Maurizio Lazzarato on the Bioeconomy and the Crisis of Cognitive Capitalism

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= transmediale 2011; Panel: Life at Work: Bioeconomy and the Crisis of Cognitive Capitalism 05.02.2011

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"More than just 'collective intelligence' and our brain skills, digital economy is absorbing today the whole of our social relations and monetizing the very physical desire of communication. Moreover the crisis of so-called cognitive capitalism within the intellectual property regime as well as educational institutions across Europe is revealing new forms of exploitation and new social tensions. After discussing the paradigms of knowledge economy and immaterial labour, political debate is facing today a ‘biopolitical turn’ in order to frame the new vectors of economic production.

In this keynote conversation the philosophers Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi and Maurizio Lazzarato, investigate the new dimension of bioeconomy, that is the economy of life in the realm of digital networks."


See: Maurizio Lazzarato on Cognitive Capitalism

From the reading notes of Michel Bauwens, 2006.

(MB writes: In 2006, I read a number of essays by Lazzarato, but failed to take down the bibliographic notices. I therefore add them in this entry which is related to the same thematic.)

Maurizio Lazzarato on Filesharing

ML links the practices of filesharing, open access initiatives, to campaigns for cheap access to AIDS drugs

Generic AIDS drugs are offered for $340 as compared to $10,000+ for branded medicines. This is justified by research costs which are most certainly overstatd as pharma companies refuse to share their internal data to prove these figures; AND: most of the research is done with public funds.

Filesharing is a challenge to the infrastructure of control and manipulation, but must be linked to wider transformations. Alternative forms of cultural production are needed.

ML formulates 3 proposals:

- 1. the constitution of a information and cultural commons against the WIPO/WTO IP regime

- 2. the egalitarian transformation of existing publicly funded cultural and scientific infrastructure

- 3. the re-invention of former programs of collective insurance away from the homogenic norms of the bureaucratic state

Maurizio Lazzarato on cultural production under cognitive capitalism

Lazzarato says the French position on the 'cultural exception' (i.e. protectionist regulation of culture to protect the French language and French cultural production against Anglo-Saxon encroachment), is a weak one.

George Simmel's intuition was that it is the modes of production and socialization peculiar to culture that must be introduced in the economy.

Gabriel Tarde, in his 1902 work on 'economic psychology', said that it was intellectual production that tends to shape the production of wealth. This is why he started his inquiry by looking intro the production of books (rather than pins, as was the case for the study of Adam Smith).

For Tarde, 'truth-value' cannot be reduced to use value or exchange value, since its consumption involves neither alienation nor destruction. It is not required to be an object of exchange in order to be communicated. The transmission of knowledge is rather a matter for gift or theft, i.e. it involves ethics, not a market for exchange.

Tarde says that artistic labor produces 'new' sensations and sensitivity, and great authors and artists, socialize and discipline audiences so that people can share and communicate.

Tarde explains the difference between artistic and industrial production:

- 1) one must produce only the new, while the other must fulfill pre-established needs and expectations

- 2) in art, the producer-consumer distinction does not exist. It is on these differences that the 'cultural exception' is predicated, yet these differences are disappearing in cognitive capitalism, which is entirely based on integrating aesthetic production. Goods now routinely integrate truth- and beauty values.

While signifying the subsumption of culture under economic imperatives, it is also a historic opportunity.

Maurizio Lazzarato on Immaterial Labour

Immaterial labour is the labour that produces the informational and cultural content of the commodity. Jobs are increasingly correlated to the capacity to treat information. The fixing of cultural norms and tastes is now the product of mass intellectuality.

This affects:

   - the division between manual and intellectual labour
   - the division between command and execution
   - between labour and creation

Investment in subjectivity is now required and decision-making is diffused throughout the workforce. Work is now the ability to activate and manage productive cooperation.


See: Transmediale_2011_Panel_on_the_Bioeconomy_and_the_Crisis_of_Cognitive_Capitalism

  1. Introduction by Matteo Pasquinelli (it),; own lecture via
  2. Franco "Bifo" Berardi on the Bioeconomy and the Crisis of Cognitive Capitalism,
  3. Panel and open discussion,