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This study critiques the autonomist concept of immaterial labour. Both diagnostic and prescriptive, the term immaterial labour was coined by Lazzarato (1997), but became synonymous with Hardt and Negri’s (2001a; 2004; 2010) ‘Empire’ trilogy. They describe post-industrial labour as characterised by the production of immaterial commodities such as culture, creativity and information. Seeing it as a hegemonic form of production, accelerationist Marxists Hardt and Negri (ibid.) suggest that immaterial labour has the radical potential to restructure socio-economic life, resulting in spontaneous communism. However, their thesis has been subject to critique as it homogenises post-industrial production and lacks empirical engagement. This study seeks to address this deficit by using Dublin’s independent music scene as a strategic site of investigation. Independent music production became a logical site of enquiry, as its emphasis on immanent cooperation, urban life and autonomy are necessary elements of the immaterial labour Hardt and Negri (ibid.) seek to describe. Through in-depth interviews, an online questionnaire and further supplementary methods, this research gathers data on the subjective experience of immaterial labour in order to highlight possible critiques of the autonomist concept. Through an analysis of this data, this thesis argues for provisional adaptations to Hardt and Negri’s (ibid.) immaterial labour, based on their concepts of self-valorisation, alienation, immeasurability and immanent cooperation.
Gill, S. (2014) A Critique of Immaterial Labour: Dublin’s Independent Music Scene as a Strategic Site of Investigation. Doctoral thesis Technological University Dublin, 2014.