IIIT Hyderabad Publications
Critique of cognitive capitalism: A politi- cal economy of knowledge-based Internet industries
Author: Pravin Patil
Report no: IIIT/TH/2016/38
The thesis posits that analytical studies relating to knowledge based industries (especially social media) as rent seeking organization must be revisited. Proponents of cognitive capitalism, especially Autonomist Marxists attribute sources of revenue in knowledge based industries to “rent seeking be- havior” departing from Marx’s labor theory of value. Industrial production process requires capitalist’s active supervision for efficient production and value of labor is calculated with respect to socially ab- stract labor time invested in production process. Autonomist Marxists contest that after the crisis of Workerism(resulting in reduction in working time) and rise of knowledge as productive force, capital has become external to production process while extracting collective knowledge as a rent for provisions to access means of production. Knowledge has always been central to organization of societies, although Autonomist Marxists and economists indicate a renewed interest in knowledge (in its technological ca- pacity) owing for its effects on growth and productivity in world economy. We claim that production process must be analyzed in totality to fully apprehend the realities of today’s political economy and not just limited to advanced capitalist countries, which Autonomist Marxists neglect in their theories of cognitive capitalism. Our criticism is two fold. Firstly we present our critique to cognitive capitalist theories by analyzing Facebook: an epitome of post-Fordist management practices, and claim that Face- book is not a rent seeking organization. If Facebook is indeed a rent seeking organization, we argue that it undermines the contributions of software creators and contributors who maintain the large scale oper- ations of the firm. Secondly knowledge labors represent only one aspect of the class of multitude(term popularized by Hardt and Negri in Empire, refers to the class of collective social subjectivities present today) while other, which is often neglected, is the rise of precarious labor in global south. Marx argued that opening up of luxury industry stands on the shoulder of relative surplus population, “a population often made available owing to the preponderance of constant capital in other branches of production; these base themselves in turn on a preponderance of the element of living labor, and only gradually pass through the same trajectory as other branches”. Knowledge industries relies heavily on physical infrastructure which increases the organic composition of firm. Organic composition of firm is the ratio of constant capital(machines and raw materials) to variable capital(value of labor). The crisis of value is not because of cognitive capitalism but because of inherent antagonism between capital-labor relation- ship at play in global value chain. For Knowledge based industries, in order to recover the tendential fall of rate of profits (owing to relative increase in constant capital to variable capital) low organic firms are introduced in economy so as to shift the surplus to advanced level of production. Lastly we part from the critique of cognitive capitalism and asses the tragedy of commons evidently indicated by rising privatization of modes of production which is central to immaterial production
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