a conversation


This is part of a conversation I had last night on a forum that I occasionally go to when I’m utterly bored, although lately the forum itself often provokes this utter boredom. The launch point was a brief discussion of labour under postfordism, with a focus on the dubious idea of ‘immaterial’ labour:

User: And here you’re wrong. As long as you’re not alluding to my not wanting to read that. But you may be wrong here again. To me this kind of [sociological] theories are placed at the verge of religion. Putting it more clearly, sociology is religion to me.

Tell me, where does factory begin (or end)?

dronemodule:  There is a point about sociology, but I’m not sure religiosity is a bad thing. Besides, this isn’t a belief in forces beyond us…just names for things we ourselves do.

The factory used to be a place, yes…used to an actual physical place… but it quickly came to be everything. There is a social factory that produces types of humans, subjectivities. All of us are the factory.


Here’s my view. The factory never used to be any place. Factories are situated in some places though… It came to be everything (and much more) to some people – like form surpassing content. Why? Because like theatrical scenography, it revealed the contour of that people natures’ mechanism. There are some people who simply like to “show off”… Look at them, and you’ll see they “produce” all the time, break-less-ly. Even – ba! (is there “ba!” in English?) – so – even – ba! – especially – when engaged in the “immaterial”. Now I can see it simplified. Doesn’t “immaterial” stand for spiritual? And isn’t there an inevitable abyss between the spiritual (priest) and the normal (worshipper)? Remove the abyss, and you’ll get the point.

Now apply this to sociology. We know, you don’t. Ergo?

dronemodule: I agree with the factory you are talking about here, especially the idea of the form surpassing content…this is what I would say is what the factory is; it produces (although “it” has no autonomous existence of its own… it is reproduced in us and by us in our daily activities) ideology… or ideology and factory are the same thing. I almost want to say there are forms of this though, levels of extremity and the factory is the point at which form, or I prefer to talk about performance, becomes the all. I believe humans are always performing, always to a degree inauthentic, but the factory is that point at which we only perform, the performance is empty and stands alone.

And quite so, there is a breed of people who perform without end, and this is strictly what we mean when we say ‘immaterial’: they are producers who produce no product…there is no outcome, no final end or work that can be pointed to…they never step off the stage and return to the audience…instead they go on producing their empty form and act in concert with other empty forms. This is why I call ideology by another name sometimes: if all becomes performance then we are talking not about morals or codes of ethics, but scripts…absurd, nonsensical scripts…and ideology/factory becomes the scriptwork.

When you say remove the abyss, in a way I am trying to transpose this to my own terms, so the priest is conflated with the lay worshipper…so the professional actor (who is always pure image) is conflated with the audience, who thus becomes pure image. The pure performance of an image without content. One dimensional, abstract, empty, homo sacer?

So sociology becomes what? The active manipulation of this factory? The sociologist is the worker-boss who empties himself and everyone he points to?

User: No. You understand me and you don’t. Not “it” produces, but people produce. There are always people, and will always be. “It” is sociology. Saying “it”, you are a sociologist. Poor you. Sociology is penury par excellence. Ultimate. We meet at the point where you merge the factory and ideology. But we depart again, as I the think your performance (I prefer to call it form) always stands alone and I lay stress on our producing the form. And one more important difference, perhaps the most important one: I don’t think standing alone means being empty. A gun in a drawer is still a gun (and even more a gun). An actor becomes a professionalist when he leaves the stage…

dronemodule: I’m not sure I follow, and I don’t think I can accept that I am a sociologist- I’m just looking about and trying to make sense of what strikes me as an entirely absurd world. And of course I agree that it is only people who produce, I say ‘it’ as short hand and because ‘it’ appears to be autonomous, although it is not (just like following orders appears like a fact but is only my voluntary agreement to follow them).

I think I do get your point maybe…maybe… in the reversal of the stage-audience part. Of course, this makes more sense- it is when the actor steps off the stage and into the world but retains himself as acting that he becomes…what?

Is this something of a style of life… form being the style one gives to one’s existence?

I think I am thinking that all is a matter of form but some people seem to believe that the form is all that matters…that this is what “we” now have chosen to believe…and so ‘we’ (although who this ‘we’ is I don’t know) are all reduced to the status of actors terrified of a bad review. Everything is done from the perspective of that review.

Edit to add:

This is also why I’m not a sociologist- because this being how I feel, I think the only thing we can do is withdraw our co-operation with the Script, with the dominating Forms that obscure (if not evacuate) content. This amounts to a subjective dis-investment, being a kind of psychic hermit who detaches from the identities. Craft one’s own excessive and messy form, rather than settle with the ready-mades.

User: Your edit is like written by myself. As for the prior, a gun becomes a gun when it fires. We’re afraid of it. That’s irreproachable. No sooner a man becomes an actor than at meeting with the public. The stage increases sharpness but of binocular vision. As for your being a sociologist, tell me why are you so concerned with “some people”? Limit your interest to one of them (for a good start) and most of your questions will answer themselves.

dronemodule: Yes, a man is an actor at meeting with the public but he also acts for himself. He acts within the theatre of mind, telling himself he believes it is this way but always knowing it is the other, acting as if it was another still. Has it always been so? I don’t know. But today it extends itself. So you want a job? Tell me about your interests…so a man must craft himself as interesting, as caring, as passionate as this or that identity but never for himself. At whom is the gun pointed? Brecht points it at the crowd and fires randomly but is this the case?

Yes, ‘some people’, ‘we’…these are evasions, deflections. A man can only look at himself for answers and in doing so find many of them answer for the others. As above, so below.

Soon I must to bed as I have a (dull) class in the morning, but this has been enjoyable and helpful.

User: Point it at whomever you like, Sir. Only change the sentence “He acts within the…” into “He believes what he believes, he acts what he acts; and moreover has to attend dull classes in the morning.”

It’s been an interesting evening.


Given all the talk of performance/performativity being identical with the factory, where would this seems to leave Paulo Virno’s idea of virtuosity out in the cold as just one more model of evacuation. I may be wrong on that.


5 Responses to “a conversation”

  1. i didnt even know user could speak full sentences hehe

    • 2 dronemodule

      Struck me as shocking as well. I am now a member of his ‘group’- anonymous posters. It is just me and him. The wacky fella.

  2. about the only decent one there these days….

  3. 4 dronemodule

    This is true. I was on it earlier, all the threads were introspective ego-wanks.

  4. couldnt have put it better myself 🙂

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