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Crowdsourcing links piecework with freelancers competing to work for pennies →

This is casual labour reduced to its most basic form, as individuals from Calcutta to Calgary face off in a virtual jobs game where low cost and speed trump education or experience.

“The whole industry is in very early days,” says trailblazing Australian entrepreneur Matt Barrie, founder of “We are on the verge of transforming society and how we run business.”

As the 70 per cent of the world’s population not currently connected gets online, it will grow an army of low-wage freelancers who are doing for the service economy what low-wage factory workers did for manufacturing.

Customer service, software development, writing, marketing and design are just some of the sectors ripe for this revolution.

Now the advocates of a critical (autonomist) position towards free labour may validly respond that free labour only becomes an issue in spheres of activity where there has been extensive commodification, and that the vast social reach of certain digital technologies makes it important to highlight the labour that they depend upon. The development of the internet might be an example of this, or more specific sites such as YouTube. Even here, however, there are problems that we might want to consider, and which do not seem to have been raised in the debates about free labour. Terranova’s seminal account usefully pointed to the huge amount of unpaid work necessary to create the internet. But it may be said in response that those who undertook such unpaid digital labour might have gained a set of rewards from such work, such as the satisfaction of contributing to a project which they believed would enhance communication between people and ultimately the common good; or in the form of finding solutions to problems and gaining new skills which they could apply later in other contexts. In some cases, it might be possible to think of their work as involving the building of skills which lead to higher wages being paid in the longer term – a kind of deferred wage. Without denying for a moment the fundamental importance of a living wage, it seems dangerous to think of wages as the only meaningful form of reward, and it would surely be wrong to imply that any work done on the basis of social contribution or deferred reward represents the activities of people duped by capitalism. Actually, it seems to me that this would run the danger of internalising capitalism’s own emphasis on commodification.
David Hesmondhalgh, in User-generated content, free labour and the cultural industries (2010, p. 278)
The basis of the moral condemnation of wage labour is not that the wages are too low, but that wage labour by its very nature dehumanizes man. This means, for Marx, that it defeats his natural human urge toward spontaneous productive activity, converts his free creativity into forced labour and drudgery, and frustrates his human need for a variety of occupations.
Robert C. Tucker, in The Marx-Engels Reader, (1978, p. xxxi)

The more we join with others, the greater our creative power. The problem, as we have seen, is that under capitalism, socialisation exists as abstraction: it is through abstraction that the social coming together of different doings is established. It is not surprising then that the revolt against abstract labour should take the form of a revolt against socialisation: doing our own thing, expressing ourselves, creating small projects. The traditional concept of socialism seems of little relevance here: it poses an image of post-capitalist society as a society characterised by a grater socialisation of production with ever bigger units of production, but reduces the question of self-determination to the entirely abstract idea of the Plan rather than to the actual process of doing.

"The development of our power-to-do must not be understood as a rejection of socialisation. The challenge, rather, is to construct through the cracks a different socialisation, a socialisation more loosely woven than the social synthesis of capitalism and based on the full recognition of the particularities of our individual and collective activities and of their thrust towards self-determination. There are already many initiatives in this direction. The insistence of the so-called anti-globalisation movement that it is not opposed to globalisation but favours a different sort of globalisation and is therefore an alter-globalisation movement makes precisely the point that the struggle is not for a romantic return to isolated units but for a different sort of social interconnection. Horizontality, dignity, alternative economy, commons: all these terms relate to explorations in the construction of a different form of socialisation.

John Holloway, in Crack Capitalism (2010, p. 248)
[T]he pejorative use of this epithet [Luddite] by information revolutionaries slanders the real nature of a movement that represented a coherent protest against destructive industrialization advanced under the banner of technological necessity. And, just as in the first industrial revolution capital accumulated itself through popular immiseration, so the computerized ‘second industrial revolution’ will expand corporate wealth and control by massive dislocation, deskilling, and unemployment. What is required to confront this prospect is a revival of the resistant spirit of General Ludd – a neo-Luddism for the information age.
Nick Dyer-Witheford, in Cyber-Marx: Cycles and Circuits of Struggle in High-Technology Capitalism (1999, p. 52)

How the Internet Organizes the Unemployed →

"Curiously, considering the persistence of high unemployment, and all kinds of evidence that unemployed people are going online in huge numbers to find help (they have more spare time than the average person, don’t forget), there’s very little sign that anybody—government, labor unions, or other kinds of political organization—is explicitly trying to connect with the unemployed using the web. Other than the International Association of Machinists, which has a somewhat odd project called UCubed (more on this below), the big unions prefer to talk on their websites about jobs, not unemployment. The word doesn’t even appear on the AFL-CIO’s home page."