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Maurizio Lazzarato: The Production of Subjectivity
The Production of Subjectivity
(S. 165 – 174)

The endless array of merchandise

Maurizio Lazzarato

The Production of Subjectivity

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In contemporary capitalism, subjectivity is the product of a mass industry organized on a global level. For Félix Guattari this is actually the first and most important of capitalist productions, because it preconditions and is part of production in all other forms of merchandise. Subjectivity is a ‘key merchandise,’ which in its ‘nature’ is put together, developed and manufactured in the same way as a car, electricity, or a washing machine. Capitalism organizes the production and control of subjectivity through two different systems, which weave together the manufacture of the individuated subject (“social subjection”) and what seems to be the opposite, de-subjectification (“machinic enslavement”). Therefore capitalism exercises a twofold hold over subjectivity.

Social subjection involves techniques of government, which pass by way of, and mobilize, representation (political and linguistic), areas of knowledge, discursive visual practices, etc., and produce ‘subjects of rights,’ ‘political subjects,’ in short: ‘subjects’ of ‘I’s,’ of individuals. By producing us as individuated subjects, social subjection assigns an identity to us, a sex, a profession, a nationality, and so on. It is a signifying and representative semiotic trap which no one escapes. In contemporary capitalism, these processes and techniques find their realization in the “human capital” which makes each one of us a subject responsible for and guilty of his own actions and patterns of behaviour. The ‘free subject’ – in the sense of ‘delivered’ from all personal subordination – is realized in the figure of the self-entrepreneur and in the figure of the consumer who, in an entirely sovereign manner, chooses from an endless array of merchandise.

Machinic enslavement, on the other hand, refers to non-representative, operational and diagrammatic techniques, which explore partial, modular and sub-individual subjectivities. This enslavement works and produces what Gilles Deleuze calls the “dividual.” Capitalism is the permanent reconstruction of such a state of enslavement in which people function similar to mechanical pieces, by forming components and ‘human’ elements of mechanization. For companies specializing in social networks (Facebook) and search engines (Google), for polling institutes, for databanks, for market studies, for marketing firms and so on, humans are not perceived as a ‘subject,’ but rather as a source of exchange and information processing. Human functions, like those of technical elements, are restricted to making the machine work, providing it with the raw material of information. Representations, psychology, consciousness, inwardness, etc. are, in principle, not required. Social subjection functions on the basis of...

  • Gouvernementalität
  • Postfordismus
  • Kapitalismus
  • Regierungstechnologien
  • Subjektivität
  • Daten
  • Subjektivierung
  • Identität
  • Mensch-Maschine-System
  • Algorithmen

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Maurizio Lazzarato

ist Soziologe und Philosoph und lebt heute in Paris. In den 1970er Jahren studierte Lazzarato in Padua. Sein Engagement in der operaistischen Bewegung und sein politisch erzwungener Wegzug nach Paris blieben entscheidend für seine theoretischen Arbeiten ebenso wie für seine filmischen Kollaborationen mit der Künstlerin Angela Melitopoulos. In den 1990er Jahren gehörte Lazzarato zu den Mitbegründern des post-operaistischen Diskurses um den Wandel zur ›immateriellen‹ und ›kognitiven‹ Arbeit als Paradigma der post-fordistischen Gesellschaften des Westens. Seine Aufsätze sind in zahlreichen Anthologien zur poststrukturalistischen Philosophie erschienen ebenso wie in Sammelbänden zu politischen und ökonomischen Theorien der Gegenwart. In den 1990er und 2000er Jahren war er Redaktionsmitglied der Pariser Zeitschriften Futur Antérieur und Multitudes.

Weitere Texte von Maurizio Lazzarato bei DIAPHANES
Kerstin Stakemeier (Hg.), Susanne Witzgall (Hg.): Fragile Identities

What is the current state of the subject and what about the status of its self-image? In contemporary discourses we encounter more and more “fragile identities,” in artistic works as well as in scientific theories, and those are today much less referring to a critique of the concept of identity, but much rather to the relationship those concepts of identity entertain with the overall precarious state of the subject in current social conditions that are characterized by political upheaval and change.
The book Fragile Identities investigates among other things the chances and also the possible endangerments of such a fragile self and asks for the resurging urgency of a contemporary concept of subjectivity. The publication combines international artistic and scholarly contributions, discussions and project documentations in relation to the second annual theme of the cx centre for interdisciplinary studies at the Academy of Fine Arts Munich.

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