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Labor of Fire

The Ontology of Labor between Economy and Culture

Bruno Gulli

Publication Year: 2005

In Labor of Fire, Bruno Gullì offers a timely and much needed re-examination of the concept of labor. Distinguishing between "productive labor" (working for money or subsistence) and "living labor" (working for artistic creation), Gullì convincingly argues for a definition of work that recognizes the importance of artistic and social creativity to our definition of labor and the self.

Gullì lays the groundwork for his book by offering a critique of productive labor, and then maps out his productive/living labor distinction in detail, reviewing the work of Marx and others.

Published by: Temple University Press


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pp. vii-viii

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p. ix-ix

THERE ARE MANY PEOPLE who, in many ways, contributed to the making of this book. First and foremost, I have to thank Stanley Aronowitz, in whose 1996 seminar on Marx the first ideas of this study were formulated and who provided the structure and the space for them to be developed ...

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pp. 1-16

THE THESIS EXPLORED in this book is that the category of labor as constructed by political economy under the capitalist mode of production does not correspond to what labor is in itself, to its concept. Indeed, it does not correspond to but, rather, betrays, the true potentiality ...

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1 The Ontology of Labor: Problems of the Relationship between Philosophy and Political Economy

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pp. 17-49

POLITICAL ECONOMY OBSCURES the ontological ground of labor and gives the impression of constituting a totality. Yet ontology shakes the ground as well as the edifice of political economy. It then makes sense to begin not with a work of Marx in which the critique of political economy becomes thematic but with one in which the ontological ground ...

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REMARK: The Productive Power of Capital

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pp. 50-60

The productive power of capital is the productive power of labor wrested from labor. This act, or metamorphosis, reaches a degree of completion in the passage from formal to real subsumption, that is, from the extraction of absolute surplus-value (by lengthening the working day) to the extraction of relative surplus-value (by revolutionizing the labor process ...

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2 On the Difference between Living Labor and Productive Labor

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pp. 61-74

In studying the question of productive labor and of its relation to unproductive labor, we have to keep in mind that, for Marx, it is precisely because labor, in and for itself, is neither-productive-nor-unproductive, but creative (a concept that includes that of economic production, but is not limited to it), that it becomes productive ....

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REMARK: 1 Dialectic and metaphysics

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pp. 75-77

To speak about time is, in general, to speak about metaphysics or ontology. Now, this can seem strange, for Marx is certainly an antimetaphysical thinker. Indeed, insofar as Marx’s philosophy is based on dialectic, it is an antimetaphysical philosophy. In fact, dialectical thinking represents ...

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REMARK: 2 Vulgar metaphysics and poetic metaphysics

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pp. 78-106

In the history of philosophy, it is possible to distinguish between a metaphysics of transcendence and a metaphysics of immanence. The former can also be called vulgar metaphysics. Its main tenet is the principle of “the ontotheological One” (Alliez 1996: 200). The latter ...

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3 Radicalizing the Ontology of Labor: Institution and Utopia

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pp. 107-146

IN ORDER TO UNDERSTAND the concept of the institution as the clarifying moment of the distinction between living labor and productive labor, we have to turn to the work of Michel Foucault. Both in Madness and Civilization and in Discipline and Punish, Foucault addresses the question ...

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4 The Solitude of Labor: On the Relationship between Creative Labor and Artistic Production

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pp. 147-190

When the concept of labor is considered ontologically, it takes, within social ontology, the place that the concept of being has in pure ontology. This means that labor is still being, but it is not being as such, “pure” being; rather, it is practical, “impure” being: it is what enters into the constitution of the whole spectrum of social life. As such, labor is not a category of political economy,


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pp. 191-204


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pp. 205-210

Index and About the Author

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pp. 211-215

E-ISBN-13: 9781592131143
Print-ISBN-13: 9781592131136

Publication Year: 2005