
  74. Ibid.
  75. Ibid., pp. 117-118.
  76. Musto, Marcello. “The ‘Young Marx’ Myth in Interpretations of the Economic–Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844”. Critique: Journal of Socialist Theory. #72. p. 256.
  77. Musto 2015. p. 257.
  78. Musto 2015. p. 257.
  79. Schmidt, Alfred. The Concept of Nature in Marx, translated by Ben Fowkes, London: New Left Books. 1971 (1962), p. 9
  80. Heinrich, p. 44.
  81. Ibid., p. 48.
  82. Engels, Friedrich. Capital: A Critique of Political Economy Volume One. Translated by Ben Fowkes. 1990. London: Penguin. p. 138
  83. Fowkes, Ben. Capital: A Critique of Political Economy Volume One. Translated by Ben Fowkes. 1990. London: Penguin. p. 138
  84. Hudis Peter. Marx’s Concept of the Alternative to Capitalism. Leiden: Brill. p. 56.
  85. Ibid., p. 61.
  86. Ibid.
  87. Ibid., p. 119.
  88. Ibid., p. 203. See below my reiteration of Chris Arthur’s discussion of the necessity of reading “labour” as “alienated labour” in Marx’s writing on the supersession of capitalism and the “abolition of labour”.
  89. Marcuse quoted in Hudis, p. 202.
  90. Marx quoted in Hudis, p. 82.
  91. Ibid., original emphasis.