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By Jean-Marie Vincent

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Extra resources for Abstract Labour: A Critique

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Vincent's praxis is conscious, transformative activity which succeeds, precisely, in surmounting the repetitiousness and the unreflective character of labour. One other term requires explanation: starting in chapter 3, Vincent, following Marx, refers to the 'sensible-suprasensible world', that is, the world of social relations which are perceived as objective forms but which also have a fetishised, reified character. 'Sensible' should be understood here as 'perceptible by the senses', even though it also commonly refers to that which 'makes sense'.

Labour is not - or is no longer 18 Abstract Labour: A Critique - creation, but degradation, absorption of the most vital individual energies by the ogre of objectivity which feeds itself tirelessly on human subjectivities, without ever reaching its limits. The objects and means of labour escape the control of their producers or users, thereby causing the producers to become instruments of their own reproduction as subordinate elements of social production. Capitalist society, in other words, is characterised by an inverted teleology which puts means in place of ends, results of action in place of premises, confined in a goal-orientated relation in which the goal seems to express its own will.

In the most highly developed capitalist countries, the historically rising trend of productivity has placed the reduction of time devoted to production - related activities - and hence the extension of leisure time- on the agenda. At the same time, the growing separation between workers and the means of production, in addition to the obsolescence of old professions and skills, widens the distance between furnishers of abstract labour and their production. Individuals identify less and less easily with what has become no more than a phantom of individualised activity.

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