Maurizio Lazzarato

Maurizio Lazzarato is a sociologist and philosopher in Paris. He is the author of Governing by Debt and Signs and Machines: Capitalism and the Production of Subjectivity, both published by Semiotext(e).

  • Wars and Capital

    Wars and Capital

    Éric Alliez and Maurizio Lazzarato

    A critique of capital through the lens of war, and a critique of war through the lens of the revolution of 1968.

    “We are at war,” declared the President of the French Republic on the evening of November 13, 2015. But what is this war, exactly?

    In Wars and Capital, Éric Alliez and Maurizio Lazzarato propose a counter-history of capitalism to recover the reality of the wars that are inflicted on us and denied to us. We experience not the ideal war of philosophers, but wars of class, race, sex, and gender; wars of civilization and the environment; wars of subjectivity that are raging within populations and that constitute the secret motor of liberal governmentality. By naming the enemy (refugees, migrants, Muslims), the new fascisms establish their hegemony on the processes of political subjectivation by reducing them to racist, sexist, and xenophobic slogans, fanning the flames of war among the poor and maintaining the total war philosophy of neoliberalism.

    Because war and fascism are the repressed elements of post-'68 thought, Alliez and Lazzarato not only read the history of capital through war but also read war itself through the strange revolution of '68, which made possible the passage from war in the singular to a plurality of wars—and from wars to the construction of new war machines against contemporary financialization. It is a question of pushing “'68 thought” beyond its own limits and redirecting it towards a new pragmatics of struggle linked to the continuous war of capital. It is especially important for us to prepare ourselves for the battles we will have to fight if we do not want to be always defeated.

    • Hardcover $27.95
  • Experimental Politics

    Experimental Politics

    Work, Welfare, and Creativity in the Neoliberal Age

    Maurizio Lazzarato

    A celebrated theorist examines the conditions of work, employment, and unemployment in neoliberalism's flexible and precarious labor market.

    In Experimental Politics, Maurizio Lazzarato examines the conditions of work, employment, and unemployment in neoliberalism's flexible and precarious labor market. This is the first book of Lazzarato's in English that fully exemplifies the unique synthesis of sociology, activist research, and theoretical innovation that has generated his best-known concepts, such as “immaterial labor.” The book (published in France in 2009) is also groundbreaking in the way it brings Foucault, Deleuze, and Guattari to bear on the analysis of concrete political situations and real social struggles, while making a significant theoretical contribution in its own right.

    Lazzarato draws on the experiences of casual workers in the French entertainment industry during a dispute over the reorganization (“reform”) of their unemployment insurance in 2004 and 2005. He sees this conflict as the first testing ground of a political program of social reconstruction. The payment of unemployment insurance would become the principal instrument for control over the mobility and behavior of the workers. The flexible and precarious workforce of the entertainment industry prefigured what the entire workforce in contemporary societies is in the process of becoming: in Foucault's words, a “floating population” in “security societies.” Lazzarato argues further that parallel to economic impoverishment, neoliberalism has produced an impoverishment of subjectivity—a reduction in existential intensity. A substantial introduction by Jeremy Gilbert situates Lazzarato's analysis in a broader context.

    • Hardcover $30.00
  • Governing by Debt

    Governing by Debt

    Maurizio Lazzarato

    An argument that under capitalism, debt has become infinite and unpayable, expressing a political relation of subjection and enslavement.

    Experts, pundits, and politicians agree: public debt is hindering growth and increasing unemployment. Governments must reduce debt at all cost if they want to restore confidence and get back on a path to prosperity. Maurizio Lazzarato's diagnosis, however, is completely different: under capitalism, debt is not primarily a question of budget and economic concerns but a political relation of subjection and enslavement. Debt has become infinite and unpayable. It disciplines populations, calls for structural reforms, justifies authoritarian crackdowns, and even legitimizes the suspension of democracy in favor of “technocratic governments” beholden to the interests of capital. The 2008 economic crisis only accelerated the establishment of a “new State capitalism,” which has carried out a massive confiscation of societies' wealth through taxes. And who benefits? Finance capital. In a calamitous return to the situation before the two world wars, the entire process of accumulation is now governed by finance, which has absorbed sectors it once ignored, like higher education, and today is often identified with life itself. Faced with the current catastrophe and the disaster to come, Lazzarato contends, we must overcome capitalist valorization and reappropriate our existence, knowledge, and technology.

    In Governing by Debt, Lazzarato confronts a wide range of thinkers—from Félix Guattari and Michel Foucault to David Graeber and Carl Schmitt—and draws on examples from the United States and Europe to argue that it is time that we unite in a collective refusal of this most dire status quo.

    • Paperback $14.95
  • Signs and Machines

    Signs and Machines

    Capitalism and the Production of Subjectivity

    Maurizio Lazzarato

    An analysis of how capitalism today produces subjectivity like any other “good,” and what would allow us to escape its hold.

    “Capital is a semiotic operator”: this assertion by Félix Guattari is at the heart of Maurizio Lazzarato's Signs and Machines, which asks us to leave behind the logocentrism that still informs so many critical theories. Lazzarato calls instead for a new theory capable of explaining how signs function in the economy, in power apparatuses, and in the production of subjectivity.

    Moving beyond the dualism of signifier and signified, Signs and Machines shows how signs act as “sign-operators” that enter directly into material flows and into the functioning of machines. Money, the stock market, price differentials, algorithms, and scientific equations and formulas constitute semiotic “motors” that make capitalism's social and technical machines run, bypassing representation and consciousness to produce social subjections and semiotic enslavements.

    Lazzarato contrasts Deleuze and Guattari's complex semiotics with the political theories of Jacques Rancière, Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt, Paolo Virno, and Judith Butler, for whom language and the public space it opens still play a fundamental role. Lazzarato asks: What are the conditions necessary for political and existential rupture at a time when the production of subjectivity represents the primary and perhaps most important work of capitalism? What are the specific tools required to undo the industrial mass production of subjectivity undertaken by business and the state? What types of organization must we construct for a process of subjectivation that would allow us to escape the hold of social subjection and machinic enslavement? In addressing these questions, Signs and Machines takes on a task that is today more urgent than ever.

    • Paperback $17.95
  • The Making of the Indebted Man

    The Making of the Indebted Man

    An Essay on the Neoliberal Condition

    Maurizio Lazzarato

    A new and radical reexamination of today's neoliberalist “new economy” through the political lens of the debtor/creditor relation.

    "The debtor-creditor relation, which is at the heart of this book, sharpens mechanisms of exploitation and domination indiscriminately, since, in it, there is no distinction between workers and the unemployed, consumers and producers, working and non-working populations, between retirees and welfare recipients. They are all 'debtors,' guilty and responsible in the eyes of capital, which has become the Great, the Universal, Creditor."—from The Making of the Indebted Man

    Debt—both public debt and private debt—has become a major concern of economic and political leaders. In The Making of the Indebted Man, Maurizio Lazzarato shows that, far from being a threat to the capitalist economy, debt lies at the very core of the neoliberal project. Through a reading of Karl Marx's lesser-known youthful writings on John Mill, and a rereading of writings by Friedrich Nietzsche, Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari, and Michel Foucault, Lazzarato demonstrates that debt is above all a political construction, and that the creditor/debtor relation is the fundamental social relation of Western societies.

    Debt cannot be reduced to a simple economic mechanism, for it is also a technique of “public safety” through which individual and collective subjectivities are governed and controlled. Its aim is to minimize the uncertainty of the time and behavior of the governed. We are forever sinking further into debt to the State, to private insurance, and, on a more general level, to corporations. To insure that we honor our debts, we are at once encouraged and compelled to become the “entrepreneurs” of our lives, of our “human capital.” In this way, our entire material, psychological, and affective horizon is upended and reconfigured.

    How do we extricate ourselves from this impossible situation? How do we escape the neoliberal condition of the indebted man? Lazzarato argues that we will have to recognize that there is no simple technical, economic, or financial solution. We must instead radically challenge the fundamental social relation structuring capitalism: the system of debt.

    • Paperback $13.95

Contributor

  • Meaning Liam Gillick

    Meaning Liam Gillick

    Monika Szewczyk

    The first critical reader on one of today's most pivotal (and perplexing) contemporary artists.

    Liam Gillick emerged as part of the generation of “Young British Artists” who energized the British art scene in the 1980s and 1990s. He is now one of the most influential (and perplexing) artists in all of contemporary art. Gillick's discursive mode of art practice—often associated with “relational aesthetics”—complicates object production, embraces the exhibition as medium, and explores the social role and function of art. His body of work includes variations on “discussion platforms” (architectural structures that question or facilitate social interaction), text sculptures, and published texts that reflect on the increasing gap between utopian idealism and the real world. Artist, writer, curator, and provocateur, Gillick explores how an artistic practice can be conducted and represented, while at the same time questioning curatorial practice and the conventions of applied design. This reader coincides with a year-long, multi-venue, mid-career retrospective that serves both as a continuous investigation into Gillick's practice and an in-depth study of his work to date. The book offers a range of critical perspectives on Gillick's work. Among them: political scientist Chantall Mouffe develops her notion of radical democracy and antagonism; sociologist Maurizio Lazzarato (whose theorization of immaterial labor influenced Gillick) comments on the current economic crisis; philosopher and artist Benoît Maire links Gillick to continental philosophy; and Johanna Burton questions Gillick's practice in the context of feminist critique.ContributorsPeio Aguirre, Julieta Aranda, Johanna Burton, Nikolaus Hirsch, John Kelsey, Maurizio Lazzarato, Maria Lind, Sven Lütticken, Benoît Maire, Chantall Mouffe, Barbara Steiner, Marcus Verhagen

    • Paperback $24.95