attempts at living

to make a system out of delusions

Tag: work

Brief remarks on PLUSS

The following is a re-post from facebook of my angry rant, so forgive spelling etc. It’s based on seeing NovaraMedia having  posted this image

I went off to search for more info on where this image comes from and found the phrase being used elsewhere. Specifically on the PLUSS young person scheme website.

What is the PLUSS hire-a-young person scheme? Click the images below to enlarge:

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

It seems to be designed to massage employment figures, to simulate growth in the figures of a section of  UK society that has the highest unemployment rate. So the government gets to point to a sudden boom in employment for u-25s and say “hey, our austerity measures are working”. This would provide the UK government with a spurious justification for their open assaults on the working class & the institutions it struggled to achieve. It would effectively render their- at this point almost entirely overt- class war with an appearance of legitimate socio-economic planning.

But of course at the end of the 26 weeks, when the companies receive payment for participation (the “incentive” part of the scheme) and as the “try before you hire” duration reaches its end, how many of these people will be tossed back into unemployment?

It’s also intensely ideological in its presentation. Making it seem like you have to be employed to be a “somebody” (as one of their banners puts it) – thus broadcasting that the only value a person can carry is an economic value. This can be confirmed secondarily in being a good consumer. The same banner, with an image of a young woman, also declares that now she feels like a “somebody” “I can buy an iphone!” This is a weird twist as it also introduces the idea that you have to be a morally deserving person in order to be a consumer: its not that consumption makes you good, it’s that you can only consume once you have been declared “good”.

That its being delievered for the DwP to get disabled people back to work means its also part of the ATOS-led drive to get people who would ordinarily be in receipt of deserved welfare, who up until now have been recognised as requiring support to return to work or as unlikely to be capable of working again, are being forced into the wage relation.

As their website puts it, PLUSS focuses on “individuals considered furthest from the labour market”. This is no more than the attempt to draw people who have been exempted from the labour market into it- marshalling vulnerable populations that from capital’s perspective have been hitherto an entirely unproductive surplus-population. The point that it thus misses, or is trying to obfuscate, it that such surplus-populations are a result of the tendencies of capital to eliminate labour in the valorisation process.

These groups are also being commodified twice over. Once as labour, and a second time as “socially-conscious labour” (ie. companies get to say “look how we don’t discriminate”). Meanwhile the state is paying these companies to take these people on, so much of the “saving” on paying welfare is lost anyway. It’s not to do with welfare…it’s to do with getting these “skivers” back to work, satisfying economic reason & a perverse moralism that hates anyone perceived as living an easy life (the preserve of the global bourgeoisie).

This is esp. the case with a great deal of mental health disabilities: although you will never see orthodox psychiatry discuss class, you will find a lot of research on purely sociological conceptualisations of “stress”, “poverty” and “economic inequality” being a driver of much mental distress.

I mean- “try before you hire”? Dunno where in the world you are but in the UK we have something called “try before you buy”- and it refers to those commodities we usually call consumer products. It’s also rarely expected that you’ll buy the product then and there- it functions as more of an advert and a bit of affective outreach. So what to make of this except that its treating people as products to be picked up- disability as a kind of new brand that employers are being asked to consider.

They even have a statement defending all this, asking that we not make this issue political or ideological- as if it wasn’t already exactly that:

So all in all, I think its all part of the ideological weaponry of austerity, weaponry deployed as part of a class war that increasingly places capital in antagonism to the working class (which is also composed of women, PoC, and those with non-medico-normative bodies). How I feel about it is very, very angry.


Time (without monads)

Levi has a great post up, coming of the back of a series, on the nature of object/machines as experentialities, or monads. The point of this quick post isn’t to delve into the details of his MOO/OOO argument but to focus on the issue of the production and struggle over/in temporalities.

One of the interesting things for me remains the way in which some of these arguments are oddball to philosophy but perfectly commonsensical in other disciplines. The ideas of temporal capture and calorific depletion, for instance, are issues that psychiatry deals with on a daily basis. This isn’t to suggest any banality to Levi’s points, it is more about pointing out just how far philosophy has crawled into the epistemic sovereignty of idealism that it must constantly be pointed out that bodies exist and that different bodies experience different worlds.

In psychiatry, this is also an essential point given that its main order of business is a set of pragmatic approaches to alien phenomenologies that exist among human beings; the entire range of psychotic experience being nothing less than the production of a new world from fairly minor material structuring (and this, quite obviously, also produces entirely “deranged” psychotic spatio-temporalities). In the extreme, and at the most basic, perrturbations in neural arrangement and functioning can lead to a loss of sensation of agency and identity with the body in some humans, and this leads onto the recomposition of the cognitive and perceptual domains via interoception and empathic responsiveness, and also in the motor-agential coupling to environments that no longer present the same affordances.

Levi, I wonder then if your OOO doesn’t begin to couple itself to Franco Berardi’s heavily Virilio inspired account of organic time and cyber time. We are the organism that rends itself between a finite, boldily time (or objectile/machinic temporality if you prefer) and an infinite, accelerative cyberinfomation temporality. This infinitely fast digital temporality outpaces our own neuronal and, therefore, cognitive ability to generate temporalities, and so to process events in time. The one temporality outraces the other, and it is within both of these temporalities that we are captured. For Bifo this can lead to exhaustion (or fatigue) of a nature that isn’t the result of physical material labouring but simply of living in a mediatised social ecology.

For me, the essential part of this post is the consideration that

‘If I am doing one thing, I can’t do another thing. If I am attending to this or that bit of information, I am not attending to other bits of information. If my working day is so saturated by labor that all my calories are eaten up, I’m left without energy for revolt’.

As Levi suggests, these materio-pheneomenological effects of chrono-political acceleration and the attentional economy mean that power operates at the physiological and neurological level (in a sense, RS Bakker’s neuropath would just be a direct intensification of processes that are ongoing), Such is to take Foucault notion of an ‘anatomy of power’ and to literalise it; power is anatomical, physiological, and neurological.It is also to finally be done with the need to ideological theories based on false consciousness. This isn’t to say that educative work is no longer a political consideration but to assert that theories that take the consciousness of the latent proletariat (as a class for itself) to be ideologically mystified are themselves mystifications of a much simpler, and therefore much more pervasive, problem. We live in time. If a worker lacks a good understanding of capitalism, if she votes for a right wing populist party (such as has just happened in the UK with UKIP making considerable gains in recent council elections) then this is not because she is stupid and not because the plutocratic class has manipulated her mind by inserting an ideological (ie: epistemic) veil between the real world and some delusional one I

If a worker spends 8 hours of her day at work, operating in two temporalities via her body and her immersion in a disembodying digital temporality, and must suffer the chronic overstimulation of her evolved attentional capacities, thereby generating a near permanent level of chronic anxiety, while not eating properly (lack of time; disordered eating- which is not necessarily identifical with an eating disorder but pervades our society; not enough/ not good enough sleep; tending to children, an aging parent or other dependents) then it is no wonder that she doesn’t have a good understanding of the political and economic condition of her age. There is no time for it! Chronic overstimulation and undernutrition mean her brain is burned out, exhausted, and she must get to bed rather than crack open a copy of Capital or Hatred of Democracy,

No wonder then that a populist party can come along, mouth some half formed crap that captures her resentments, her exhaustions, speaking sympathetically with “hard working people”, and aping her frustration with an oligarchic class (to which they of course belong) that seems to only ever ask that more be taken from her, that what little defences she has in place be taken from her. The easy answers of the right and of right wing populism don’t come as ideological mystification: they come as readily processable, emotional (and therefore not deliberative, which depends of calorie expenditure, time, space, patience) messages that simply point to group x, y, or z to be scapegoated and easy promises rendered. The political classes declare that party x has no credible policies, that its victories are merely a lodging of protest on the part of the electorate, and thereby entirely miss the point.

The point of this is simply to say that politics, whatever your politics are, must start from the body and not from some realm that follows after the body. If there are delusional structures of belief operating in the world (ideologies, if you like) then it is important to realise that ideologies begin with the flesh; to think anything else is to think in a disembodied way that is itself typical of the destructive delusions of our age. It is to reassert, with Marx, that time is the dimension of existence and of struggles and to recall that time is the temporalities of bodies that are always also spatialities. If there is a question of delusion then it is a question, as psychiatry repeatedly tells, of material delusions, the materiality of delusions. It is also to recognise, as any mental health workers ought to know, that challenging delusions (“speaking truth to power”) does nothing to shake the phenomena of delusional conviction. Delusions are, by definition, not amenable to rational challenging; to tell the deluded that their belief is mistaken, a cognitive mystification, a poor translation of the corporeal realm, is akin to telling a contemporary Westerner that gravity is all wrong, that light is made of turnips, or that they aren’t really people but highly camouflaged woodlice. If you did these thing you’d be met with a bemused and possibly offended audience.

Recent movements like Occupy have attempted to occupy space and to arrest the capture of bodies into a specific regime of spatio-temporalisation; that of production, of capitalist accumulation and the self-valorisation of capital. Occupy was the production of a political zone of deceleration, an oppositional temporality that carved out a kind of temporary autonomous rhythm inside the accelerative rhythm of a manic late capitalism. Calls have been made in the UK and across Europe for a general strike, the ultimate weaponsation of economic temporalities that lay in the hands of the working bodies/the body of workers. One of the watchwords of contemporary capitalism for all workers is time management. As ever, the anarchic question must be posed, again and again: who has the right to manage?

Precariat precluded

In ‘Not Waving but Drowning: Precarity and the Working Class’, Mark Hoskins takes a critical look at the idea put forward by some academics and even parts of the anti-capitalist movement that the “precariat” is the revolutionary subject of our epoch. After examining the subjective conditions of the precarious subject today and comparing its objective conditions to those of the working class of the last century, he goes on to explore how these conditions relate to our end goal, a communist society and what lessons that can teach us in our attempt to get there.

In full here.

Repost from Right to Work article of Wednesday 12 December 2012 (which includes some unfortunate and historically myopic faith in the UK Labour Party).

Figures reveal slowdown in new jobs and continuing long-term unemployment

The latest unemployment figures show the Tories’ claims that private employers are “picking up the slack” of vicious government job cuts are increasingly unconvincing.

While the unemployment minister Mark Hoban is trying to gloss over the slowdown the numbers show that from Aug–Oct 2012 employment increased by just 40,000 while the previous quarters increase had been 236,000 almost 6 times greater. This shows that an already weak recovery is getting weaker and points the way to another rise in unemployment next year.

Prime Minister David Cameron claimed that a reduction of 10,000 in long-term unemployment for 16-24 year-olds showed that the Work Programme was working – however an increase of 8,000 in long-term unemployment for 25-49 year olds show that for too many it was a birthday rather than a new job that took them out of the youth unemployment statistics.

More reflective of the Work Programme’s dreadful performance is the unchanged figure of 904,000 for long-term unemployment, more than half have now been without work for over 2 years. For 16-17 year-old school-leavers the numbers out of work for at least a year almost doubled to 17,000.

The paper-thin rhetoric of the government can no longer hide the fact that the employment figures have been temporarily boosted by the Olympics and flattered by employers switching to part-time labour to undercut wages and conditions. The effect of this is wearing off just as the economy looks primed to enter George Osborne’s austerity induced triple-dip recession. The likely outcome of this will be growing unemployment in 2013, with ever greater numbers entering the ranks of the long-term unemployed.

It is good news that the Labour party has said it will fight Osborne’s attempts to make the poorest pay for the crisis with his ‘welfare uprating bill’ in the new year. While the Tories pretend their poverty bill is targeted at ‘skivers’ rather than ‘strivers’ some 60% of those it will hit are actually in low-paid work and reliant on tax-credits.

Despite the reticence of some Labour MPs to include unemployed people in those they will defend from the bill Ed Miliband must not be drawn into the Tory game of ‘the undeserving poor’.Those of us who are trapped in unemployment by the failed policies of this Tory government do not deserve to face cuts to poverty level benefits, especially when they are proposed by an Eton millionaire whose handouts to his rich pals and cushy tax arrangements for corporate giants like Starbucks have left us high and dry.


Tens of thousands of sick and disabled people in Scotland face being forced on to unpaid work programmes under threat of losing their benefits from tomorrow.

That is when disability claimants will become eligible for controversial mandatory “workfare” placements, according to new plans which have been quietly drawn up by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

People with a range of physical or mental health conditions could find themselves stacking shelves in high-street stores such as Tesco and Poundland, or cleaning private homes, under the new proposals.

Since the Government’s Work Programme began in June, tens of thousands of job seekers have been put on unpaid placements. Now some ill or disabled people are to be told that they must take unpaid positions or risk losing up to 70% of their employment support allowance (ESA).

Ironically, the new measures are coming into effect on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. A series of national protests against the Government’s workfare programmes will take place this week.

Leading Scottish charities have expressed serious concerns about people with disabilities being forced on to compulsory work placements.

Across the UK, some 340,000 disabled people have been placed in the work related activity group (WRAG), which means they must undertake a range of activities to help them get back to work, including training, job-hunting – and now mandatory work placements.

Read the full story here.

Problems with work

Pdf of Kathi Weeks 2011 text The Problem with Work:Feminism, Marxism, Antiwork Politics, and Postwork Imaginaries.

From the introduction:

The domination and subordination experienced at work is not merely incidental to processes of exploitation. Carole Pateman’s analysis of the employment contract is illuminating on this point. By her account, the problem with the labor contract is not just a function of the coerced entry that is ensured by the absence of viable alternatives to waged labor, nor is it only a matter of the inequality that is produced as the result of the contract’s terms. To translate this into a Marxist vocabulary, the problem can be reduced neither to forced labor nor to exploitation. Rather, we need to pay more attention to the relationship of dominance and submission that is authorized by the waged labor contract and that shapes labor’s exercise. Exploitation is possible, Pateman notes, because “the employment contract creates the capitalist as master; he has the political right to determine how the labour of the worker will be used” (1988, 149). This relation of command and obedience, the right of the employer to direct his or her employees that is granted by the contract, is not so much a byproduct of exploitation as its very precondition. [emphasis added].

This has always been what I have considered the proper emphasis, and it is why I have been more ready to identify with the anarchists than the Marxists. How many problems with living are the product of problems with working?

Debt Strike/Strike Debt

Rolling Jubilee is a Strike Debt project that buys debt for pennies on the dollar, but instead of collecting it, abolishes it. Together we can liberate debtors at random through a campaign of mutual support, good will, and collective refusal. Debt resistance is just the beginning. Join us as we imagine and create a new world based on the common good, not Wall Street profits.



Debt as Power (The Occupied Times)

Every single one of us holds the key to power – debt. Just as coal miners in England used their access to coal to flip the balance of power, so debtors can use their access to credit by declaring a ‘debt strike’, to force a revaluation of the bank stranglehold on the economy.

Forget petitions. Forget protests. Forget parliamentary inquiries. If people really want stop being ‘bankered’, there’s a better way: debt.

Read in full


The Debt Resisters Operations Manual (USA)

This manual—written by an anonymous collective of resistors, defaulters, and allies from Strike Debt and Occupy Wall Street—aims to provide specific tactics for understanding and fighting against the debt system. You’ll find detailed strategies and resources for dealing with credit card, medical, student, housing and municipal debt, tactics for navigating the pitfalls of personal bankruptcy, and information to help protect yourself from predatory lenders. Recognizing that individually we can only do so much to resist the system of debt, the manual also introduces ideas for those who have made the decision to take collective action.

Pdf here


Read a dialogue from Dissent Magazine on the pros and cons of organising around debt.

Work and meaning

Whoever asks about the content, meaning, and goal of his or her job, will go crazy or becomes a disruptive element in the social machinery designed to function as an end-in-itself. “Homo faber”, once full of conceit as to his craft and trade, a type of human who took seriously what he did in a parochial way, has become as old-fashioned as a mechanical typewriter. The treadmill has to run at all cost, and “that’s all there is to it”. Advertising departments and armies of entertainers, company psychologists, image advisors and drug dealers are responsible for creating meaning. Where there is continual babble about motivation and creativity, there is not a trace left of either of them – save self-deception. This is why talents such as autosuggestion, self-projection and competence simulation rank among the most important virtues of managers and skilled workers, media stars and accountants, teachers and parking lot guards.

Krisis Group, Manifesto against labour.

The mechanism of anchoring also serves from early childhood; parents, home, the street become matters of course to the child and give it a sense of assurance. This sphere of experience is the first, and perhaps the happiest, protection against the cosmos that we ever get to know in life, a fact that doubtless also explains the much debated ‘infantile bonding;’ the question of whether that is sexually tainted too is unimportant here. When the child later discovers that those fixed points are as ‘arbitrary’ and ‘ephemeral’ as any others, it has a crisis of confusion and anxiety and promptly looks around for another anchoring. “In Autumn, I will attend middle school.” If the substitution somehow fails, then the crisis may take a fatal course, or else what I will call an anchoring spasm occurs: One clings to the dead values, concealing as well as possible from oneself and others the fact that they are unworkable, that one is spiritually insolvent. The result is lasting insecurity, ‘feelings of inferiority,’ over-compensation, restlessness. Insofar as this state falls into certain categories, it is made subject to psychoanalytic treatment, which aims to complete the transition to new anchorings.

Zapfee, The Last Messiah.

All that is solid melts into air. Let this first of all mean that the capitalist world is a constant innervation, the ceaseless production of Spasm.

All out strike and clashes at Ikea plant


Four workers have been hospitalized after riots took place in front of the gates of the Ikea plant in Piacenza this morning (November 2).

The plant is the Swedish corporation’s main Italian storage centre and its workers are nominally employed by several cooperatives. However, as is often the case in Italy, the name ‘cooperative’ hides a dire reality of exploitation, the ignoring of labour regulations and of national collective agreements.

It is precisely this reality that struggling workers (many of them migrants) are denouncing, with a strike that has now been ongoing for several days. Their press release lists serious issues such as wage inequality, excessive workload, unpaid wages, not to mention the firm’s refusal to allow union representation.

IKEA’s headquarters immediately retaliated by firing 12 workers, deemed as the main organizers of the protests. Nine of them are members of the independent Union COBAS. Violent clashes had already taken place on October 30, when police intervened to clear the workers blockade – aiming at preventing loading trucks from entering the plant and, ultimately, at stopping production. Something similar occurred on the morning of November 2, when police violently attacked the protesting workers with teargas and batons.

Later in the afternoon, the Mayoral Office of Piacenza hosted a negotiation. At the end of the talks, representatives of the cooperatives promised not to fire the 12 workers involved; however, they announced that they would transfer the workers to other IKEA plants. COBAS deems this agreement unacceptable; among other things, it would cost them their entire union representation in the Piacenza plant.

on the production of poetry

Today i felt poetic before getting to work
and i sent a poetic message to my lover
something like
-and work is a means to steal the energies of pleasure
but i had meant to say something like
the indolent energies of pleasure, and maybe
something about the innocence of fallen angels.
at any rate, i know that all i was doing by feeling that way
was trying to make my nervousness beautiful.
maybe all poetry is the product of anxiety, of panic, of terror.