“[T]he social factory has become the factory of unhappiness.” Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi’s description of the ‘social brain’ in the era of semio-capital is profoundly melancholic. But what is the social factory? What can we say about the ‘social brain’? And is semio-capital really so different from the older kind? Discussions of contemporary work often pivot around a series of binary oppositions as unhelpful as they are tempting: if some work can be described as ‘immaterial’, does this make other kinds of workers – ‘material’ workers – somehow old-fashioned, outdated? When we talk about the social brain are we implying that brains exist without bodies, and that some brains are stuck in pre-technologised circuits? Who or what does the social brain think for, and what does it produce? This paper discusses contemporary feminist responses to current debates around work, arguing in favour of an approach that begins from the standpoint of social reproduction and care.
Nina Power teaches Philosophy at the University of Roehampton and Critical Writing in Art & Design at the Royal College of Art. She is the co-editor (with Alberto Toscano) of Alain Badiou’s On Beckett (2003) and Political Writings (forthcoming), and author of numerous articles, reviews and interventions on political subjectivity, Marxist thought, critical theory and feminism. Her One-Dimensional Woman (2009) has been translated into French, Turkish, German and Italian.