Reconsidering Value and Labour in the Digital Age

Fisher, Eran and Christian Fuchs, eds. 2015. Reconsidering Value and Labour in the Digital Age. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978–1–137–47080–5 (hardback). ISBN 978–1–137–47081–2 (paperback).

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How do labour and value-production change in the age of Facebook, YouTube and Twitter?

This volume explores current interventions into the digital labour theory of value, proposing theoretical and empirical work that contributes to our understanding of Marx’s labour theory of value, proposes how labour and value are transformed under conditions of digital and social media, and employ the theory in order to shed light on specific practices.

The labour theory of value is one of the core tenets of Marx’s theory of historical materialism, and of his understanding of capitalism. It is the theory that connects value to class structure, and that unveils the exploitative social relations that lie behind prices of commodities. It is therefore obvious why contemporary scholars interested in Marxian theory would be keen on finding out to what extent Marx’s categories still stand and to what extent they need to be modified to reflect contemporary realities.

Stating that the source of capital, and the motor for its accumulation, is labour, and labour only, the labour theory of value is of continued contemporary interest to Marxian theorists. They seek to unveil new modes by which labour is organised and subsumed to the control of capital under the new realities of peer production, free social media, the commodification of life itself, the emergence of playbour, and many other empirical realities of contemporary digital capitalism. In Reconsidering Value and Labour in the Digital Age, these themes are explored across a range of insightful and current scholarly contributions.

With contributions by Christian Fuchs, Marisol Sandoval, Arwid Lund, Bingqing Xia, Brice Nixon, Eran Fisher, Yuqi Na, Thomas Allmer, Sebastian Sevignani, Jernej Prodnik, Olivier Frayssé, Jakob Rigi, Kylie Jarrett, Andrea Fumagalli, Frederick H. Pitts

Eran Fisher is a Senior Lecturer at the department of Sociology, Political Science, and Communication at the Open University of Israel. His work has appeared in The European Journal of Social Theory, Media, Culture and Society, and Information, Communication, and Society. His books include Media and New Capitalism in the Digital Age: The Spirit of Network (2010, Palgrave) and Internet and Emotions (co-edited in 2014).

Christian Fuchs is a Professor at the University of Westminster, UK, and Director of the Communication and Media Research Institute (CAMRI) and Director of the Westminster Institute for Advanced Studies (WIAS). He is editor of the journal tripleC: Communication, Capitalism & Critique and author of many books such as Reading Marx in the Information Age: A Media and Communication Studies Perspective on Capital Volume 1 (2016), Culture and Economy in the Age of Social Media (2015), Social Media: A Critical Introduction (2014), Digital Labour and Karl Marx (2014), Foundations of Critical Media and Information Studies (2011) and Internet and Society (2008).

Table of Contents

1. Introduction: Value and Labour in the Digital Age
Christian Fuchs and Eran Fisher

2. The Digital Labour Theory of Value and Karl Marx in the Age of Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Weibo
Christian Fuchs
A video of C. Fuchs’ talk at the workshop, whose outcome this book is, can be seen here. It is related to the books Digital Labour and Karl Marx & Culture and Economy in the Age of Social Media]

3. The Hands and Brains of Digital Culture. Arguments for an Inclusive Approach to Cultural Labour
Marisol Sandoval


4. A Contribution to a Critique of the Concept Playbour
Arwid Lund

5. Marx in Chinese Online Space: Some Thoughts on the Labour Problem in Chinese Internet industries
Bingqing Xia


6. The Exploitation of Audience Labour: A Missing Perspective on Communication and Capital in the Digital Era
Brice Nixon

7. Audience Labour on Social Media: Learning from Sponsored Stories
Eran Fisher

8. Advertising on Social Media: The Reality behind the Ideology of ‘Free Access’. The Case of Chinese Social Media Platforms Yuqi Na


9. Mapping Approaches to User Participation and Digital Labour: A Critical Perspective
Thomas Allmer, Sebastian Sevignani, Jernej Prodnik

10. Is the Concept of Rent Relevant to a Discussion of Surplus Value in the Digital World?
Olivier Frayssé

11. The Demise of the Marxian Law of Value? A Critique of Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri
Jakob Rigi


12. Devaluing Binaries: Marxist Feminism and the Value of Consumer Labour
Kylie Jarrett

13. The Concept of the Subsumption of Labour under Capital: Life Subsumption in Cognitive-Biocapitalism
Andrea Fumagalli

14. Form-Giving Fire: Creative Industries as Marx’s ‘Work of Combustion’ and the Distinction between Productive and Unproductive Labour
Frederick H. Pitts


This book documents the results of the workshop “Marx’s Labour Theory of Value in the Digital Age” that took place from June 15–17, 2014, at the Open University of Israel. It was co-organized by the two of us with financial support from the COST Action “Dynamics of Virtual Work” (see: and hosted by the Open University of Israel’s Department of Sociology, Political Science and Communication that also provided additional financial support.