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From Formal Subsumption to General Intellect: Elements for a Marxist Reading of the Thesis of Cognitive Capitalism

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Since the crisis of Fordism, capitalism has been characterised by the ever more central role of knowledge and the rise of the cognitive dimensions of labour. This is not to say that the centrality of knowledge to capitalism is new per se. Rather, the question we must ask is to what extent we can speak of a new role for knowledge and, more importantly, its relationship with transformations in the capital/labour relation. From this perspective, the paper highlights the continuing validity of Marx's analysis of the knowledge/power relation in the development of the division of labour. More precisely, we are concerned with the theoretical and heuristic value of the concepts of formal subsumption, real subsumption and general intellect for any interpretation of the present change of the capital/labour relation in cognitive capitalism. In this way, we show the originality of the general intellect hypothesis as a sublation of real subsumption. Finally, the article summarises key contradictions and new forms of antagonism in cognitive capitalism.

Affiliations: 1: Lecturer of economics, University of Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne, France


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