Terminological Notes

Precariousness. A condition of existence without predictability or security, affecting material or psychological welfare. The term has been specifically applied to either intermittent work or, more generally, a confluence of intermittent work and precarious existence.

Immaterial labor (lavoro immateriale). Commodities in capitalist society have come to be less material, that is, more defined by cultural, informational, or knowledge components or by qualities of service and care. The labor that produces these commodities has also changed in a corresponding way. Immaterial labor might thus be conceived as the labor that produces the informational, cultural, or affective element of the commodity. One central characteristic of the new forms of labor that this term tries to capture is that the labor is increasingly difficult to quantify in capitalist schemata of valorization: in other words, labor time is more difficult to measure and less distinct from time outside of work. Much of the value produced today thus arises from activities outside the production process proper, in the sphere of nonwork. In: Paolo Virno and Michael Hardt, editors, "Glossary of Concepts", Radical Thought in Italy: A Potential Politics (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996), 261.

General intellect (intelleto generals). This term is taken from a single reference by Marx, in which he uses the English term. (See Karl Marx, Grundrisse: Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy, trans. Martin Nicolaus [New York: Random House, 1973], 706.) Marx uses the term to refer to the general social knowledge or collective intelligence of a society at a given historical period. Fixed capital, in particular "intelligent" machines, can thus embody this general intellect as well as humans. Just as collective corporeal power is necessary to complete certain tasks of production (for example, to move the huge stones for the Pyramids), so too collective intellectual power is employed directly in production. Furthermore, as information technologies and cybernetic machines have become more important as means of production, general intellect has become increasingly not just a direct force, but the primary force of social production. In: Paolo Virno and Michael Hardt, editors, "Glossary of Concepts", Radical Thought in Italy: A Potential Politics (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996), 261.

Mass intellectuality (intelletualità di masso). This term refers to the collective intelligence and accumulated intellectual powers that extend horizontally across society. It does not refer to a specific group or category of the population (such as a new intelligentsia), but rather to an intellectual quality that defines to a greater or lesser degree the entire population. Intellectuality is not a phenomenon limited to the individual or the closed circle of trained intellectuals; it is a mass phenomenon that depends on a social accumulation and that proceeds through collective, cooperative practices. Gramsci says that all men are intellectuals but not all in society have the function of intellectuals. Today technico-scientific knowledges and practices are spreading to invest all spheres of life to a greater extent. Capital has learned from Gramsci's insight and put it to work. The post-Fordist workforce produces increasingly on the basis of its collective intelligence, its mass intellectuality. In: Paolo Virno and Michael Hardt, editors, "Glossary of Concepts", Radical Thought in Italy: A Potential Politics (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996), 261–62.