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= Labour in Biocapitalism


Andrea Fumagalli and Cristina Morini:

"Labour in biocapitalism has multiple features that open up new analytical scenarios. Those characteristics refer to: relational activities (relational labour); learning and knowledge-transmission activities (linguistic and cognitive labour); imaginary and sense-making activities (symbolic labour); corporeal and sensuous activities (corporeal and sensorial labour); affective and caring activities (affective labour). To sum up, labour in biocapitalism is the ensemble of the vital-cerebral-physical faculties of human beings. For simplicity’s sake, we define it as biolabour."


"Regardless of its prevalent form, biolabour is characterized by the following features:

• The separation between working-time and life-time is overcome. When working performances imply vital faculties, then the definition of a temporal limit between working-time and life-time becomes impossible. Whereas it might fictitiously exist from a juridical standpoint, it is de facto ineffectual since there is no difference whatsoever between life and labour. Life appears to be totally subsumed under labour (here the role of new linguistic-communicative technologies is pivotal).

• The separation between working-place and life-place is overcome. In fact, multiple as it is, biolabour is nomadic labour. It requires a kind of mobility that produces working non-places rather than traditional forms of domestication. From this perspective, we do not argue for a coincidence of working-place and life-space, but rather for an expropriation of the working-place, with all the problematic consequences that derive from it in terms of labour identity.

• The separation between production and reproduction is overcome. This overcoming is the first effect of a putting to work of life itself. We conceive of life not only as life immediately subordinated to productive activities, but also as life directed towards its reflexive social reproduction. Nowadays, this process is exemplified by feminine caring labour. However, we might suggest that the tendential melting down of this distinction implies a partial overcoming of gender-based differences. In other words, we want to pose the problem of difference tout-court.

• The separations among production, reproduction, circulation and consumption are overcome. The act of consuming is no longer reducible to the purchase of a material commodity or a service, as the economic science has traditionally taught us. In biocapitalism, the act of consuming is simultaneously participation of the public opinion, an act of communication, and self-marketing. Nowadays, consumption is participation of the public opinion because it is dominated by increasingly dynamic and specific conventions. As in financial market stakeholders behave according to a tacit convention that influences their actions through ad hoc linguistic-communicative practices, so in the context of monetary realization we witness the development of behavior- and consumption-oriented conventions (Fumagalli, 2007). From this perspective, the incentive to consumption is not based on the necessity to satisfy needs, but rather on the necessity to show a belonging to the common sense. That is precisely why consumption is also an act of communication, form of advertising, and process of branding (Arvidsson, 2006). Advertising, conceived of as the emblem of biocapitalist communication and monetary realization, does not refer to the purchase of external commodities, but rather induces individuals to valorize themselves. It is marketing of oneself, not of a given commodity. As a consequence, the non-separation between production and consumption becomes total. There is no longer separation between working and consuming acts. The Worker and the Consumers, once differentiated although embodied in the same person, are today melted in the vital acts of individuals. Once again, what appears to be an everyday act motivated by self-preservation (as the act of consuming) is valorized through the biocapitalist process of accumulation(Fumagalli, 2007)." (

More Information

Excerpted from: Labour_Theory_of_Value_in_Cognitive_Capitalism