The Labour of the Multitude? The Political Eeonomy of Social Creativity


20-22.10.2011, Warsaw


list of confirmed speakers: Luc Boltanski, Neil Cummings, Diedrich Diederichsen, Matteo Pasquinelli, John Roberts, Gigi Roggero, Martha Rosler, Hito Steyerl

curatorial team of the conference: Michał Kozłowski, Agnieszka Kurant, Jan Sowa, Krystian Szadkowski, Kuba Szreder

forms of contribution: a paper delivered in 15-20 minutes during the conference's sessions. The language of conference is English. We're planning to publish a peer-reviewed, bi-lingual (PL-ENG) summary of the conference with selected papers.

deadline for submissions: 15th of September 2011

fees/ scholarships: The conference is free of charge. FSUW is capable of providing a limited number of travel (up to 200 Euros) and accommodation grants to free lancers, independent artists and theoreticians who are not affiliated with Academies or other Institutions. If you are interested in receiving a FSUW scholarship, please indicate so in your proposal and estimate your travel costs to Warsaw.

contact: please send a short proposal (up to 300 words) with bio to Szymon Żydek: szymon[at], who will also respond to all other inquiries.

announces Open Call for Contributions: International conference: "The labour of multitudes? Political economy of social creativity"
Warsaw, 20th - 22nd of October 2011

Addressing the issue of social economy of creativity we seek to enlarge the spectrum of creativity’s political economy. Creativity refers to many things: it is both a means of production and a fetish of consumption, a sheer ideology of the capitalism which calls itself post-industrial and an efficient device of social and industrial management, it reflects the elitist privilege of the ruling elite as well as the aspirations of the underprivileged rabble. If it is true that contemporary capitalism has made an decisive shift in its modes of producing value then creativity and in particular collective creativity becomes a central category for the society as a whole. And artistic and cultural modes of production (along with scientific ones) are no longer merely supplementary fields of capitalistic social infrastructure. They become central sectors of production to which other fields of social labour remain subordinated in economical as well as in symbolic way. They not only accumulate most of the value but also are laboratories for social innovation. Consequently they should also provide a playground and battlefield for new social struggles, reemerging capitalistic contradictions and new forms of appropriation and exploitation. Or maybe the new paradigm is just a humbug that covers up the overall crisis of the existing one. Maybe we still linger under the rule of the old law of value based rather on living labour then creative networking. In this case the new social economy of the creativity would be a powerful symptom of a present crisis and it could be analyzed as such. Either of the approaches are welcome.

We are calling for theoretical contributions or artistic interventions in the five following fields:

1. Ideological appropriations: cognitive capitalism and creative industries.

Although it’s been more than half a century since Horkheimer and Adorno diagnosed the rise of culture industries, commodification of cultural production seems to be still reaching new territories. Ironically, the very term “cultural industries” is being used as a positive description of new wave of capitalist expansion. With the recent neoliberal twist in cultural management strategies the imperatives of efficiency and profit generation have become the guidelines even in the public sector. Artistic experiments are, more than anything else, immediately appropriated and commodified by creative industries and internal mechanisms of art field. Nevertheless experimenting continuously try to play the minority game" with creative industries and the rest of the art world. So how are we to analyze the famous and much discussed autonomy of artistic creation, scientific enquiry and cultural production? Does it have any critical and subversive potential? Is it a class privilege allowing those who have accumulated enough capital (in its various form) to bypass and overcome the demands of the economic power leaving the rest as an easy prey to the market forces? Or maybe it offers the last and only bastion of defense against ubiquitous commodification? Is there an artistic mode of resistance parallel to the artistic mode of production that we can see functioning in creative industries or artists led gentrification?

2. The future of work: the changing forms of labour and its remuneration.

The transition from a production in a closed, industrial plant to the times of dispersed and networked social factory is accompanied not by a spread of wealth, but a growing precariousness. More and more work is performed by each and every of us – when we browse the Net, when we watch commercials, when we share photos on Facebook, when we search on Google, visit the galleries or even install software on our computers – yet remuneration we get for any kind of work is getting not only smaller and smaller but also less and less sure. Is it a manifestation of logic of exploitation and alienation impossible to overcome within the capitalist mode of production? Or maybe we need to invent and introduce new forms of wealth redistribution that would take into the consideration the new logic of cognitive capitalism, like guaranteed minimum income? What new forms of resistance to exploitation can and should accompany the new forms of labour that we see emerging in front our eyes?

3. Property and value.

The question of value production has always been in the heart of political economy as well as its critique. How much the new forms of production rely on the old ways of producing and appropriating the value? What are the new mechanisms of value extraction and how they function? How new forms of intellectual property developing parallelly in the fields of high technology and culture – like copyleft, creative commons, copy-far-left etc. exemplified by such diverse phenomena as free software movement and Brazilian Techno Braga – challenge the very mechanisms of accumulation? The mechanisms of the art market and cultural industries lead to the exploitation of the general creative intellect. They are based on the fetishization and speculation not only of the cultural / artistic objects but also seemingly intangible processes and ideas. Does it make contemporary culture a perfect laboratory for future surplus value production and appropriation?

4. Peripheries of cognitive capitalism – continuation or redefinition.

One of the basic feature of capitalist world-system has been its division into core and periphery. Many contemporary theorists – like Antonio Negri or Christian Marazzi – argue that the transition from the times of material labour and industrial capitalism to immaterial labour and cognitive capitalism has made this distinction obsolete. The struggle between capital and labour is now supposed to take place within a unified circuit of production in the form of conflict between the empire and the multitude. Where does it leave traditional peripheries of capitalist economy, like the Central and Eastern Europe that played – according to Wallerstein and Braudel – the role of historically first Third World? Is there anything specific and particular about this part of the world that should make its way into theoretical analysis and practical action?

5. Politics in the age of immaterial labour.

If it is true that neither production nor labour nor power are what they used to be, one has to devise and implement new forms of political organization and struggle. Trade unions and party politics seem to be as obsolete as industrial factory and disciplinary power. Some argue that the multitudes emerge as already politicized subjects of resistance and revolutionary change, but isn’t it a too optimistic vision of future politics? And how resistant this resistance can be? With a wave of “Twitter Revolutions” and “Facebook Activism” the Internet has been hailed as a new tool of struggle, however the Wikileaks affair showed how easy it is to block inconvenient content and pull the plug on free communication. On the other hand “the idea of communism” advocated by Zizek and Badiou in their two recent books and conferences (2009 London, 2010 Berlin) may seem like a call to go back to traditional forms and ways of struggling with the capital. Is there an alternative?

International conference "The labour of the multitude? The political economy of social creativity" is a part of Free/Slow University of Warsaw's 2011 program "Social economy of creativity. In search of economic strategy to promote the circulation of independent culture" co-financed by the Polish National Cultural Centre under the Culture Observatory program /

International conference "The labour of the multitude? The political economy of social creativity" is relised in partnership with the Faculty of Philosophy and Sociology at the University of Warsaw