Fuchs, Christian. 2014. Digital Labour and Karl Marx. New York: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-71615-4.
Turkish translation published by Nota Bene in 2015.
Chinese translation published by People’s Press in 2021.
“Digital Labour and Karl Marx” is the first volume of a two-book-long analysis of digital labour. See also the second volume “Culture and Economy in the Age of Social Media“. The two books should best be read in combination.
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Press release (April 24, 2014)
Interview about studying the political economy of the media, the Internet and digital labour HTML
How is labour changing in the age of computers, the Internet, and “social media” such as Facebook, Google, YouTube and Twitter? In Digital Labour and Karl Marx, Christian Fuchs attempts to answer that question, crafting a systematic critical theorisation of labour as performed in the capitalist ICT industry. Relying on a range of global case studies – from unpaid social media prosumers or Chinese hardware assemblers at Foxconn to miners in the Democratic Republic of Congo – Fuchs sheds light on the labour costs of digital media, examining the way ICT corporations exploit human labour and the impact of this exploitation on the lives, bodies, and minds of workers.
List of Figures and Tables xiii
1. Introduction 1
1.1. The Need for Studying Digital Labour 1
1.2. The Disappearance and Return of Karl Marx 9
PART I Theoretical Foundations of Studying Digital Labour 21
2. An Introduction to Karl Marx’s Theory 23
2.1. Introduction 23
2.2. Marx on Work and Labour 25
2.2.1. Work and Labour in Society 25
2.2.2. Labour in Capitalism and Other Class Societies 31
2.2.3. Work in Communism 38
2.3. Marx’s Labour Theory of Value 40
2.3.1. The German Debate on Marx’s Labour Theory of Value 40
2.3.2. A Reconstruction of Marx’s Labour Theory of Value 46
126.96.36.199. Use-Value and Value 46
188.8.131.52. Exchange-Value 49
184.108.40.206. Money and Price 51
220.127.116.11. The Value and Price of Labour-Power 53
18.104.22.168. Surplus Value 55
2.4. Conclusion 57
3. Contemporary Cultural Studies and Karl Marx 59
3.1. Introduction 59
3.2. Lawrence Grossberg: Cultural Studies in the Future Tense 64
3.3. John Hartley: Digital Futures for Cultural and Media Studies 68
3.4. Paul Smith: The Renewal of Cultural Studies 70
3.5. Conclusion 72
4. Dallas Smythe and Audience Labour Today 74
4.1. Introduction 74
4.2. The Importance of Critical Political Economy, Critical Theory and Dallas Smythe 75
4.3. The Renewal of the Audience Labour- and Audience Commodity-Debate 85
4.4. Digital Labour: Capital Accumulation and Commodification on Social Media 96
4.5. Ideology, Play and Digital Labour 122
4.6. A Critique of the Critique of Digital Labour 127
4.7. Conclusion 132
5. Capitalism or Information Society? 135
5.1. Introduction 135
5.2. A Classification of Information Society Theories 137
5.3. An Alternative View of the Information Society 144
5.4. Information Society Indicators: Measuring the Information Society 145
5.5. Conclusion 149
PART II Analysing Digital Labour: Case Studies 153
6. Digital Slavery: Slave Work in ICT-Related Mineral Extraction 155
6.1. Introduction 155
6.2. Marx on Modes of Production 157
6.2.1. Unpaid Work in the Family as Mode of Production 166
6.2.2. Ancient and Feudal Slavery as Modes of Production 167
6.2.3. The Capitalist Mode of Production 168
6.2.4. Informational Productive Forces 169
6.3. Digital Media and Minerals 172
6.4. The Productive Forces of Mineral Extraction in the International Division of Digital Labour: Labour-Power and the Objects, Tools and Products of Labour 174
6.5. The Relations of Production of Mineral Extraction in the International Division of Digital Labour 175
6.6. Conclusion 180
7. Exploitation at Foxconn: Primitive Accumulation and the Formal Subsumption of Labour 182
7.1. Introduction 183
7.2. Foxconn’s Productive Forces in the International Division of Digital Labour: Labour-Power and the Objects, Tools and Products of Labour 185
7.3. Foxconn’s Relations of Production in the International Division of Digital Labour 186
7.4. Conclusion 194
8. The New Imperialism’s Division of Labour: Work in the Indian Software Industry 200
8.1. Introduction 200
8.2. The Indian Software Industry’s Productive Forces in the International Division of Digital Labour: Labour-Power
and the Objects, Tools and Products of Labour 202
8.3. The Indian Software Industry’s Relations of Production in the International Division of Digital Labour 203
8.4. Conclusion 208
9. The Silicon Valley of Dreams and Nightmares of Exploitation: The Google Labour Aristocracy and Its Context 213
9.1. Introduction 213
9.2. Silicon Valley’s Productive Forces in the International Division of Digital Labour: Labour-Power and the Objects,
Tools and Products of Labour 216
9.3. The Relations of Production of Google and the Silicon Valley in the International Division of Digital Labour 218
9.4. Conclusion 231
10. Tayloristic, Housewifized Service Labour: The Example of Call Centre Work 233
10.1. Introduction 234
10.2. The Call Centre’s Productive Forces in the International Division of Digital Labour: Labour-Power and the Objects, Tools and Products of Labour 235
10.3. The Call Centre’s Relations of Production in the ICT Industry’s Global Value Chain 236
10.4. Conclusion 238
11. Theorizing Digital Labour on Social Media 243
11.1. Introduction 244
11.2. Users and the Productive Forces in the International Division of Digital Labour: Labour-Power and the Objects, Tools and Products of Labour 245
11.3. Users and the Relations of Production in the ICT Industry’s Global Value Chain 246
11.3.1. Digital Work on Social Media 247
11.3.2. Digital Labour 254
11.3.3. Digital Labour and the Law of Value on Social Media 275
11.4. Conclusion 280
PART III Conclusions 283
12. Digital Labour and Struggles for Digital Work:The Occupy Movement as a New Working-Class Movement? Social Media as Working-Class Social Media? 285
12.1. Conclusion of Chapters 2–11 286
12.2. Digital Work and the Commons 297
12.3. The Occupy Movement: A New Working-Class Movement? 308
12.3.1. Social Movement Theory 309
12.3.2. The Occupy Movement in Contemporary Political Theory 311
12.3.3. The Occupy Movement’s Self-Understanding 316
12.3.4. What Is the Occupy Movement? 321
12.4. Occupy, Digital Work and Working-Class Social Media 323
12.4.1. Social Movements, the Internet and Social Media 324
12.4.2. The Occupy Movement and Social Media 326
22.214.171.124. Position 1—Technological Determinism:
The Occupy Movement (and Other Rebellions) Are Internet Rebellions 326
126.96.36.199. Position 2—Social Constructivism:We Have Been Witnessing Social Rebellions and Social Revolutions,Where Social Media Have Had Minor Importance; Social Media Are No Relevant Factor in Rebellions 329
188.8.131.52. Position 3—Dualism: Social Media Have Been an Important Tool of the Occupy Movement; There Are Technological and Societal Causes of the Movement 330
184.108.40.206. Position 4—Social Media and Contradictions: A Dialectical View 331
12.4.3. A Theoretical Classification of Social Media Use in the Occupy Movement 333
12.5. Conclusion 340
13. Digital Labour Keywords 348
Absolute Surplus-Value Production, Abstract and Concrete Labour, Accumulation, Alienation; Audience labour, audience commodity; Capital, capitalism; Class society, Collective worker, Commodity, Commodity fetishism, Communism, Concrete labour, Constant capital, Corvée slavery, Dialectic, Digital labour, Digital work, Division of labour, Double-free labour, Exchange-value, Exploitation, Fetishism, Formal subsumption of labour under capital, General Intellect, Housewifization, International division of digital labour; Internet prosumer labour, Internet prosumer commodification; Labour, Labour aristocracy, Labour-power, Law of value, Mode of production, Money, Necessary and surplus labour time, New imperialism, Play labour (playbour), Price, Primitive accumulation, Productive forces, Profit, Rate of profit; Rate of surplus value, rate of exploitation; Real subsumption of labour under capital, Relations of production, Relative surplus-value production, Reproductive labour, Second contradiction of capitalism, Slavery; Social worker, social factory; Socially necessary labour time, Species-being, Subject/Object, Sublation/Aufhebung, Surplus labour time, Surplus value, Surplus wage, Use-value; Value, economic value; Value forms; Variable capital, wages; Well-rounded individual/development, Work,
Modem society stands in awe of the remarkable capacity of digital media to entertain, inform, and communicate. Academic researchers mostly ignore the work and sacrifices of those people who make this new media possible. Fuchs (Univ. of Westminster, UK) offers detailed descriptions of the relationships between labor and capital around the world, including detailed analysis of Indian software and call center workers, Google employees with incredible demands upon their time, the young people exposed to toxic materials while assembling Apple products in the Chinese Foxconn factories, and the workers in high-tech factories in the US with equally lethal exposures. Fuchs uses both Marxian analysis and cultural studies to dig deeper into the nature of the lives of such workers, whom he describes as digital slaves. The field of cultural studies offers a natural window for looking more closely at the role of labor in digital media. Although some pioneers in cultural studies began important work with respect to labor, Fuchs carefully describes how cultural studies has increasingly distanced itself from questions of class. Fuchs does a remarkable job of using Marxist theory to reinvigorate the world of cultural studies. In short, the book is both encyclopedic and easily accessible. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates and above.
– Michael Perelman, California State University. Published in: Choice, September 2014
Digital Labour and Karl Marx is an intriguing book both for users of digital technology and scholars in the fields of Media/Cultural Studies and Sociology. Fuchs has written a rigorous, passionate, and deeply humane book. […] Fuchs is thorough in detailing his reading of Marx, which can be welcome for newcomers to the field, while the argument itself and the application of Marx’s work will sustain the attention of those who are better versed in the quoted texts. […] Fuchs’s analysis is a materialistic and emotive Marxism.
– Marx & Philosophy Review of Books
1.1. The Need for Studying Digital Labour
Muhanga Kawaya, an enslaved miner in North Kivu (Democratic Republic of Congo) who extracts minerals that are needed for the manufacturing of lap- tops and mobile phones, describes his work in the following way: “As you crawl through the tiny hole, using your arms and fingers to scratch, there’s not enough space to dig properly and you get badly grazed all over. And then, when you do finally come back out with the cassiterite, the soldiers are waiting to grab it at gunpoint. Which means you have nothing to buy food with. So we’re al- ways hungry” (Finnwatch 2007, 20). A Chinese engineer at Foxconn Shenzhen, where computers and mobile phones that are sold by Western companies are as- sembled, says, “We produced the first generation iPad. We were busy throughout a 6-month period and had to work on Sundays. We only had a rest day every 13 days. And there was no overtime premium for weekends. Working for 12 hours a day really made me exhausted” (SACOM 2010, 7). In Silicon Valley, a Cam- bodian ICT (information and communications technology) assembler exposed to toxic substances reports, “I talked to my co-workers who felt the same way [that I did] but they never brought it up, out of fear of losing their job” (Pellow and Park 2002, 139). Mohan, a project manager in the Indian software industry who is in his mid-30s, explains, “Work takes a priority. [. . .] The area occupied by family and others keeps reducing” (D’Mello and Sahay 2007, 179). Another software engineer argues, “Sometimes you start at 8 am and then finish at 10–11 pm, five days a week. And anytime you can be called. [. . .] Also you don’t develop any hobbies” (ibid.). A software engineer at Google describes the working situa- tion there: “Cons—Because of the large amounts of benefits (such as free foods) there seems to be an unsaid rule that employees are expected to work longer hours. Many people work more than 8 hours a day and then will be on email or work for a couple hours at home, at night as well (or on the weekends). It may be hard to perform extremely well with a good work/life balance. Advice to Senior Management—Give engineers more freedom to use 20% time to work on cool projects without the stress of having to do 120% work” (www.glassdoor. com).The Amazon Mechanical Turk is a “marketplace for work” that “gives busi- nesses and developers access to an on-demand, scalable workforce.Workers select from thousands of tasks and work whenever it is convenient” (www.mturk.com). Clients can advertise on the platform that they look for certain services for a certain wage, to which those who want to perform them can respond online. If the deal comes about, then the worker performs the task and submits the result to the client online. The work tasks almost exclusively involve informational work. A search for speech transcription tasks (conducted on November 20, 2012) resulted in three tasks that had (if one assumes that it takes on average six hours of work time to transcribe one hour of interview time) an hourly wage of (a) US$4, (b) US$4 and (c) US$3. In contrast, typical professional transcription services (e.g. www.fingertipstyping.co.uk/prices_and_turnaround.htm, www.franklin-square. com/transcription_per_line.htm) charge approximately US$15–$25 per hour.
In February 2013, the German public service station broadcaster ARD aired the documentary Ausgeliefert! Leiharbeiter bei Amazon (At mercy1! Contract work- ers at Amazon). The investigative reporters Diana Löbl and Peter Onneken doc- umented that Amazon Germany employs 5,000 immigrants (from e.g. Poland, Romania, Spain, Hungary and other countries) as contract workers in its ware- house. They showed that these workers are extremely low-paid, live in groups of six or seven workers who do not know each other in small cottages, where two people share tiny bedrooms.They only get temporary contracts and are employed by temp agencies. The contracts are written in German, although many workers do not understand this language. On one day, the warehouse workers often run up to 17 kilometres, which can negatively impact their feet and skin.The workers do not see and sign the contract before they come to Germany and then often have to find out that they earn less than initially promised. One contract shown in the documentary specifies 8.52 per hour, although the worker was initially promised 9.68, which is 12% more. These workers can be hired and fired as Amazon wishes. Trade union secretary Heiner Reimann (with trade union ver. di) describes these Amazon workers as “workers without rights” (10:41–10:46). A driver said,“Temp work. [. . .] I am not in favour of this slave trade. [. . .] They earn so little money, partly they have to beg for coffee in the canteen”(14:20–14:35). Selvina, a Spanish contract worker, said, “It is like a machine. We are a cog in this machine” (17:12–17:16). The documentary presented footage that indicated Amazon’s supposed evasion of paying social security taxes for their employees. The workers have to commute long distances to their workplace in overcrowded buses supplied by Amazon. Often they wait and commute for hours. If the bus arrives late, they face wage deductions. The workers can be controlled any time, even outside of the workplace, and there are security guards patrolling the hous- ing estates, their dining rooms, and the factory premises. The ARD investigative journalists show that there are security forces from the H.E.S.S. company and that security guards act and look like a paramilitary force, entering workers’ homes while they are not there to control them by taking pictures. One worker says, “When we eat, they are always there. [. . .] They enter the houses while the people are not there and also when the people sleep or take a shower” (19:09–19:25). Another one reports that the guards argue, “This is our house. [. . .] You must do what we say. And here we are like the police” (19:25–19:38). The reporters show that some security guards wear clothes from Thor Steinar, a neo-Nazi brand. H.E.S.S. stands for Hensel European Security Services. (Rudolf Hess was Hitler’s deputy.) H.E.S.S. sells, according to the ARD documentary, clothes that are con- sidered to be right-wing extremist brands in Germany (Commando Industries). The documentary shows that some of the H.E.S.S. employees and management personnel are part of the hooligan scene or have circles of right-wing extremist friends. In the days after the documentary was aired on ARD (February 13), almost every minute somebody posted a protest message on Amazon’s Facebook page. Some example comments are: “Nazis, conditions like in a modern labour camp, unlimited greed for profits. BE ASHAMED!”2 “Modern slavery, but the main thing for you is that your profits are doing well”3 “Shame on you, bloody bastards! you’ll never have my and my friends’ money! i hope you’ll go on default veeeery quickly!” “Profits that are based on a new form of slavery should be con- fiscated just like profits from drug trafficking!”4
Work.Shop.Play is an online platform owned by CBS Outdoor Limited. It describes its purpose in the following way:
We are interested in your ideas, opinions, behaviour and general feedback on a variety of topics. One week we may send you surveys asking how you feel about topics in the news at the moment. The next, we might ask you how often you drink coffee, what brands you buy and which coffee shop you prefer.The week after that, it might be a survey about new technology, which gadgets you own and why you bought them. [. . .] CBS Outdoor work with lots of big brands, telling them how to best advertise and market their products and services to consumers. [. . .] Sometimes, the research team at CBS Outdoor will use survey results to create material for our sales teams to present to these brands. Other times we’ll be using the results in- ternally, to better inform our company about urban audiences. Occasionally we may post survey results on Twitter or Facebook. [. . .] When we were setting up work.shop.play. we thought long and hard about how to reward our members. We developed a list of prizes that we think will appeal to everyone—such as cinema and theatre tickets, shopping vouchers, magazine subscriptions and guidebooks to UK cities. From time to time there will also be bigger prizes up for grabs, such as nights away at a top hotel—and sometimes there may be one prize, while others there may be 10 or more. (workshopplay.co.uk, accessed February 17, 2013)
Facebook has asked users to translate its site into other languages without pay- ment. Translation is crowdsourced to users. Javier Olivan, head of Growth, Engagement, Mobile Adoption at Facebook, sees user-generated platform translation as “cool” because Facebook’s goal is to “have one day everybody on the planet on Facebook” (MSNBC 2008).
Valentin Macias, 29, a Californian who teaches English in Seoul, South Korea, has volunteered in the past to translate for the nonprofit Internet encyclopedia Wikipedia but said he won’t do it for Facebook. “[Wikipedia is] an altruistic, charitable, information-sharing, donation-supported cause”, Macias told The Associated Press in a Facebook message. “Facebook is not. Therefore, people should not be tricked into donating their time and energy to a multimillion-dollar company so that the company can make millions more—at least not without some type of compensation.” (ibid.)
These examples outline various forms of labour associated with the ICT in- dustry. They differ in amount in regard to the levels of payment; health risks; physical, ideological and social violence; stress; free time; overtime; and the forms of coercion and control the workers are experiencing, but all have in common that human labour-power is exploited in a way that monetarily benefits ICT corporations and has negative impacts on the lives, bodies or minds of workers. The forms of labour described in this book are all types of digital labour because they are part of a collective work force that is required for the existence, usage and application of digital media.What defines them is not a common type of occupation, but rather the industry they contribute to and in which capital exploits them. The kind of definition one chooses of categories such as digital labour or virtual work, their degree of inclusivity or exclusivity, are first and foremost political choices. The approach taken in this book advocates a broad understanding of digital labour based on an industry rather than an occupation definition in order to stress the commonality of exploitation, capital as the common enemy of a broad range of workers and the need to globalize and network struggles in order to overcome the rule of capitalism. Some of the workers described in this book are not just exploited by digital media capital, but also and sometimes simultaneously by other forms of capital. It is then a matter of degree to which extent these forms of labour are digital labour and simultaneously other forms of labour. If we imagine a company with job rotation so that each worker on average assembles laptops for 50% of his/her work time and cars for the other half of the time, a worker in this factory is a digital worker for 50%. S/he is however an industrial worker for 100% because the content of both manufacturing activities is the industrial assemblage of components into commodities. The different forms of digital labour are connected in an international division of digi- tal labour (IDDL), in which all labour necessary for the existence, usage and application of digital media is “disconnected, isolated […], carried on side by side” and ossified “into a systematic division” (Marx 1867c, 456). Studies of the information economy, or what some term the creative or cultural in- dustries, have been dominated by the capital side of the analysis, whereas the labour side has been rather missing. In this context, Nicholas Garnham already asserted in 1990 that “the bibliography on the producers of culture is scandalously empty” (Garnham 1990, 12) and that there is a focus on the analy- sis of media barons and their companies. Ten years later, he saw this problem as persisting: “The problem of media producers has been neglected in recent media and Cultural Studies—indeed in social theory generally—because of the general linguistic turn and the supposed death of the author that has accompanied it. If the author does not exist or has no intentional power, why study her or him?” (Garnham 2000a, 84). Again ten years later, Vincent Mosco (2011, 230) argued that “labour remains the blind spot of communication and Cultural Studies” and that therefore “labour needs to be placed high on the agenda or projects for the renewal of Cultural Studies”. A particular problem of contemporary media and communication studies is the strong focus on the capital side of the creative and cultural economy and the neglect of the labour side. Richard Maxwell and Toby Miller make a similar assessment: “Most writings in media studies constrict the ambit of media labor such that the industry mavens [. . .] define production.This mirrors the growth ideology and apolitical enchantment with media technologies found in most trade publications, entertainment news outlets, and fan culture” (Maxwell and Miller 2012, 16). They argue for “critical scholarship into media labor” that considers “the physical nature of work and what it does to people and the environment” (ibid.).Vicki Mayer, Miranda J. Banks and John Thornton Caldwell (2009, 4) speak in this context of the need for media production stud- ies that “take the lived realities of people involved in in media production as the subjects for theorizing production as culture”. Juliet Webster (2011, 2) observes that the study of ICT’s role in society has often been guided by pragmatism rather than by social critique. In many countries, there is and has been for some twenty or more years, a discernible body of work which is concerned primarily with interpreting technological innovations as socially neutral processes or with the practicalities of ICT implementation. There are strong pressures on researchers, particularly in a context of economic crisis and restructuring, to retreat into this type of work. In this context, critical social research often becomes displaced by research which is driven by an over-optimistic technological agenda. Researchers find they have to survive in a world where economic growth and constant innovation are the leitmotifs underlying not only economic but social policy.
She calls for resisting these tendencies and for engaged ICTs and society research that is doing research and doing politics and is a form of activism.The task of this book is to develop a critical theorization of some of the labour performed in the capitalist ICT industry. The overall question of the book is: What is digital labour and how can its working conditions best be understood? For providing answers, more fundamental questions need to be asked: What is labour? What is economic value? How does labour create value? How is labour changing in the age of computers, the Internet and “social media” such as Facebook, Google, YouTube and Twitter? Labour and economic value are inherently connected. La- bour takes place in certain spaces and is spent during certain time periods. Time and space are crucial dimensions of labour. Discussions about the spatial changes and spatial disembedding of labour have been discussed with concepts such as globalization (see Fuchs 2003, Ritzer and Atalay 2010), outsourcing, offshoring and global/international division of labour (Grossman 1980, Mies 1986). Globalization has been theorized as time-space-compression (Harvey 1989, timeless time and spaceless space (Castells 1996) and as time-space distanciation (Giddens 1990). This shows that time and space are crucial dimensions of societal changes. Given that labour is at the heart of the economy, both time and space are crucial for understanding labour.The labour needed for the production of a certain com- modity is in many cases not confined to single places, but takes place in many interconnected spaces that are diffused around the globe so that capital tries to minimise investment costs for labour and resources and to maximise profits. But labour not only has spatial aspects, it also takes place in time, which is obvious when talking about working time, free time, spare time, working hours, produc- tion time, circulation time, distribution time, the turnover time of capital, the acceleration of production or the intensification of work.
Labour time is so crucial for capitalism because labour-power is organized as a commodity and therefore every second of labour costs money. This is the reason why capital has the interest to make workers work as long as possible for as little wages as possible and to make them labour as intensively as possible so that the highest possible profit (which is the outcome of unpaid labour time) can be achieved. Value in a Marxist approach (Marx’s labour theory of value) is the amount of performed labour hours that are needed for the production of a certain commodity. There is an individual labour time for the production of every single commodity that is difficult to measure.What matters economically is therefore the average labour time that is spent during a certain time period (such as one year) for producing a commodity. Average labour values can be calculated for com- modity production in one company, a group of companies, an entire industry in a country or internationally. Capital strives to reduce the value of a commodity in order to increase profits.A decrease of the value of a commodity means a speed-up of production (i.e. the same labour time that costs a certain amount of money will suddenly produce a higher number of the same commodity, although the labour costs have not increased, which allows accumulating more profit per time unit).
The outlined examples show the importance of labour time for the ICT in- dustry: Slave mineral workers like Muhanga Kawaya work at gunpoint with the threat of being killed, which makes them work long hours for low or no wages so that a maximum of labour time remains unpaid. The workers at Foxconn are working long hours and unpaid overtime so that Apple and other ICT companies reduce labour costs. Foxconn workers have relatively low wages and work very long hours. Foxconn tries to lengthen the working day in order to increase the sum of hours that is unpaid. ICT assemblers in Silicon Valley, who are predomi- nantly female immigrants, have quite comparable labour conditions, and many of them are exposed during working hours to toxic substances. In the Indian soft- ware industry and at Google, software engineers are overworked.They work very long hours and do not have much time for hobbies, relaxing, friends and family. Software developers at Google, in India and in other countries are highly stressed because they work in project-based software engineering with high time pressure. Their lifetime tends to become labour time. The Amazon Mechanical Turk is a method of getting work done in the same time as in the case of regular employ- ment by irregular forms of labour that are cheaper. It helps companies to find workers who work for the time a regular employee would take for a certain task, but for a lower payment. The idea is to crowdsource work over the Internet in order to reduce costs, that is, to pay less for the same labour time as under regular working conditions. The temporary workers at Amazon Germany have tempo- rary limited contracts, which put them under pressure to accept and not to resist the poor working conditions because they are afraid of losing their jobs. Many of them come from countries that were hard hit by the economic crisis, where they are facing unemployment. Crisis drives them into accepting work under early industrial conditions. Paramilitary control should make the employees work more and faster during the work time. It aims at an intensification of work. Low wages for temp workers who are facing economic hardship means that Amazon can make more profit than in employment relations that have collective bargaining, collective wage agreements and unionization.Time plays an important role in this example in the form of insecure temporary employment, work time intensifica- tion and the lowering of hourly wages.
In return for their efforts to participate in surveys whose results are sold as commodities, users of Work.Shop.Play can win prizes such as cinema and theatre tickets, shopping vouchers and special offers. Of course only a few win; most of the work is completely unremunerated.The idea of the Work.Shop.Play platform is that users work in their free time and thereby have the chance to win vouchers and goods that enable shopping, entertainment and play. Playing on social media becomes actual work and the promise is that users in return get opportunities for shopping and more play.Work.Shop.Play extends the capitalist logic of commodities and consumption to the home and play time.The boundaries between work and play as well as between work time and free/play time are liquid on Work. Shop.Play. Facebook translations are outsourced user work.The users are expected to perform the translation without remuneration. The idea is to transform usage time into work time.The lengthening of working day, unpaid working times, the intensification of work time by fascist security forces, overwork, spare time as labour time, overtime—the examples show that labour time is a crucial aspect of the capitalist ICT industry.
The task of this book is to better understand labour and value generation in the context of digital media. Chapters 3 and 4 contextualize digital labour in the academic landscape: Chapter 3 shows how the field of contemporary Cul- tural Studies is positioning itself towards Karl Marx’s works and studying labour and capitalism. Chapter 4 deals with the relevance of Dallas Smythe’s work for understanding digital labour. Smythe was the founding figure of the field of critical political economy of media and communication, and he elaborated a labour theory of the media that sees viewing/reading/listening time on com- mercial media as audience labour that creates value. He coined in this context the notion of the audience commodity.This approach has in the context of the digital labour debate gained new relevance. Chapter 5 contextualizes digital labour in the debate on the concept of the information society. It asks whether we live in capitalism or an information society. Chapters 6–11 analyse various forms of labour in the international division of digital labour (IDDL) in order to introduce concepts for a digital labour theory-toolbox and show examples of how to apply such theoretical categories. Chapter 6 deals with slave workers in Africa who extract minerals that form the physical foundation of laptops, computers, mobile phones and other ICTs. Chapter 7 looks at the work- ing conditions in Chinese hardware assemblage, specifically the situation in Foxconn factories. Chapter 8 discusses the labour conditions of Indian soft- ware engineers. Chapter 9 analyses work in Silicon Valley, especially software engineering at Google. Chapter 10 looks at precarious service work with the help of the example of call centre work. Chapter 11 focuses on the unpaid digital labour of Internet prosumers using the example of Facebook. In order to avoid misunderstandings, I want to make clear that each of the chapters 6–11 does not define concepts that are specific for only one form of digital labour. The task is rather to introduce a multifaceted conceptual digital labour theory- toolbox with theoretical notions such as absolute and relative surplus-value production, commodity fetishism, formal and real subsumption, housewifiza- tion, labour aristocracy, modes of production, play labour, productive forces, prosumers commodification, slavery, the new imperialism, primitive accumulation, etc. Chapters 6–11 show examples of how to apply these categories.These chapters do not claim that a specific concept is only applicable to one of the specifically discussed forms of labour. I give examples of how to apply these concepts with the help of case studies. The point is that Marx’s writings and Marxist theory provide a rich category system that can be applied for critically understanding digital labour and other forms of labour. Specific working conditions of specific types of digital labour are historical and dynamic, they do not stay fixed, but change with the development and crises of capitalism. The first task for developing a digital labour theory-toolbox that needs to be un- dertaken and to which this book contributes is therefore to introduce concepts and to show examples of how to apply them. Chapter 12 draws conclusions from the preceding analysis and points out aspects of resistance against the exploitation of digital labour. It discusses in this context especially the Occupy movement as a new working-class movement and its use of the Internet and social media.
The approach taken in this book for critically theorizing and explaining so- cial media and digital labour is grounded in the works of Karl Marx. Chapter 2 outlines as theoretical framework important concepts of Marx’s theory. But why is Marx’s theory a suitable framework? This question requires further discussion.
1.2. The Disappearance and Return of Karl Marx
• “Marx makes a comeback” (Svenska Dagbladet, October 17, 2008).
• “Crunch resurrects Marx” (The Independent, October 17, 2008).
• “Crisis allows us to reconsider left-wing ideas” (The Irish Times, October 18, 2008).
• “Marx exhumed, capitalism buried” (Sydney Morning Herald, October 23, 2008).
• “Marx Renaissance” (Korea Times, January 1, 2009).
• “Was Marx Right All Along?” (The Evening Standard, March 30, 2009).
• “‘Marx is fashionable again’, declares Jorn Schutrumpf, head of the Ber- lin publishing house Dietz, which brings out the works of Marx and his collaborator Friedrich Engels. Sales have trebled—albeit from a pretty low level—since 2005 and have soared since the summer. [. . .] The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, gave him a decent review last month: ‘Marx long ago observed the way in which unbridled capitalism became a kind of mythology, ascribing reality, power and agency to things that had no life in themselves’. Even the Pope has put in a good word for the old atheist— praising his ‘great analytical skill’” (The Times, “Financial Crisis Gives Added Capital to Marx’s Writings”, October 20, 2008).
• “No one claims that we’re all Marxists now but I do think the old boy de- serves some credit for noticing that ‘it’s the economy, stupid’ and that many of the apparently omniscient titans who ascend the commanding heights of the economy are not so much stupid as downright imbecilic, driven by a mad exploitative greed that threatens us all. Marx’s work is not holy writ, despite the strivings of some disciples to present it as such” (The Evening Standard, “Was Marx Right All Along?”, March 30, 2009).
• “Karl Marx is back. That, at least, is the verdict of publishers and bookshops in Germany who say that his works are flying off the shelves” (The Guardian, “Booklovers Turn to Karl Marx as Financial Crisis Bites in Germany”, Octo- ber 15, 2008).
• “Policy makers struggling to understand the barrage of financial panics, pro- tests and other ills afflicting the world would do well to study the works of a long-dead economist: Karl Marx. The sooner they recognize we’re facing a once-in-a-lifetime crisis of capitalism, the better equipped they will be to manage a way out of it” (Bloomberg Business Week, “Give Karl Marx a Chance to Save the World Economy”, August 28, 2011).
• Time magazine showed Marx on its cover on February 2, 2009, and asked in respect to the crisis: “What would Marx think?” In the cover story, Marx was presented as the saviour of capitalism and was thereby mutilated beyond recognition: “Rethinking Marx. As we work out how to save capitalism, it’s worth studying the system’s greatest critic” (Time Magazine Europe, February 2, 2009).
These news clippings indicate that with the new global crisis of capitalism, we seem to have entered new Marxian times. That there is suddenly a surging interest in Karl Marx’s work is an indication for the persistence of capitalism, class conflicts and crisis. At the same time, the bourgeois press tries to limit Marx and to stifle his theory by interpreting Marx as the new saviour of capitalism. One should remember that he was not only a brilliant analyst of capitalism, he was also the strongest critic of capitalism in his time:
In short, the Communists everywhere support every revolutionary move- ment against the existing social and political order of things. In all these movements, they bring to the front, as the leading question in each, the property question, no matter what its degree of development at the time. Finally, they labour everywhere for the union and agreement of the dem- ocratic parties of all countries. The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims.They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution.The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Proletarians of all lands unite! (Marx and Engels 1848/2004, 94)
In 1977, Dallas Smythe published his seminal article “Communications: Blindspot of Western Marxism” (Smythe 1977a), in which he argued that Western Marxism had not given enough attention to the complex role of communications in capitalism. Thirty-five years have passed and the rise of neoliberalism resulted in a turn away from an interest in social class and capitalism. Instead, it became fash- ionable to speak of globalization, postmodernism and, with the fall of Communism, even the end of history. In essence, Marxism became the blind spot of all social sci- ence. Marxist academics were marginalized and it was increasingly career threatening for a young academic to take an explicitly Marxist approach to social analysis.
The declining interest in Marx and Marxism is visualized in figures 1.1 and 1.2, which show the number of articles in the Social Sciences Citation Index that contain one of the keywords “Marx”, “Marxist” or “Marxism” in the article topic description and were published in the five time periods 1968–1977, 1978–1987, 1988–1997, 1998–2007 and 2008–2012. Choosing these periods allows one to determine if there has been a change since the start of the new capitalist crisis in 2008 and also makes sense because social upheavals in 1968 marked a break that also transformed academia.
Figure 1.1 shows that there was a relatively large academic article output about Marx in the period 1978–1987 (2,574). Given that the number of articles pub- lished increases historically, interest in the period 1968–1977 also seems to have been high. One can observe a clear contraction of the output about articles focusing on Marx in the periods 1988–1997 (1,713) and 1998–2007 (1,127). Given the earlier increase of published articles, this contraction is even more pronounced. This period has also been the time of the intensification of neoliberalism, the commodification of everything (including public service communication in many countries) and a strong turn towards postmodernism and culturalism in the social sciences.
There are multiple reasons for the disappearance of Marx:
• The rise of neoliberal class struggle from above.
• The commodification of everything, including the commons and public universities.
• The rise of postmodernism.
• The lack of trust in alternatives.
• The low presence and intensity of struggles.
• In a climate of conservative backlash and commodification of academia, it was not opportune and conducive for an academic career and for academic reputation to conduct Marxist studies.
FIGURE 1.1 Number of articles published about Marx and Marxism that are listed in the Social Sciences Citation Index in ten-year intervals
FIGURE 1.2 Average number of annually published articles in ten-year intervals about Marx and Marxism that are listed in the Social Sciences Citation Index
In figure 1.2, one can see that the annual average number of articles published about Marxism in the period 2008–2012 (186) has increased in comparisons to the periods 1998–2007 (113 per year) and 1988–1997 (171 per year). This circumstance is an empirical indicator of a renewed interest in Marx and Marxism in the social sciences, most likely an effect of the new capitalist crisis. The question is whether and how this interest can be sustained and materialized in institutional transformations.
Due to the rising income gap between the rich and the poor, widespread precarious labour and the new global capitalist crisis, neoliberalism is no longer seen as common sense. The dark side of capitalism, with its rising levels of class conflict, is now recognized worldwide. Eagleton (2011) notes that never has a thinker been so travestied as Marx and demonstrates that the core of Marx’s work runs contrary to common prejudices about his work. But since the start of the global capitalist crisis in 2008, a considerable scholarly interest in the works of Marx has taken root. Žižek argues that the antagonisms of contemporary capitalism in the context of the ecological crisis, intellectual property, biogenetics, new forms of apartheid and slums show that we still need the Marxian notion of class and that there is a need to renew Marxism and to defend its lost causes in order to “render problematic the all-too-easy liberal-democratic alternative” that is posed by the new forms of a soft capitalism that promises but fails to realize ideals like participation, self-organization, and cooperation (Žižek 2008, 6). Moreover, Žižek (2010b) argues that the recent world economic crisis has resulted in a renewed interest in the Marxian critique of political economy. Hobsbawm (2011, 12–13) argues that for understanding the global dimension of contemporary capitalism, capitalism’s contradictions and crises and the existence of socio-economic inequality we “must ask Marx’s questions” (13). “Economic and political liberal- ism, singly or in combination, cannot provide the solution to the problems of the twenty-first century. Once again the time has come to take Marx seriously” (ibid., 419). Jameson argues that global capitalism, “its crises and the catastrophes appropriate to this present” and global unemployment show that “Marx remains as inexhaustible as capital itself ” (Jameson 2011, 1) and make Capital, Volume 1 (Marx 1867c) a most timely book.
“Monetary crises, independent of real crises or as an intensification of them, are unavoidable” in capitalism (Marx 1894, 649). For Marx, financial crises are not avoidable by regulated financial markets or moral rules that limit greed because greed is for him a necessary structural feature of capitalism that derives from the necessity of capitalists to accumulate ever more capital and to increase profit rates or to perish. Competition between capitals and the need to expand accumulation result in attempts to create “financial innovations” that have a high risk but allow very high short-time revenue rates. The fictitious value of commercial papers stands in no direct relation with the actual value created in the companies that is signified by the fictitious value. Financial bubbles are the effect (i.e. share prices that do not reflect the actual profitability and which fall heavily once a burst of the financial bubble is triggered by events that destroy the investors’ expectations for high future returns). The new world economic crisis that started in 2008 is the most obvious reason for the return of the inter- est in Marx.
This shift is, however, multidimensional and has multiple causes:
• The new world economic crisis has resulted in an increasing interest in the dynamics and contradictions of capitalism and the notion of crisis.
• Neoliberalism and the precarization of work and life can best be analysed as phenomenon class, exploitation and commodification.
• New social movements (the anti-corporate movement, global justice move- ment, Occupy movement) have an interest in questions of class.
• The financialization of the economy can be analysed with categories such as the new imperialism or fictitious capital.
• New global wars bring about an interest in the category of imperialism.
• Contemporary revolutions and rebellions (such as the Arab Spring) give at- tention to the relevance of revolution, emancipation and liberation.
• The globalization discourse has been accompanied by discussions about global capitalism.
• The role of mediatization, ICTs and knowledge work in contemporary capi- talism was anticipated by Marx’s focus on the general intellect.
• A whole generation of precariously working university scholars and students
Indicative of an increased interest in capitalism as an object of study in media and communication studies is the circumstance that several special issues have focused on the role of communication, media and culture in the capitalist crisis:
tripleC: Communication, Capitalism & Critique (www.triple-c.at)-Journal for a Global Sustainable Information Society
tripleC—Journal for a Global Sustainable Information Society: “Capitalist Crisis, Communication & Culture” 8 (2), (2009): 193–309, edited by Christian Fuchs, Matthias Schafranek, David Hakken and Marcus Breen.
International Journal of Communication: “Global Financial Crisis” 4 (2010), ed- ited by Paula Chakravartty and John D.H. Downing.
Cultural Studies: “The Economic Crisis and After” 24 (3), (2010): 283–444.
Irfan Erdogan (2012) has analysed 210 articles that mentioned Marx and that were published in 77 selected media and communication journals between Janu- ary 2007 and June 2011. He found that “Mainstream studies ignore and liberal- democrats generally appreciate Marx”, whereas the main criticisms of Marx come from “so-called ‘critical’ or ‘alternative’ approaches”, whose “‘alternatives’ are ‘alternatives to Marx’” and critical in the sense of a “criticism directed against Marx” (382). At the same time as there are sustained attempts to downplay the importance of Marx for the study of society, media and communication, there are indicators of a certain degree of new engagement with Marx. One of them is the special issue of tripleC (www.triple-c.at) “Marx Is Back—The Importance of Marxist Theory and Research for Critical Communication Studies Today” (Fuchs and Mosco 2012), which features 29 articles on more than 500 pages. Another one was the conference “Critique, Democracy and Philosophy in 21st Century Information Society:Towards Critical Theories of Social Media”, at which a sustained engagement with Marx and communication today took place, especially by and among PhD students (see Fuchs 2012a, 2012d).
Whereas Marx was always relevant, this relevance has not been much acknowledged in media and communication studies in recent years. It has rather been common, as Erdogan (2012) shows, to misinterpret and misunderstand Marx, which partly came also from a misreading of his works or from outright ignorance of his works. Terry Eagleton (2011) discusses ten common prejudices against Marx and Marxism and shows why Marx was right and why these prejudices are wrong. We have added to the following overview a media and communication dimension to each prejudice. These communication dimensions point towards common prejudices against Marx within media and communication studies.
I want to counter each of the anti-Marxian prejudices with a counter-claim that is grounded in the analyses presented in this book which show the importance of Marx for understanding society and the media critically.
(1a) Marxist Outdatedness!
Marxism is old-fashioned and not suited for a post-industrial society. (1b) Marxist Topicality!
In order to adequately and critically understand communication in society, we need Marx.
(2a) Marxist Repression!
Marxism may sound good in theory, but in practice it can only result in terror, tyranny and mass murder. The feasibility of a socialist society and socialist media are illusionary.
(2b) Capitalist Repression!
Capitalism neither sounds like a good idea/theory nor does it work in practice, as the reality of large-scale inequality, global war and environmental devastation shows. The feasibility of socialism and socialist media arises out of the crises of capitalism.
(3a) Marxism = Determinism!
Marx believed in deterministic laws of history and the automatic end of capitalism that would also entail the automatic end of capitalist media.
(3b) Marxism = Dialectics and Complexity!
Marxian and Hegelian dialectics allow us to see the history of society and the media as being shaped by structural conditioning, open-ended struggles and a dialectic of structure and agency.
(4a) Marxist Do-Goodism!
Marx had a naïve picture of humanity’s goodness and ignored that humans are naturally selfish, acquisitive, aggressive and competitive. The media in- dustry is therefore necessarily based on profit and competition; otherwise it cannot work.
(4b) Capitalist Wickedness!
The logic of individualism, egoism, profit maximization and competition has been tried and tested under neoliberal capitalism, which has also trans- formed the media landscape and made it more unequal.
(5a) Marxist Reductionism!
Marx and Marxism reduce all cultural and political phenomena to the economy. They do not have an understanding of non-economic aspects of the media and communication.
(5b) Marxist Complexity!
Contemporary developments show that the economy in capitalism is not deter- mining but a special system that results in the circumstance that all phenomena under capitalism, which includes all media phenomena, have class aspects and are dialectically related to class. Class is a necessary, although certainly not sufficient, condition for explaining phenomena of contemporary society.
(6a) Marxist Anti-Humanism!
Marx had no interests in religion and ethics and reduced consciousness to matter. He therefore paved the way for the anti-humanism of Stalin and others. Marxism cannot ground media ethics.
(6b) Marxist Humanism!
Marx was a deep humanist and communism was for him practical hu- manism, class struggle practical ethics. His theory was deeply ethical and normative. Critical Political Economy of the Media necessarily includes a critical ethics of the media.
(7a) The Outdatedness of Class!
Marxism’s obsession with class is outdated.Today, the expansion of knowl- edge work is removing all class barriers.
(7b) The Importance of Class!
High socio-economic inequality at all levels of societal organization is indicative of the circumstance that contemporary society is first and foremost a multilevelled class society. Knowledge work is no homogenous category but rather a class-structured space that includes internal class relations and stratification patterns (both a manager and a precar- iously employed call centre agent or data entry clerk are knowledge workers).
(8a) Marxists Oppose Democracy!
Marxists favour violent revolution and oppose peaceful reform and democ- racy.They do not accept the important role of the media for democracy.
(8b) Socialism = Democracy!
Capitalism has a history of human rights violations, structural violence and warfare. In the realm of the media, there is a capitalist history of media support for anti-democratic goals. Marxism is a demand for peace, de- mocracy and democratic media. Marx in his own journalistic writings and practice struggled for free speech, democratic journalism and democratic media, and to end to censorship.
(9a) Marxist Dictatorship!
Marxism’s logic is the logic of the party that results in the logic of the state and the installation of monstrous dictators that control, monitor, manipu- late and censor the media.
(9b) Capitalist Dictatorship!
Capitalism installs a monstrous economic dictatorship that controls, mon- itors, manipulates and censors the media by economic and ideological means. Marxism’s logic is one of a well-rounded humanity fostering con- ditions that enable people to be active in many pursuits and includes the view that everyone can become a journalist.
(10a) Non-Class-Oriented New Social Movements!
New social movements (feminism, environmentalism, gay rights, peace movement, youth movement, etc.) have left class and Marxism behind. Struggles for alternative media are related to the new social movements, not to class struggles.
(10b) Class-Oriented New Social Movements!
The new movements resulting from the current crisis (such as the Occupy movement) as well as recent movements for democratic globalization are movements that are bound together by deep concern for inequality and class. Contemporary struggles are class struggles that make use of a multi- tude of alternative media.
A Marxist theory of communication should “demonstrate how communication and culture are material practices, how labor and language are mutually constituted, and how communication and information are dialectical instances of the same so- cial activity, the social construction of meaning. Situating these tasks within a larger framework of understanding power and resistance would place communication directly into the flow of a Marxian tradition that remains alive and relevant today” (Mosco 2009, 44). A Marxist theory of communication sees communication in re- lation to capitalism,“placing in the foreground the analysis of capitalism, including the development of the forces and relations of production, commodification and the production of surplus value, social class divisions and struggles, contradictions and oppositional movements” (ibid., 94). Marxist media and communication stud- ies are not only relevant now, but have been so for a long time because communication has always been embedded into structures of inequality in class societies.With the rise of neoliberalism, Marxist communication theory has suffered a setback because it had become common to marginalize and discriminate against Marxist scholarship (see Erdogan 2012) and to replace Marxism with postmodernism. So Marx was always relevant, but being Marxist and practising Marxism were always difficult, in part because Marxist studies lacked a solid institutional base. What we can see today is a rising interest in Marx’s work. The question is whether it will be possible to channel this interest into institutional transformations that challenge the predominant administrative character of media institutions and strengthen the institutionalization of critical studies of media and communication.
Some scholars have said that Marx never commented on networked media (McLuhan 2001, 41), which is refuted by not only Marx’s discussions of the tele- graph, but also the one in which Marx describes a global information network, in which “everyone attempts to inform himself ” on others and “connections are introduced” (Marx 1857/1858b, 161). Such a description not only sounds like an anticipation of the concept of the Internet, it is also an indication that Marx’s thought is relevant for media/communication studies and Internet studies. This passage in the Grundrisse is an indication that although the Internet as technology was a product of the Cold War and Californian counter-culture, its concept was already anticipated by Marx in the 19th century—Karl Marx invented the Internet!
Christian Fuchs and Nick Dyer-Witheford (2013) have argued that ten concepts especially make Marx’s works crucial for understanding the Internet and social media:
(4) surplus value, exploitation, alienation, class
(6) ideology/ideology critique
(7) class struggle
(9) public sphere
The outlined concepts allow one to formulate an incomplete research agenda for critical Internet studies that includes the following questions:
(1) How can the creation, the development and the contradictions of the In- ternet be understood within a dialectically informed historical perspective?
(2) What exactly is the role of the Internet in capitalism? How can this role be theorized and empirically measured? Which Internet-based capital ac- cumulation models are there?
(3) Which forms of commodification do we find on the Internet and how do they work?
(4) Which different forms of surplus value creation are there on the Internet? How do they work? What do users think about them?
(5) How does the Internet interact with globalization processes?
(6) Which myths and ideologies are there about the Internet? How can they be uncovered, analysed and criticized?
(7) What is the role of the Internet in class struggles? What are the potentials, realities and limits of struggles for an alternative Internet?
(8) What are Internet commons? How does the commodification of the In- ternet commons work? Which models for strengthening the Internet com- mons are there?
(9) What are the potentials and limits of the Internet for bringing about a public sphere?
(10) What is a commons-based Internet in a commons-based society? Which germ forms and models of a commons-based Internet are there? How can the establishment of a commons-based Internet and corresponding struggles be strengthened?
A number of scholars have conducted important work for trying to overcome the labour blind spot of media and communication studies.Vincent Mosco and Catherine McKercher have edited a series of collections about communica- tive labour (McKercher and Mosco 2006, 2007; Mosco, McKercher and Huws 2010) as well as a monograph (Mosco and McKercher 2008). Ursula Huws’ editing of the journal Work Organisation Labour and Globalisation (see www.analyticapublications.co.uk) has resulted in the establishment of an important platform for the publication of critical studies of labour in the context of knowledge, ICTs and the media. A number of conferences have contributed to the emergence of a discourse on digital labour: “Digital Labour: Workers, Authors, Citizens” (Western University, London, Ontario, Canada, October 16–18, 2009; see ir.lib.uwo.ca/digitallabour, Burston, Dyer-Witheford and Hearn 2010); “The Internet as Playground and Factory” (New York, New School, November 12–14, 2009; see digitallabor.org, Scholz 2013), and “The 4th ICTs and Society Conference: Critique, Democracy and Philosophy in 21st Century Information Society: Towards Critical Theories of Social Media” (Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden, May 2–4, 2012; see www.icts-and- society.net/events/uppsala2012, Fuchs and Sandoval 2014, Fuchs 2012a, 2012d). The journal tripleC has increasingly moved towards publishing Marxist works on digital media and informational capitalism, as with the special issue “Marx Is Back—The Importance of Marxist Theory and Research for Critical Com- munication Studies Today” (Fuchs and Mosco 2012). The EU COST Action IS1202 “Dynamics of Virtual Work” (2012–2016, dynamicsofvirtualwork.com) points out the need to refocus the study of the creative and cultural economy on issues such as the global division of labour in this industry, the working conditions involved in the international division of digital labour (IDDL), pre- carious cultural labour, the problem of “free” digital labour and challenges to theorizing digital labour’s value creation, the challenge of prosumption (productive consumption) and playbour (play labour) for knowledge work, policy perspectives on virtual work (the role of trade unions, watchdog and civil soci- ety projects such as MakeIT Fair, policy problems and challenges for the regulation of virtual work, etc.) and occupational identities in knowledge work. Marx, capitalism, labour and digital labour have become more important in media and communication studies, although the mainstream is still dominated by administrative research. The task is to further institutionalize these studies so that a new generation of Marxist media and communication scholars can emerge, blossom and rise to become the new mainstream.
1 “Ausgeliefert!” is a play on words. It on the one hand means that something (like an Amazon parcel) gets delivered and on the other hand that one is at the mercy of somebody.
2 “Nazis, Bedingungen wie in einem modernen Arbeitslager und grenzenlose Profitgier. SCHÄMT EUCH!”
3 “Modernes Sklaventum, aber Hauptsache der Profit stimmt”.
4 “Gewinne, die auf einer neuen Spielart von Sklaverei beruhen, sollten genaso [sic] eingezogen warden, wie etwa Gewinne aus Drogenhandel!” (All comments are from the Amazon.de Facebook page, February 16–17, 2013).