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The Multitude and the Kangaroo: A Critique of Hardt and Negri's Theory of Immaterial Labour

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Hardt and Negri's theory of immaterial labour provides a socio-economic foundation in the contemporary world for the philosophical and political elements of their thought. Although there has been considerable engagement with Hardt and Negri's work, the socio-economic dimension of their thought has received little sustained attention. This is certainly true of their theory of immaterial labour. This article aims to remedy this oversight. It presents and scrutinises Hardt and Negri's concept of immaterial labour and its putative hegemony. It then examines the depiction of the world of paid work in advanced capitalist societies with which the theory is associated and looks at three alleged consequences of the rise of immaterial labour. It concludes that this dimension of Hardt and Negri's thought is profoundly flawed, that immaterial labour cannot play the role they wish to assign it in their theory, and that this failure suggests the importance of a different method of developing theory from that employed by Hardt and Negri, along with so many other contemporary writers.

Affiliations: 1: Labour Studies, University of Manitoba


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