Tuesday, 19 June 2012

The new ‘hidden abode’: reflections on value and labour in the new economy

an article by Steffen Böhm and Chris Land (University of Essex) published in The Sociological Review Volume 60 Issue 2 (May 2012)


In a pivotal section of Capital, volume 1, Marx (1976: 279) notes that, in order to understand the capitalist production of value, we must descend into the ‘hidden abode of production’: the site of the labour process conducted within an employment relationship.

In this paper we argue that by remaining wedded to an analysis of labour that is confined to the employment relationship, Labour Process Theory (LPT) has missed a fundamental shift in the location of value production in contemporary capitalism.

We examine this shift through the work of Autonomist Marxists like Hardt and Negri, Lazaratto and Arvidsson, who offer theoretical leverage to prise open a new ‘hidden abode’ outside employment, for example in the ‘production of organization’ and in consumption.

Although they can open up this new ‘hidden abode’, without LPT’s fine-grained analysis of control/resistance, indeterminacy and structured antagonism, these theorists risk succumbing to empirically naive claims about the ‘new economy’. Through developing an expanded conception of a ‘new hidden abode’ of production, the paper demarcates an analytical space in which both LPT and Autonomist Marxism can expand and develop their understanding of labour and value production in today’s economy.

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