We’ll roll on with our heads held high
Our conscience in the gutter
Our dreams up in the sky
Well almost. I imagine that speaks of the right’s take on Negri as much as it does the Living End’s take on the collapse of unionism.
Yeah. So. Got back from the lecture on Negri and it was reasonably interesting. Tim offered a broad history of Negri himself and a general introduction to some of the key concepts in the Autonomist movement and Negri’s later writings with Hardt.
Most of Negri’s history can be found online, and Tim wasn’t really there to discuss Negri’s history regardless of what he said! He just brought it up to get it out of the way, I think; then he could move onto more interesting things like Negri’s actual philosophical ideas…
In the first section on solo Negri: I was happy as Tim gave my a way to figure out the question I have been asking myself regarding Negri’s definition of mobility in a rather confusing passage from Time For Revolution. The mobility of the worker is not meant in the sense of I had been thinking (actual spatial or technological mobility or the insertion of labour into circuits of capital and commodity circulation as found in the service industries where nothing is produced besides momentum for the circulation of commodities and capital). The actual meaning ties in with something which I have not read about yet: the Autonomist notion of the ‘refusal to work’. The refusal to work was a poltico-industrial practice of refusing to work at a certain factory or workplace and moving to another factory. The key point here is that such movements were collective. All or most of the workers left a particular workplace and went elsewhere. It is interesting that Tim explained the ‘refusal to work’ almost exactly in the same way as the Living End: “There’s too much work and not enough pay!”
I had figured out the individual mobility of the worker from my service station job. There is no real difference between jobs in the service industry, so if one place is shitting you, you go elsewhere. The difference between now and 1970’s Italy is that in my servo job there was no sense of collective action (I would be going it alone) and therefore there was no security that you would get a job elsewhere (particularly problematic if you are trying to go to uni and pay rent, survive, etc).
Just quietly, I actually tried to start a union of sorts at the servo, with some help from a dude who had moved over from the eastern states. Apparently in the eastern states there is a union for servo dudes. What I wanted were penalty rates for working graveyard shifts. “What’s that?!?!” you ask. “You got paid the same as the dudes on the day shift when you worked the graveyard? WTF!” Indeed, I did get paid the same. For roughly 2 and a half years. (Then I gave up, moved home and changed to the daytime weekend shift.) Was it ’employment’ based around the same tasks? Yes. Is it employment that can be represented as the same job? Fuck no. I got paid for my role in the service industry; not for the job I was doing. Here is a perfect example where my immaterial labour was qualitatively different, but quantitatively the same as that of the day time workers. But why didn’t this translate into a different pay rate? Global capital does not know a difference between day time and night time — it is all purely global time!! Anyway, no one else could be fucked mobilising, they were all too busy getting stoned or paying off car loans or some shit. If I get booted from academia and move back to Perth where I have to take a job in a servo… well, haha… to use a Lathamism, look out middle-management arse-lickers!!!
Anyway, my point is that, speaking from this experience, Negri and Hardt’s account of the production of the ‘common’ as discussed in Multitude I think needs some more work. I would like to read Negri’s book on Spinoza one day. Maybe after the thesis!
Tim did a good job throughout the lecture of feeding some of Negri’s ideas developed in the 1960s and 1970s Italy into the contemporary context of Negri’s work with Hardt on Empire and Multitude. The key point that Tim was getting across was that Negri is useful — solo or with his work with Hardt — for thinking through the contemporary state of globalisation in a critical manner as a political philosopher.
Two other things.
They had awesome rolls and stuff. Free dinner = Student crowd! Well it cost $6, but that is ok. It is USyd after all.
I also met Shannon from UTS! He calls me ‘inimitable’! WTF? I had better buy a parrot and teach it to swear like a pirate, get a monkey on go’ee so it can read Deleuze and write me a thesis, and, lastly, hijack a mule to use as a doorstop when it is not being stubborn or labouring as a pack-animal getting angry with a parrot while carrying a monkey on its back.
Moral of the story: Everyone can be replaced, even by a menagerie of circus animals. Or as the Living End sing:
Five weeks had passed when the union made it clear
Spirits slowly faded and the end was getting near
You see you’re all expendable
And when all is said and done
You’ll go back to work tomorrow
Or meet your new replacement son
Yep, so Shannon has a much more sensible report on the lecture over at his blog.
PS did anyone else know that the Living End song was on the National Lampoon’s Van Wilder soundtrack? Looney tunes!