Cognitive Capitalism vs the Economy of Knowledge

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* Article: Les reformes du gouvernement Raffarin ou 'le capitalisme cognitif contre l'economie de la connaissance. Carlo Vercellone, Multitudes Online, 10/10/04



From the reading notes of Michel Bauwens, 2005:

This is a critique of the reform proposals of Raffarin, the French Prime Minister in 2004, concerning the funding of pension plans. CV rejects both the Malthussian arguments that project a necessary crisis -- which could be averted by the growth of labor productivity, and renewed wealth redistribution, and the regressive utopia of the left which wants to return to Keynesianism and full employment. What is needed is rather a concept of full activity, which combines for 'chosen mobility', instead of imposed precarity, in the context of a secured socialized wage.

It could be funded by a combination of

1) taxes on financial revenues;

2) employer contributions;

3) a greater contribution of the employer side to the totality of added value.

The 3 arguments of Vercellone are:

   - 1) the stress on living labour
   - 2) the socialization of innovation
   - 3) the crisis of exchange value and Intellectual Property

From all of this he concludes that there is a conflict between modes of regulation, between on the one side:

   - 1) neoliberal 'cognitive capitalism', and on the other side,
   - 2) the emancipatory potential of a knowledge economy


The first model is a process of disciplinarization and normalization based on new enclosures which

   - 1) privatize knowledge (through IP), and
   - 2) privatize the institutions of the Welfare State.

It has led to a stress on shareholder capitalism, a drastic reduction of the part of wages in the added value and an increase in the profitability of capital as well as the creation if IP-based rents.

Some observers have noted a drastic reduction of investments, "un modele de profit sans accumulation". One of the effects of this regime are artificially high prices, for example for pharmaceuticals, which is itself one of the causal factors of the crisis of the welfare state.

A de-socialization of the economy proceeds apace:

   - a. through the enlargement of the private sphere and the destruction of the common and public goods
   - b. the precarisation of the workforce, to re-introduce docility against automatisation
   - c. re-introducing scarcity in knowledge to counter the distributed intellectuality through the strengthening of elite universities. It aims for a new segmentation between 
    creation and neo-Taylorism.

Apart from reducing value creation to salaried work, the 'cognitive capitalism' model also reduces knowledge to its commodity form and to capital. Only salaried time can be accounted for value creation and used for financing the welfare state. It denies the social basis of wealth.


The alternative model of regulation ("le modele de democratie radicale des revenus garantis")

In this model liberating non-salaried work is itself the guarantee for an extraordinary development of the productive forces, which will in turn fund the welfare state. Marx wrote about the general intellect:

- “Le temps libre, c.a.d. Le temps pour le plein développement de l’individu … agit lui-même à son tour comme la plus grande des forces productives”.

Free time is therefore the most productive time, and measures which aim to reduce free time, such as prolonging working life to fund pensions, are counter-productive.

Thus what is needed is a 'third way', neither based on neoliberal de-socialisation, neither on the wishful thinking of a return to Keynesianism (based on the paradigm of salaried work).


A universal wage reform would permit to solve the crisis of the welfare state 'from above' ('par le haut'), i.e. without great losses in social well-being. It would save the pension system and attack some of the root causes of the losses of labour power.

And this for three reasons:

   - 1) maintaining or increasing the work time for pensions excludes an increasing number of 'non-regular career' workers. New calculation methods are needed including a 
   disconnect with the contributions.
   - 2) as social unity can no longer be based on the wage factor, the Universal Wage demand would play a unifying role.
   - 3) it would destroy workfare proposals

Characteristics of the Universal Wage

   - 1) it's a primary revenue in response to the sociality of wealth creation. It would be 'added' to other revenues, but subject to progressive taxation
   - 2) it would strengthen the role of society vis a vis capital, because it would:
       - a) it would eliminate poverty (and thus powerlessness)
       - b) it would strengthen bargaining power of workers and eliminate abuses
       - c) it would strengthen the for-benefit sector


Michel Bauwens, from a recapitulation in my notebook:

Peer production is production for use value, not exchange value ('for benefit' not 'for profit'). It creates a shared infrastructure and information commons which is a sine qua non for business development. Business innovation now rests on the value creation of this sphere (i.e. the socialisation of innovation)

The stress is now again on living, non-formal knowledge, no longer on formal proceedings and 'dead knowledge'. It is intellectually diffuse. Knowledge is fragmented.

Value creation can therefore not be reduced to salaried work. The source of wealth is now upfront from the entreprise, diffused in the whole of society, and specifically in the system of education and research. This has consequences for funding the welfare state, which can no longer be funded by salaries.

The creation of a sphere of gratuity and non-mercantile exchange is vital but destabilizes the IP regime.

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