Critique of the Role of Free Labour and the Digital Economy

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* Paper: van den Broek, Diane. From Terranova to Terra Firma: A Critique of the Role of Free Labour and the Digital Economy. Economic and Labour Relations Review, The, Vol. 20, No. 2, July 2010: 123-134.



"On-going class action against America Online's use of 'free labour' has divided opinion about the management of 'digital' labour in the 'new' economy. Web-based systems of collaboration between and within firms and their customers, as well as customer engagement in product innovation, have underscored claims about the evaporation of traditional labour markets and labour processes as well as about (weakening) divisions between production and consumption. This has led to (exaggerated) debates about the contribution of 'free' or 'immaterial' labour to contemporary economies. This paper argues that while significant restructuring has changed traditional organisational forms, capital markets remain centralised and digital labour remains as regulated as other labour. As such, while labour cannot be fully commodified, digital labour is neither free or immaterial, because it is not the content of labour itself, but rather its relationship with capital that gives it 'weight' and value."