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What needs to be traced out is the weakness and limits in the original theorisations that the later developments then took in a particular direction. The demand for a political wage was that we should all be recognised as productive. We were absolutely opposed to totalitarianism in any form.

Anne Dufourmantelle† - The European Graduate School

We were seeking a true redistribution of wealth. The problem is that government, in order to make the job of managing society easier, invents increasingly elaborate disciplinary procedures. We offerred to take over this management role because we were searching for a real transformation of social relations. And it was this offer that the Italian authorities turned down so harshly.

In part here we wish to avoid that scatter-gun approach by a much more focused article. Rather than take on the whole gamut of what we think needs criticising in Autonomist Marxism, we look here at one important issue for Autonomist Marxism: its attempt to theorise reproductive labour. To remain even more focused, we take on what is to our knowledge the most comprehensive attempt to give the ideas of wages for housework etc.

A merit of Autonomist Marxism as against traditional Marxism is its ability to focus on struggles outside the industrial working class.

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Such struggles are indeed the manifestion of capitalist contradictions. A weakness of Autonomist Marxism is how this is theorised; the solution leads them to valorise literally these struggles, with imprecise use of categories to conflate different types of labour in a theoretical sleight of hand in which all distinctions and important mediations get lost. It is noticeable that one of the main things the left object to in, for example, Empire , is its abandonment of the politics of anti-imperialism and nationalism - i.

In most cases, the traditional left criticise Autonomist Marxism for straying from their idea of politics, while for us it is the extent that Autonomist Marxism does not escape politics and representation that is the problem. But orthodox Marxism does have some points that hit home against the twists and turns of Autonomist Marxism, and one of them is that Negri and Hardt are wrong to abandon a theory of value.

The danger of a return to defending our Autonomy, our self-valorisation, our access to commons, is of failing to see what happens outside our milieus and scenes. Not only are you estranged from the labor, you are estranged from architecture itself. While working as a studio manager at a New York architecture firm, my colleagues would often remark wistfully that they could rarely attend lectures or engage with discourse as I was able to do.

Article excerpt

Models, budgets, schematics, client meetings, site visits, overtime, and weekends at the studio had ravaged both their physical and spiritual capacities to participate in the field in a role beyond producing architecture with a capital A. Their passion had become their drudgery; their very own commitment to architectural work became the barrier between contributing to what they had imagined architecture could do and how it apparently must be.

I read somewhere that depression is the failure of your neurons to fire like they used to. Is there such a thing as a depression specific to architecture? How would it be characterized? Nostalgia for the future. To express dissatisfaction or alienation in architecture carries deep risks. For one, it could cost you your job. Others would kill to have your job. And such a killjoy would ruin the mood of the office. That is, as Ahmed asserts, happiness is framed as a duty to others. So, regardless of how overworked you are, how alienated you are from the products of your labor, how underpaid you are, how often the boss touches your ass, you must grin and bear it.

Be happy, or else. The flip side of the burned-out professional is the determined young architect who spends their free time attending lectures or writing essays or designing their own projects. Such work is valorized as a signal of their commitment to the field and an indicator of their value as an intellectual practitioner.

This fuels a culture in which the products of extra-professional labor are exhibited in journals or galleries, often without adequate compensation. In other words, today, nothing is work, and everything is work. Even our bodies and minds are objects of labor. I was working hard on an essay about work—about the disconnect between discourses on architectural labor and the broader economic context in which the discourses themselves are produced. I stumbled upon an interview with Antonio Negri in which he explains how, by , the architecture school in Venice had become a center for political agitation and organizing.

This struggle was a major event in the development of autonomia operaia , or autonomism, a political movement that defined postwar Italian politics and in which Negri played a central role. The solidarity between the academy and the factory was a significant aspect of autonomism, which reconceived of the position of the intellectual within leftist politics.

Rather than develop theories upon which to base organizing, the intellectual should learn from work, from the workers and their lived experience.


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They thus displaced the centrality of the static figure of the worker and the working class with an understanding of social class as always in a state of becoming, transforming alongside conditions of work. Work itself—its valorization and the power this gave it over the experience of life—was the problem. Autonomy is the self-regulation of the social body in its independence and in its interaction with the disciplinary norm.

We worked our bodies and our minds through the night to prove we understood what the refusal of work was about, to prove our political awareness, to garner a critical edge, to be diligent students. But clearly this feverish ambition prevented us from recognizing ourselves as the products of its failure. Why regurgitate the past if not in order to understand how it landed us here, at a.

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‘Must try harder!’: Towards a critique of Autonomist Marxism

As Berardi elaborates, struggles for autonomy produced a new monster, laying the foundations for neoliberal economics and governance. The monotony, rigidity, and harsh conditions of the industrial factory gave way to flexible hours and jobs in the Global North , but also deregulation, precarity, and the withdrawal of social protections.

This shift was ideological and cultural, as well as economic. Within this dichotomy, work becomes a choice: there exist only those who choose to be productive and those who choose to do nothing. The sleeper or the employee, the shirker or the worker?

What if we told you that we ate up praise like a spoonful of honey? What if we said that the validation always evaporates too quickly? Like a sugar-addled rush, we work on the premise that the next project will leave us satiated. We make promises to stop, to slow down, to regroup, to prevent the inevitable burnout, which leaves us languid and shrouded in shame. We wonder what all the research amounts to, what the interviews and panels in galleries and lecture halls even do or mean. If the autonomist refusal of work helped produce a society in which there is nothing but work, what strategies are left for us?

What would it mean to refuse after refusal? To work is to be normal. To work is to be socially acceptable. Architecture, today at least, is like work, an end in itself. It is autotelic—or, more precisely, a constituent element within the autotelic metabolism of contemporary capitalism. The need for shelter is hardly the driving motivation behind the majority of new builds. Rather, demolition and construction serve as the two poles of a coiling system of endless production for the sake of production.

Financial speculation, warfare, and environmental desecration belong to its arsenal. It results in the mass displacement of the poor and marginalized. In short, shelter is not the ends of architecture—it is its collateral damage. It is a question not of architecture or revolution but, rather, of architecture or survival. Until then design must disappear. We can live without architecture. What produces this all-consuming, obsessive indifference to architecture? On the one hand, the profession and the academy are sites of violence, ridden with sexism, heterosexism, racism, classism, ableism.