25 June 2014

The Marriott Cell

"Hardt and Negri understand the biopolitical dimension of capital to refer to the coupling of commodity production with the production of social life, and the point they make here reminds me of the women I met who were living and working in Dharavi, Mumbai, one of the world's larg­est slums. I was struck by just how much the emancipatory promise of immaterial labor had not been met. Thus, for these women the regime of appropriation and enclosure through which the biopolitical mode of pro­ duction operates (under the guise of reproductive rights) is also another expression of the division of labor. It is not that different from the caste sys­tem, guilds, or modern industrialization. So although the development of biotechnologies is an indispensable feature of the biopolitical mode of production, as Hardt and Negri outline, for the women of Dharavi the antago­nism between labor and capital is still a constitutive political struggle. The struggle over how reproductive technologies are put to work is key here because just as quickly as these women's bodies are liberated from repro­ductive labor, they are inserted into the system of productive labor. This situation cuts to the heart of reproductive technologies and the debate over population control as it is tied to climate change politics. The freed bodies of the women in Dharavi have in effect become the structural source of their exploitation. Having fewer babies, they now have more time to work sitting on a dirt floor sorting through the trash the wealthy left behind, without protection, breaks, sick leave, or workers' compensation. (...)
 As the hot-button issues of climate change and environmental deg­radation are tied to population growth, the knee-jerk policy response has been largely utilitarian: limit individual freedom (to reproduce) so as to maximize the freedom of the collective (quality of life). Ironically, the goal of this argument is the source of the problem. In a neoliberal capitalist context,"quality of life"is expressed through individual consump­tion and the accumulation of private property. The population thesis as it relates to climate and environmental change cannot afford to be reduced to a quantitative problem of numbers at the expense of qualitative differences because this reduction skirts around the dynamic of exploitation in operation the world over. This dynamic enables only a few to share the outputs of labor and to do so in a largely unchecked way." 

— Adrian Parr, The Wrath of Capital