Zombies immaterieller Arbeit [Lars Bang Larsen]

Die Lebenden werden ausgebeutet durch tote Arbeit.

[Quelle: Runway T-Shirts. Just another t-shirt blog. link]

So lautet das Ausgangsargument in Lars Bang Larsens Essay „Zombies of Immaterial Labor: the Modern Monster and the Death of Death“, der 2010 in der Aprilausgabe der Online-Zeitschrift e-flux journal erschienen ist. [link] Der dänische Kunsttheoretiker und Kurator interpretiert in diesem Text die lebenden Toten der Populärkultur vor dem Hintergrund einer von marxianischer Theorie geprägten philosophischen Analyse heutiger Arbeitsverhältnisse:

1. Marxploitation of the Gothic
The zombie as a figure of alienation is the entranced consumer suggested by Marxian theory. It is Guy Debord’s description of Brigitte Bardot as a rotten corpse and Frederic Jameson’s „death of affect“; and of course what media utopianist Marshall McLuhan called „the zombie stance of the technological idiot.“ Thus zombification is easily applied to the notion that capital eats up the body and mind of the worker, and that the living are exploited through dead labor. …

Larsen re-animiert den Entfremdungsbegriff – der durch schier endlose, ermüdende und zudem dogmatische Wiederholung spätestens seit Beginn der 1990er tot war – als kulturkritisches Instrument im Zeitalter der totalen Durchdringung aller Bereiche der (wohlhabenden) Gesellschaften durch digitale Technologie. Darüber gelangt Larsen zu seiner ersten Hauptthese: der Zombie als „Paradigma immaterieller Arbeit“:

With its highly ambiguous relationship to subjectivity, consciousness, and life itself, we may hence consider the zombie a paradigm of immaterial labor. Both the zombie and immaterial labor celebrate logistics and a colonization of the brain and the nervous system. The living dead roam the world and have a genetic relationship with restlessness: they are „pure motoric instinct,“ as it is expressed in Romero’s Dawn of the Dead; or they represent a danger „as long as they got a working thinker and some mobility,“ as one zombie hunter puts it in the novel World War Z by Max Brooks. The latter, counterintuitive reference to the zombie’s intellectual capacity may be brought to bear on the terms „intellectual labor“ and „cognitive capitalism,“ used to denote brain-dead – and highly regulated – industries such as advertising and mass media. Or, the „working thinker“ in the zombie’s dead flesh is an indication of the Marxist truth that matter thinks. As Lenin asked: what does the car know – of its own relations of production? In the same way, the zombie may prompt the question: what does the zombie’s rotting flesh know – of the soul? As Spinoza said: what the body can do, that is its soul. And the zombie can do quite a lot.

Im letzten Abschnitt kulminiert Larsens Text in einer Apologie des „modernen Monsters“ als kulturkritische Figur in einer Welt ohne Außen:

4. The Death of Death
There are several reasons why we need a modern monster. Firstly, it can help us meditate on alienation in our era of an immaterial capitalism that has turned life into cash; into an onto-capitalist, forensic culture in which we turn towards the dead body, not with fear, but as a kind of pornographic curator (as testified to by any number of TV series about vampires, undertakers, and forensics).

… in a world with no outsides, death died. We are now witnessing the death of death, of which its overrepresentation is the most prominent symptom. For the first time since the end of the Second World War there are no endgame narratives. Apocalyptic horizons are given amnesty. A planet jolted out of its ecological balance is a disaster, but not something important. …

There is nothing left to die, as if we were caught in the ever-circling eye of the eternal return itself. As the blurb for George Romero’s Survival of the Dead (2009) goes: „Death isn’t what it used to be.“ This ought to be a cause for worry. Endgame narratives have always accompanied new paradigms, or have negated or problematized the reproduction of received ideas.
The zombie is always considered a post-being, a no-longer-human, an impossible subject. But can we also think of it as a pre-being?