Gilbert Simondon and the Hypothesis of Cognitive Capitalism

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* Article: The imprimatur of capital: Gilbert Simondon and the hypothesis of cognitive capitalism. By Emanuele Leonardi. Special issue of Ephemera on Digital Labour. volume 10(3/4): 253-266



"The paper explores the relevance of Gilbert Simondon’s reflections on the notion of individuation for the development of the political and analytical hypothesis known as Cognitive Capitalism, recently proposed by economists such as Yann Moulier Boutang and Carlo Vercellone. The focus of their analysis is on the new exploitative dimensions of contemporary capitalism. Nowadays, exploitation is exercised on the process of individuation rather than on individuated entities. To theoretically grasp, and politically act upon, this unprecedented configuration, I argue that the Marxian notions of formal and real subsumption are still necessary but not longer sufficient. As a consequence, I will advance and discuss an original concept, that of impression, whose function is to supplement these Marxian notions in an attempt to understand the new modalities of contemporary exploitation. More specifically, the goal is to give a non-neutral account of what seems to be the categorical, albeit paradoxical, imperative of Post-Fordist capitalism: ‘be as different from the social norm as you wish, experience your autonomy in its fullness, as long as the outcome of your behaviour is translatable into the homogeneous grammar of the general equivalent – money’. To give empirical consistency to my analysis, I will attempt to apply the notion of impression to the post-welfare discourse of active social policies that aim to ‘empower’ the unemployed in and through the labour market." (