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Immaterial Production

Historically speaking, production is the act of transforming material objects into marketable commodities. Today, however, this activity has extended beyond the physical world. As Maurizio Lazzarato argues, contemporary relations of production are not so much about acting on material bodies as they are about acting on minds and subjectivities. The immaterial or virtual, in other words, closely accompanies the actual in modern industrial processes.

Power here operates less and less on material earth and more and more on perceptions, desires and attention. Modern technologies operate on minds, capturing the imaginations of viewers. The constitutive role of television, cinema and the internet, after all, is to capture belief and attention, in contrast to producing tactile things.

That the immaterial is becoming more central to production is not by accident. “Before products can be sold, or even made, attention and memory must be captured by the technologies that work on publics” (Read, p. 97).

This is especially true in the case of surplus production. Given the inherent dynamic of capitalism to increase production on a continually larger scale, thereby threatening a crisis of over-production, surplus stockpiles of goods must be absorbed in some way to keep the wheels of capitalism turning. Forestalling this crisis is none other than marketing and advertising, which are used to bolster consumer demand.

Material Consulted

Eugene Holland, Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus

Brian Massumi, A User’s Guide to Capitalism and Schizophrenia

Jason Read, “The Fetish is Always Actual, Revolution is Always Virtual” in Deleuze and Marx, ed. Dhruv Jain