Reality Television, The Hills and the Limits of the Immaterial Labour Thesis

  • Alison Mary Virginia Hearn Faculty of Information and Media Studies, University of Western Ontario
Keywords: reality television, immaterial labour, self-branding, autonomist Marxist criticism



This paper will examine the immaterial labour thesis as proposed by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri through a case study of reality television production practices, specifically those of the MTV program, The Hills. Because immaterial labour is rooted in individual intelligence, affect, and social communicative capacities, Hardt and Negri contend that economic value in the form of labour power can no longer be adequately measured and quantified and that this immeasurability contains revolutionary potential. But, given the current global economic meltdown, and the persistent and very material suffering of people all over the globe, how legitimate and responsible are these claims? Drawing from interviews with reality television workers and the work of George Caffentzis, Massimo de Angelis, David Harvie and others, this paper will test the limits of the immaterial labour thesis, arguing that, rather than disappearing, capital continues to impose measurement systems to determine socially necessary labour time no matter how diffuse or social that labour might be, and that this imposition continues to produce the alienation and exploitation of many for the benefit of a few.

Author Biography

Alison Mary Virginia Hearn, Faculty of Information and Media Studies, University of Western Ontario
Alison Hearn is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Information and Media Studies at the University of Western Ontario in Canada.