Concepts of Digital Labour: Schelling's Naturphilosophie

  • Kevin Michael Mitchell Trent University
Keywords: Digital Labour, Immaterial Work, Marx, F.W.J. Schelling, Digital Virtuality, Social Media, Mark Zuckerberg, State-of-Power


This paper uses F.W.J. Schelling’s Naturphilsophie as a point of departure to theorize the concept of digital labour. Beginning with Marx’s distinction between fulfilling and unfulfilling labour, it is argued that the former is labour that is immanent to, and in line with, the Schellingian notion of Nature as process and ungrounded ground, while the unfulfilling variant externalizes Nature and attempts to use it against itself in the service of capital, and the establishment of what I call a state-of-power. Schelling’s The Ages of the World is re-interpreted by exchanging his version of immaterial spirituality for digital virtuality, and as a result, digital labour is viewed as a consequence of previous forms of world historical developments. While digital virtuality is in fact materialist in terms of both the labour that activates it, and the substrate that sustains it, the materiality of the digital is often overlooked in favour of an anti-materialist stance that works to disconnect the digital labourer from their online activity, and preclude the critical self-awareness necessary for the acknowledgement of their online “playful” activity as work. It ends with an analysis of Mark Zuckerberg’s ideational attempt to “re-wire” the world via Facebook’s digital infrastructure, which begins to set the conditions of possibility for inter-personal interaction, and explores the possibilities for resistance available in Foucault’s notion of the care of the self.

Author Biography

Kevin Michael Mitchell, Trent University
Kevin Mitchell is a PhD Candidate of Cultural Studies at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada.
Philosophers of the World Unite! Theorising Digital Labour and Virtual Work - Definitions, Dimensions and Forms