Wages for Facebook

waht-you-think
In January 2014, the website “Wages for Facebook” was launched. The single-page maximalist manifesto slowly scrolls by in large blocky caps, beginning with the declaration that:

“THEY SAY IT’S FRIENDSHIP. WE SAY IT’S UNWAGED WORK. WITH EVERY LIKE, CHAT, TAG OR POKE OUR SUBJECTIVITY TURNS THEM A PROFIT. THEY CALL IT SHARING. WE CALL IT STEALING…”

The text is a rewriting of key passages from “Wages Against Housework,” a pamphlet central to a feminist campaign in the 1970s condemning the unpaid labor of housework and caregiving. The theoretical import of the 1970s campaign was huge at its time – “Wages Against Housework” challenged certain historical materialisms that relegated power and social reproduction to a superstructural level altogether separate from the material base of production. Extending the “social factory” approach to value production, this materialist feminism demonstrated why the cultural, corporeal, and subjective dimensions of social reproduction are just as fundamental to the material structure of capitalism as economics.

In renewing the demand for remunerating unpaid labor, “Wages for Facebook” advances the older conversation in at least three important ways:

  • First, it highlights an invisible site of value production.
  • Second, it identifies the cultural, corporeal, and subjective dimensions of a new form of labor.
  • Third, it revives the refusal of work in a new material context.

In this presentation I discuss all three. In regards to the first, I extend the method of “reading capital politically” (and not as political economy or philosophy, an approach shared by “Wages Against Housework” author Silvia Federici and the rest of the Midnight Notes Collective) into the realm of so-called “immaterial labor.” In regards to the second, I chart the transformations in cultural production that correspond with the shift from a pamphlet in the 1970s to a webpage in 2014. And in regards to the third, I extract passages from “Wages for Facebook” to identify potentials for refusal in digital culture as well as the possible shortcomings of this perspective.

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