Conference Papers

The Value of Marx: Free Labour, Rent and ‘Primitive’ Accumulation in Facebook







Abstract: This paper argues that critical studies of organization need to extend their analysis of labour beyond the sphere of value production organized by capital in order to fully apprehend the realities of today’s political economy. One direction in which this analysis must be developed is to radically expand our understanding of ‘labour’ to incorporate the full range of value producing activities, including productive consumption (also called ‘prosumption’) and ‘free labour’. The second direction, which is more theoretically neglected, is to recognize that some contemporary business models do not depend much upon value production at all, but rather on the appropriation of value through the extraction of rents. In this paper we develop this analysis of ‘profit becoming rent’ by returning to Marx’s conception of ‘primitive accumulation’, both to highlight the continued significance of enclosure and appropriation in the global circuits of the extractive industries and manufacturing, but also to demonstrate that this logic is at work even in the most advanced socio-economic formations, for example in the basic business model of Facebook.

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