The idea of immaterial labour comes to be theorised as a result of the changes in the mode of capitalist production identified as post-Fordism. The Italian tradition of operaismo links the notion of immaterial labour to the move from Fordist to lean production (or Toyotism), where prior to being manufactured, a product must be sold. More specifically defined, immaterial labour refers to two different aspects of labour. According to Lazzarato:

1. "as regards the 'informational content' of the commodity, it refers directly to the changes taking place in workers' labour processes in big companies in the industrial and tertiary sectors, where the skills involved in direct labour are increasingly skills involving cybernetics and computer control (and horizontal and vertical communication)."

2."As regards the activity that produces the 'cultural content' of the commodity, immaterial labour involves a series of activities that are not normally recognised as 'work' - in other words, the kinds of activities involved in defining and fixing cultural and artistic standards, fashions, tastes, consumer norms, and more strategically, public opinion.

The idea that immaterial labour directly produces the capital relation,--something that material labour hiddenly did--changes the phenomenology of capital. Immaterial workers are primarily producers of subjectivity.

"If production today is directly the production of a social relation, then the 'raw material' of immaterial labour is subjectivity and the 'ideological' environment in which subjectivity lives and reproduces. The production of subjectivity ceases to be only an instrument of social control (for the production of mercantile relationships) and becomes directly productive, because the goal of our post industrial society is to construct the consumer/communicator - and to construct it as 'active'. Immaterial workers (those who work in advertising, fashion, marketing, television, cybernetics, and so forth) satisfy a demand by the consumer and at the same time establish that demand." (M. Lazzarato)

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