A Crisis of Measurability

  • Frederick Harry Pitts
Part of the Marx, Engels, and Marxisms book series (MAENMA)


Postoperaists extrapolate from the advent of contemporary ‘immaterial labour’ a crisis of measurability synonymous with a crisis in the law of value. This chapter reveals such claims to deny the Marxian theory of value only through recourse to its most traditional interpretation, holding value to relate not the social validation of abstract labour but the quantification of direct labour-time. Drawing on existing critiques by Michael Heinrich and George Caffentzis, the chapter interrogates three assumptions present in theorisations of immaterial labour: its novelty, its ‘immediately abstract’ character, and its immeasurable productiveness. The chapter concludes that the new conditions captured in the concept of immaterial labour do not pose a crisis for the law of value, because value has never related to the measurement of immediate labour.


  1. Arthur, C. 2013. The Practical Truth of Abstract Labour. In Marx’s Laboratory: Critical Interpretations of the Grundrisse, ed. R. Bellofiore, G. Starosta, and P. Thomas, 101–120. Leiden: Brill.Google Scholar
  2. Banks, M., R. Gill, and S. Taylor, eds. 2013. Theorizing Cultural Work: Labour, Continuity & Change in the Cultural & Creative Industries. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  3. Bellofiore, R. 2009. A Ghost Turning into a Vampire: The Concept of Capital and Living Labour. In Re-reading Marx: New Perspectives After the Critical Edition, ed. R. Bellofiore and R. Fineschi, 178–194. London: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Berardi, F. 2009. The Soul at Work. Trans. F. Cadel and G. Mecchia. Los Angeles: Semiotext(e).Google Scholar
  5. ———. 2013. The Uprising: On Poetry and Finance. Los Angeles: Semiotext(e).Google Scholar
  6. Caffentzis, G. 2005. Immeasurable Value? An Essay on Marx’s Legacy. The Commoner 10: 87–114.Google Scholar
  7. ———. 2013. In Letters of Blood and Fire: Work, Machines, and Value. Oakland: PM Press.Google Scholar
  8. Doogan, K. 2009. New Capitalism? The Transformation of Work. Cambridge: Polity.Google Scholar
  9. Fumagalli, A. 2010. The Global Economic Crisis and Socioeconomic Governance. In Crisis in the Global Economy, ed. A. Fumagalli and S. Mezzadra, 61–84. Trans. Jason Francis McGimsey. Los Angeles: Semiotext(e).Google Scholar
  10. Fumagalli, A., and S. Mezzadra. 2010. Nothing Will Ever Be the Same: Ten Theses on the Financial Crisis. In Crisis in the Global Economy, 237–272. Los Angeles: Semiotext(e).Google Scholar
  11. Graeber, D. 2008. The Sadness of Post-Workerism, or “Art and Immaterial Labour” Conference: A Sort of Review. The Commoner. Accessed 29 Oct 2016.
  12. Hardt, M., and A. Negri. 2001. Empire. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  13. ———. 2004. Multitude. London: Penguin.Google Scholar
  14. ———. 2009. Commonwealth. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Harvie, D. 2005. All Labour Produces Value for Capital and We All Struggle Against Value. The Commoner 10: 132–171.Google Scholar
  16. Heinrich, M. 2007. Invaders from Marx: On the Uses of Marxian Theory, and the Difficulties of a Contemporary Reading. Left Curve 31. Accessed 29 Oct 2016.
  17. ———. 2012. An Introduction to the Three Volumes of Karl Marx’s Capital. New York: Monthly Review Press.Google Scholar
  18. Lazzarato, M. 1996. Immaterial Labor. In Radical Thought in Italy, ed. P. Virno and M. Hardt, 133–150. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  19. Marazzi, C. 2008. Capital and Language. Los Angeles: Semiotext(e).Google Scholar
  20. ———. 2010. The Violence of Financial Capitalism. Trans. K. Lebedeva. Los Angeles: Semiotext(e).Google Scholar
  21. Marx, K. 1976. Capital. Vol. I. London: Penguin.Google Scholar
  22. ———. 2013. Workers’ Inquiry. In A Workers’ Inquiry Reader. Assembled to Accompany. The Politics of Workers’ Inquiry Conference, ed. S. Shukaitis, J. Figiel and A. Walker, 8–15. Wivenhoe: Ephemera.Google Scholar
  23. Mezzadra, S. 2010. Introduction. In Crisis in the Global Economy, ed. A. Fumagalli and S. Mezzadra, 7–16. Trans. J.F. McGimsey. Los Angeles: Semiotext(e).Google Scholar
  24. Negri, A. 1992. Marx Beyond Marx: Lessons on the Grundrisse. London: Pluto.Google Scholar
  25. ———. 2008. Reflections on Empire. Trans. E. Emery. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  26. ———. 2009. The Savage Anomaly: The Power of Spinoza’s Metaphysics and Politics. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  27. Ross, A. 2003. No-Collar: The Humane Workplace and Its Hidden Costs. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  28. Vercellone, C. 2010. The Crisis of the Law of Value and the Becoming-Rent of Profit. In Crisis in the Global Economy, ed. A. Fumagalli and S. Mezzadra, 85–118. Los Angeles: Semiotext(e).Google Scholar
  29. Weeks, K. 2011. The Problem with Work. Durham/London: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Frederick Harry Pitts
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Economics, Finance and ManagementUniversity of BristolBristolUK

Personalised recommendations