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The Value of Marx: Free Labour, Rent and Primitive Accumulation in Facebook

Steffen Bhm University of Essex ( Chris Land University of Essex ( Armin Beverungen Leuphana University Lneburg ( Working paper University of Essex May 2012

Abstract This paper argues that critical studies of organization need to extend their analysis of labour beyond the sphere of value production organized by capital in order to fully apprehend the realities of todays political economy. One direction in which this analysis must be developed is to radically expand our understanding of labour to incorporate the full range of value producing activities, including productive consumption (also called prosumption) and free labour. The second direction, which is more theoretically neglected, is to recognize that some contemporary business models do not depend much upon value production at all, but rather on the appropriation of value through the extraction of rents. In this paper we develop this analysis of profit becoming rent by returning to Marxs conception of primitive accumulation, both to highlight the continued significance of enclosure and appropriation in the global circuits of the extractive industries and manufacturing, but also to demonstrate that this logic is at work even in the most advanced socioeconomic formations, for example in the basic business model of Facebook.

The Value of Marx: Free Labour, Rent and Primitive Accumulation in Facebook
Introduction There is a spectre haunting organization - the spectre of Marx. All the powers of old organization seem to have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spirit: new economy gurus, critical management scholars and defenders of the neo-institutionalist orthodoxy. First and foremost in this exorcism is the assertion that Marx is out of touch or somehow not relevant today (Shaw 2009). Through no fault of his own, the old-boy had the misfortune to die in the 1880s, before even Taylor and Ford had worked their magic and developed the US version of management theory that today is the starting point for most first year undergraduate modules in organizational behaviour and management. Since Taylor and Ford we have had the revolution of the human relations movement, the development of socio-technical systems, institutional theory, organizational development and even post-colonialism, actor-network theory, corporate social responsibility and population ecology. While some of these schools of thought regularly refer to Marxist thought, it seems as if Marx has been almost written out of organization studies. Even labour process theory and critical management studies, which would appear at first glance to have the closest affinity to Marxist theorizing, rarely return to his work directly (Hassard et al., 2001), focusing instead on new developments in organizational theory and practice: for example, understanding aesthetic labour (Warhurst and Nickson, 2007), the role of subjectivity in workplace discipline (ODoherty and Willmott, 2001), or sexuality and deviance as modes of organizational resistance (Collinson, 1992). While important and relevant, such organizational scholarship could be labeled as a kind of, what Freeman (2010) calls, Marxism without Marx. In line with the theme of this special issue, this paper asks what the relevance of Marxs thought might be for the analysis of contemporary work, and how his oeuvre can be directly related to todays modes of organizing. Thankfully, we are not alone in asking such questions. Recently, there has been renewed interest in Marx and explicitly Marxist categories of the analysis of work and organization (Adler, 2007, 2009, 2011; Carey, 2009; Delbridge, 2007; Thompson, 2007; Vidal, 2011). In asking what the value of Marx might be today, we explore his theory of value (see also Le Ber and Branzei, 2010; Prichard and Mir, 2010) and critique of political economy as it applies to the business model, and forms of work, associated with one of the most archetypical businesses of, what can be called, post-fordism (Vidal, 2011): Facebook. The paper uses three main concepts from Marx to analyze Facebook: labour, primitive accumulation, and rent. In the first part of the paper we explain these three concepts as they were developed in Capital (Marx, 1976, 1981), particularly Volumes One (labour and primitive accumulation) and Three (rent). In the second part of the paper we apply these concepts sequentially to an analysis of Facebook. Following Christian Fuchs (2011a,b,c, 2012) analysis of Google and other Internet companies through the audience/commodity lens of Dallas Smythe (1981), Facebook is analyzed as a product of free labour (Terranova, 2004) in which prosumers use, or consume, the social networking site Facebook to communicate and develop their social networks, and simultaneously create Facebooks main product: user data and audience attention. This data and audience commodity is then packaged and sold by Facebook to its customers: advertisers and market researchers. This analysis leaves us with a number of questions, most notably, if labour is unpaid and therefore itself unvalued, can it be understood as creating value within a Marxist labour theory of value? How is it that some people have the spare time to labour like this in their leisure time and what are the technologies that are used in this work? And, finally, how is this free labour controlled and directed through Facebooks website?

These questions are addressed through the second conceptual resource that we take from Marx: primitive accumulation. Although Marx himself understood primitive accumulation as an element of the pre-history of capitalism proper, we follow the analysis of Massimo De Angelis (2007) and David Harvey (1999; 2003) who have both pointed to the ongoing nature of primitive accumulation, or accumulation by dispossession. Our primary concern in this section is to understand the broader global value chains (Levy, 2008) of which Facebook is a part. First and foremost, the immaterial labour of Facebook prosumers (Fuchs, 2012) is possible only because they have both the spare time to use the site and the technology to access them. Both leisure time and cheap technology are the product of a global division of labour in which rare earth minerals like Coltan are appropriated through warfare and forced labour (Shukin, 2006; Montague, 2002); in which portable laptops, tablet computers and smartphones are manufactured in sweatshops where the pay and conditions are such that dormitory windows must be barred to prevent workers from committing suicide (Business Week, 2010); and in which workers, or even the formally unemployed in the affluent West, have access to such resources and the time to play with them (Fuchs, 2012). Even this only explains half of the story however. To complete the picture we need a second line on primitive accumulation in which the terroir of cyberspace, and the commons on which it is based, itself becomes subject to new rounds of enclosure, privatization and appropriation. Here we understand the logic of primitive accumulation applied through proprietorial control over the protocols and virtual spaces of computer mediated communication. By creating a branded, proprietary platform, and ensuring that social communication flows through it, Facebook is able to ensure that anyone wanting to communicate with their peers has to do so via their website. An artificial scarcity is produced which, much like the scarcity of natural resources referred to above, allows for the extraction of rent (Hardt and Negri, 2009; Vercellone, 2010; Marazzi, 2010). This takes us to our third concept from Marx: rent. In controlling social networking sites, companies like Facebook are able to charge a rent for access. This is not a direct rent, as iek (2009) has suggested is leveraged in Microsofts business model, because Facebook is free to use. Rather, the rent is extracted as a tithe of, what Terranova (2004) calls, free labour so that, whilst consuming (freely) on Facebook, the user is simultaneously working (freely) for Facebook, producing themselves and their friends as audience and producing data that Facebook can commodify and sell. This labour is extracted as a rent, rather than through surplus labour conducted in the hidden abode of production in the employment relationship (Marx, 1976; Bhm and Land, 2012), which suggests a departure from Marxs analysis of the industrial capitalist control of labour, even if labour remains the sole source of value within this analysis. The process, described as the becoming-rent of profit (Marazzi, 2010; Vercellone, 2010) here becomes apparent: Facebook does not reap a profit merely from organizing the paid labour of its relatively few employees (as labour process theory would suggest), but extracts a rent from the commons produced by the free labour of its users.

Part I: Marx on Labour, Value, Profit and Rent a) Labour Theory of Value For Marx, labour is the source of all value. The secret of surplus value and the mysterious transformation M-C-M (Marxs algebra for capitalist profit generation where Money is turned into Commodities simply for the reason of producing more Money, or M) lay in the hidden abode of production (Marx, 1976: 279; Read, 2001; see also Mohun, 2004) where the labour process took place. Much of the first volume of Capital (Marx, 1976) is dedicated to explaining how the capitalist extracts surplus labour, and thereby surplus value, from his employees. Marx first discusses the basic process of appropriation of surplus that occurs when a particular labour process is brought within a factory and placed under the control of an employer but without changing the content of the labour process itself. This formal subsumption (1976: 1021) has its limits, however,

as the employer is constrained by having only two main methods for increasing the production of surplus value: First the capitalist takes good care that the work is done in a proper manner, and the means of production are applied directly to the purpose, so that the raw material is not wasted, and the instruments of labour are spared, i.e. only worn to the extent necessitated by their use in the work. (Marx, 1976: 291) The second method is for the capitalist to extend the length of the working day and ensure that fewer breaks are taken, thereby increasing what Marx refers to as absolute surplus value (1976: 432). Historically, however, struggle, contestation and eventually legislation over the length of the working day, as well as the need for employees to ultimately consume the products of their labour in order to complete the circuit M-C-M and ensure the flow of wages back into the capitalists pockets (iek, 2009: 123), placed effective limits on the lengthening of the working day. Given the limits to increasing surplus value through formal subsumption, Marx recognizes that the moment of real subsumption of labour under capital comes when the employer not only appropriates a given labour process but modifies that process expressly for the purpose of maximizing the production of surplus value. In Volume One (Marx, 1976) this is explored through the chapters on the division of labour and manufacture and machinery and large scale industry. Both the division of labour and the use of machinery enable the employer to increase relative surplus value by simultaneously increasing the intensity of work and the productivity of labour power, and reducing the value of the commodities that determine the value of labour power (Marx, 1976: 423). In developing his labour theory of value, Marx was not proposing a new theory, but was developing the extant political economy of Adam Smith and David Ricardo, amongst others, to analyze the specifically industrial capitalist mode of production. Within the social relations of capitalist employment, labour is conducted to produce commodities for others, and is then remunerated at its real value. For Marx, and his predecessors, the value of labour is determined by the value of the goods required, in a particular social and cultural context, to reproduce the labourer and return them ready to work in the morning: at a minimum this would be basic food and shelter, but in more advanced economies would need to be adequate to ensure training, development and active engagement with the production process (Braverman, 1974; Burawoy,1982). As Marx and many labour process theorists have taught us, the ability to produce surplus value results from an underlying indeterminacy in the labour process: whilst the value of labour power is determined by the cost of reproducing it, the amount of value that labour power can actually produce depends upon the length of time, and intensity at which it is deployed in working for an employer. If, hypothetically, an individual labourer can produce goods adequate to the value of their labour power in half a working day, then for the other half of their time they are working gratis for their employer, i.e. they are producing value for the owner of their business but without receiving additional compensation for this surplus labour. Much of Volume One of Capital (Marx, 1976) is devoted to the details of how the potential to labour - labour power - is converted into actual labour and how the value of labour itself is affected by changes in the social average productivity levels in a given society, the state of development of technology, and the price of the commodities that determine the value of labour power. Much of this analysis has informed the Labour Process Theory perspective on work and organization, which has itself devoted considerable attention to the indeterminacy of labour, the changing nature of control over labour, and the relationship between value and labour (e.g. Carey, 2009; Thompson, 1989; Jaros, 2004, 2005; Jacques, 2000; ODoherty and Willmott, 2001, 2009; Vidal, 2011). What

has received less attention within organization studies, however, is the socio-historical process through which the capitalist employment relationship itself emerged.

b) Primitive Accumulation In the final part of Volume One of Capital, Marx (1976) returns to the pre-history of capitalism and introduces the term so-called primitive accumulation, which is nothing else than the historical process of divorcing the producer from the means of production (Marx, 1976: 875). He does this because, having spent the previous 800+ pages describing the production of value within capitalism, he still needs to explain how the pre-conditions for capitalism emerged: ie. two classes of people, one owning the means of production and the other owning nothing but their labour power. Marx rejects the theological tale of original sin, which places the onus for poverty squarely on the shoulders of the poor, or at least their ancestors. Instead, he suggests that the separation of society into two distinct economic classes was the result of a two-fold process that systematically dispossessed one group of people from access to the land and therefore independent means of subsistence. At the same time, it placed another class in possession of that land and a mass of wealth that could be deployed as capital to employ the dispossessed. This was not the result of frugality, but of a global system of genocide, slavery and expropriation: The discovery of gold and silver in America, the extirpation, enslavement and entombment in mines of the indigenous population of that continent, the beginnings of the conquest and plunder of India, and the conversion of Africa into a preserve for the commercial hunting of blackskins, are all things which characterize the dawn of the era of capitalist production. These idyllic proceedings are the chief moments of primitive accumulation. (Marx, 1976: 915) For Marx, this is a moment in the pre-history of capitalism and, once achieved, he sees the inherent logic of the capitalist circuits of value reproducing and even intensifying these divisions so that inequality and poverty can be achieved through rational production and the circulation of commodities at their values. Against this developmental logic several commentators have suggested that so-called primitive accumulation is in fact an ongoing process that remains at the heart of capitalist accumulation. De Angelis (2006) points out that there are no distinct and linear stages or transitional paths that countries can take towards the desired goal of full capitalist development. In his view, primitive accumulation sits side by side with more advanced knowledge production. In a more traditional Marxist lexicon, we might suggest that development in advanced knowledge economies is dependent upon underdevelopment in other economies, which are placed in a position of economic servitude, producing raw materials, working on disposal of waste, or in low value-added manufacturing positions within global supply chains (Furtado, 1967; Cairns, 2007). In such an account the knowledge work of consultants and call-centre operatives alike is impossible without the military enforced expropriation of land in the Niger Delta for oil production, the civil war around Coltan (a necessary raw material for the production of mobile phones) mining in the Congo, or GM soya production in Brazil or Argentina. In this aspect, primitive accumulation is a process that ensures the development of the advanced capitalist countries whilst maintaining poverty through the expropriation of raw materials in the third world or developing countries (see Midnight Notes Collective, 1990). For De Angelis (2006), this is not the whole story however, when he refers to the continuous character of primitive accumulation (2006: 136). Primitive accumulation is also continuous in the advanced economies of the Global North. The enclosure of what used to be public goods

continues to take place even in the most advanced economies. We could name here the privatization of what used to be public services; for example, transport, health and education (e.g. Strangleman, 2004). We could also mention the newly created carbon trading mechanisms, which aim to establish new markets to exploit a completely new commodity: pollution. Carbon is a new commodity, secured by enclosure, which sits alongside the knowledge economy (Bhm and Dabhi, 2009). One enclosure that has received much popular media as well as critical academic attention has been that of the knowledge commons (De Angelis, 2006: 149) whereby the relatively autonomous reproduction of cultural and technical knowledge is subordinated to the capitalist imperative of privatization and accumulation through copyright legislation, corporate control over cultural reproduction through Digital Rights Management, corporate sponsorship of research and education, and through newly established forms of intellectual property rights (Munro, 2007; Noble, 2003; Perelman, 2000). Hardt (2010) suggests that we distinguish between the natural and the cultural commons: as much as the natural commons are exploited e.g. through the oil industry, the cultural commons are exploited e.g. via the patenting of medicinal practices. Although organizational scholars are starting to examine such processes in relation to international business strategies and comparative analyses of capitalism (Lane and Probert, 2009), the basic process of enclosure and privatization of land, and the economic processes by which such is capitalized, suggest a third concept that Marx dealt with extensively in his later writings: rent.

c) Rent In Volume One of Capital, Marx (1976) does not overly trouble himself with profit per se, focusing most of his analysis on the production of surplus value in general. In Volume Three (Marx, 1981) he turns to address the question of how this surplus is distributed between the various interested, propertied parties that represent capital - landowners, financiers and the industrial capitalist proper so that surplus value is realized as a range of revenue streams: the forms of profit on capital (interest on capital as such, and profit of enterprise on capital as functioning capital), and ground-rent, which falls to the owner of the land which is playing its part in the production process. (Marx, 1981: 992) In relating to the basic trinity of the factors of production - capital, land, and labour - Marxs labour theory of value makes it absolutely clear that only labour can produce value. Capital is nothing but dead labour so that capital can, strictly speaking, create no value, only provide the necessary resources for labour to produce at the socially average level, or pass the value embedded in raw materials and tools, on to a new commodity. Any augmentation or addition of new value is down to living labour and living labour alone: By turning his money into commodities that serve as the building materials for a new product, and as factors in the labour process, by incorporating living labour into their lifeless objectivity, the capitalist simultaneously transforms value, i.e. past labour in its objectified and lifeless form, into capital, value which can perform its own valorization process, an animated monster which begins to work, as if its body were by love possessed. (Marx, 1976: 302) This same analysis applies to land. Land as a factor of production is essentially unproductive on its own. It requires the application of labour to render land productive, by farming it, mining it, or building on it. Of course, some lands may be more amenable to exploitation than others. An alluvial plain is more fertile than a desert. A desert with a large oil reserve beneath it can provide more energy than a bog. An apartment in a gentrified part of London can command a higher rent than one in a rough area where the bohemians and artists have yet to move (Harvey, 2001). Rent is taken

from the net surplus value produced by a capitalist through that land, whether they are a developer, miner, or capitalist farmer. Harvey (2001) suggests that in the age of neoliberal globalization differentials in the value of landed property are declining, so that today culture becomes increasingly important in increasing the potential rent to be extracted from land, as he demonstrates with the case of Barcelona. Whilst Marxs analysis is not a general theory of rent (Fine and Saad-Filho, 2004: 154), recent commentators have taken up this idea of rent to analyze the profit model in post-Fordist production (iek, 2004; Hardt and Negri, 2009; Vercellone, 2010; Marazzi, 2010). The crucial difference for Marx between rent and profit was that profit was productively reinvested in production. Whilst capital could not directly produce value, it could render labour more productive by increasing the organic composition of capital and - through the real subsumption of labour - by reorganizing labour to be more efficiently deployed. Without rehearsing the various debates over the necessity and productivity of managerial labour (see Armstrong, 1991), the suggestion in Vercellones (2010) analysis is that the owners of capital are increasingly distant from, and do not intervene in, the organization of production. As profit becomes more like rent, it takes on a directly parasitic form, no longer concerned with the management and organization of production and superintendence of labour. Rather, in Vercellones (2010) reading of Volume Three (Marx, 1981), capitalist profits increasingly come to resemble rents as it seeks to extract profits from outside the production process, rather than through an entrepreneurial organization or management: capitalist rent can be seen as a pure relation of distribution because it no longer has any function, or at least any normal function in the process of production. Therefore, rent presents itself as a credit title or a right to the ownership of some material and immaterial resource that grants a right to drawing value from a position of exteriority in respect to production. (Vercellone, 2010: 95-96) For Vercellone (2010), under post-Fordist conditions of production, in which knowledge and ICT have meant that more and more labour is intellectual in nature and concerned with the selforganization of productive capabilities and social relations (MacKenzie, 2001; Lazzarato, 1996; Hardt and Negri, 2000), capitalist profit has had to enclose new commodities, following the model of land, in order to create an artificial scarcity (Vercellone, 2010: 91). The example of Intellectual Property Rights is perhaps the clearest example of this. Whilst Ross (2009) shows how this logic is at work in the global market for higher education, drug patents are another example. Patents on new medicines seek to create artificial scarcity and prevent generic drugs being reverse engineered from proprietary drugs. The effect of this is to ensure a period of monopoly in which prices can be kept inflated above the value they would otherwise fall to in conditions of open competition. This secures profit not by manufacturing the drugs more efficiently and cheaply but by extracting a rent on the IPR generated by research and development.

Part II: Marx in the Age of Facebook Facebook, the social-networking site that is one of the most closely-watched private companies in the world, is likely to go public by the first quarter of 2012, say people familiar with the matter, at a valuation that could be pegged at north of $100 billion. (CNBC, 2012) As Facebook prepares for one of the biggest IPOs (initial public offering, i.e. selling company stocks to investors through a stock exchange) in history, the question is how such an immense valuation (see CNBC report above) is possible with a mere 2000 or so employees on its books. One obvious answer is that it is not just the number of employees that create value for Facebook, but the number of its active users, currently estimated to be around 800 million worldwide, who share

millions of posts, photos, videos and other content through the Facebook ecosystem on a daily basis worldwide. This is free labour, as Terranova (2004) has called it: work that is both free from the obligations, constraints and managerial imperatives of formal employment, and work that is done for free and without financial recompense. But it is also labour in the sense that it creates value for Facebook. In browsing others pages, and commenting on their updates, or posting pictures, YouTube clips, Spotify songs, or witty updates on your own page, as a user of Facebook one is producing an audience for the highly targeted advertising that generates their income. In this second part of the paper we aim to understand Facebooks value production processes through the three Marxist concepts introduced above: labour, primitive accumulation, and rent. Given that most labour occurring at Facebook is unpaid, involving knowledge and communication processes, some organization theorists would not consider using a Marxist approach to understanding the labour processes of this media company (e.g. Jacques, 2000). We argue, however, that it is imperative for critical management and organizational scholars to understand such value producing practices whether paid or unpaid as a form of labour. In this we suggest that to fully apprehend, and critique, the contemporary formation of value production in social networks and the new media, we need to deploy an expanded understanding of labour as encompassing any value producing activity, regardless of how that value is valorized and circulated. As we have argued elsewhere (Bhm and Land, 2012), when faced with changes like Facebook or the new economy, studies of work and organization should not be proclaiming the end of the industrial capitalist system of value production through labour, but revisiting Marxs (1976) labour theory of value to develop an expanded conception of the hidden abode of production. a) Facebooks Free Labour In a series of papers on the political economy of the Internet and web 2.0, Christian Fuchs (2011a,b,c, 2012) uses Dallas Smythes (1981) audience commodity model to understand the accumulation process of companies such as Google and Facebook. For Fuchs (2012), these web 2.0 companies make their money in pretty much the same way as more traditional media companies, such as those working in TV and newspapers, whose main commodity is not so much the programming content that is produced but the audience that is filtered, packaged and sold to advertisers. There is a long history of writers analyzing the political economy of the creative and cultural industries, which often depend on the production of audiences (for an overview, see Hesmondalgh, 2007; OConnor, 2010). While Smythe (1981) shows how, what he calls, the audience commodity is produced, Herman and Chomskys (2002) propaganda model explains how the advertising model is a powerful filter that determines what kind of content is allowed to be broadcast through, say TV or radio platforms. While TV and radio mass broadcasting platforms are only able to produce very broad audience commodities whose profiles and characteristics can then be sold to advertisers, Facebook is able to target specific user groups much more effectively. This is done through powerful computing algorithms that filter user data according to a range of different advertising oriented criteria. As Fuchs (2012) shows, given Facebooks relatively lax handling of its users privacy, the company is able to access a vast amount of personal data that is recorded as Facebook users and their friends navigate through their website. While Facebook, when it started in 2005, did not carry any advertisement, it has now accumulated vast amounts of data stored in some of the worlds biggest data centres which it has recently decided to monetize. Compared to traditional media companies, the efficiency of advertising [through Facebook] is increased, more advertisements that are likely to fit the interests of consumers are shown in the same time period as before (Fuchs, 2012: 9). This is why many advertisers are now redirecting their ads to online platforms, such as Google and

Facebook, because they can target very specific audiences and control their advertising behaviour more effectively. At the heart of Facebooks ability to create thousands of targeted audience commodities are hence two things: on the one hand, its data management capabilities, based on, what Fuchs (2012) calls, the surveillance of its users, generating vast amounts of data; and, on the other hand, its 800+ million users worldwide continuously creating content for free. The latter is the key difference to the TV and radio platforms. It is Facebooks users who create the data themselves. That is, through forms of, what Terranova calls, free labour (e.g. uploading pictures, writing messages or emails), Facebook users, or what Fuchs (2012) calls prosumers, create vast amounts of content. Facebook currently employs about 2000 workers who make a living by getting a wage in exchange of the hours they spent labouring for the company. We would argue, however, that the employees of Facebook are effectively acting as managers, given that they do not actually produce any content themselves. The vast majority of Facebooks content and data is produced by its users who give away their labour for free in exchange for the use value produced by the Facebook platform. Facebooks employee-managers are then packaging this data in such a way that it can be sold as audience commodity to advertisers. This describes the competitive advantage Facebook has over more traditional media companies, which, for example maintain TV and radio platforms. Through the free labour model, Facebook does not need to pay for any content itself, while TV and radio companies have to invest significant sums into programming, star presenters and expensive equipment. Hence, Facebook has an immense cost advantage over more traditional media companies. That is, Facebook is able to produce superior surplus value rates because of the free labour that is expended by the 800+ million users. This superiority is reflected in the vast valuation of Facebook in its IPO. What stock investors value in the company is its vast potential to produce higher than average surplus value rates through the intensive and extensive exploitation of the data freely produced by its users. This, however, only provides one side of the story of how Facebooks value is produced. Another side starts with the realization that Facebook users are able to sometimes spend hours chatting to friends, sharing pictures with them, etc. only because they are enjoying a higher socially average wage compared to those labourers - often situated in the Global South - who are exploited while producing the very gadgets that are needed to keep the creative Facebook economy going - not to think of the technology waste that is created in the process (Lipman, 2002). Let us now explore these global dynamics in more detail. b) Facebooks Primitive Accumulation As we have discussed above, enclosure, privatization and appropriation, the essential processes of primitive accumulation, are dependent first and foremost on a symbolic act in which something is incorporeally transformed into a commodity that can, or even must, be owned. Perhaps still the best example of this is Polanyis suggestion in The Great Transformation that the greatest transformation in the history of humanity is when land is conceptualized as a thing distinct from lived human experience: To isolate [land] and form a market for it was perhaps the weirdest of all the undertakings of our ancestors (Polanyi, 2001: 187, cited in Sullivan, 2010: 111). Weird it may be but such a conceptual transformation is a necessary condition for enclosure and privatization, and, as we have seen, for the creation of the free labourer. The same applies for any other good that can be privatized, from a public service to water, the atmosphere and pollution, genetic code, or communication and language. De Angelis helps us to understand these transformations through what he refers to as value practices:

By value practices I mean those actions and processes, as well as correspondent webs of relations, that are both predicated on a given value system and in turn (re)produce itTo talk about value practices is simply to highlight the fact that social practice, or social doing, or social co-production, is grounded on systems of evaluation that select goods and bads in which individual singularities act on the basis of these evaluations, and the effects of these actions are in turn measured within the parameters of this value system and of clashes against other value practices. (2007: 24) A crucial element of primitive accumulation is thus the imposition of a specific set of value practices as hegemonic. Facebook is part of a hegemonic value practice that valorizes creativity, knowledge and sharing through the Internet, part of the wider discourse of the knowledge economy (Bhm and Land, 2009). For De Angelis (2006), contemporary practices such as Digital Rights Management or Trade Agreements on Intellectual Property are attempts to enclose and ensure private ownership of cultural products, creativity and knowledge. While these are really cultural commons that are produced by the general intellect (Hard and Negri, 2000), they are either enclosed as private property, as in the many examples of autonomous, community-based or publicly funded forms of user-innovation documented by Eric von Hippel (2005), or are managed so that access to these commons is only possible using a privately owned infrastructure such as Facebook, or of the autonomous production of brand communities discussed by Arvidsson (2006; see also Land, 2010). What such studies of knowledge labour neglect - and also Fuchs analysis of Facebook - are the broader networks of relations that produce the material commodities that remain the material bearers of such immaterial value. It is perhaps no coincidence that the last 10 years have seen hightechnology, brand and ICT based organizations dropping out of the FTSE 100 to be replaced by companies from the traditional extractive industries like mining, oil and gas, which now account for about a third of the indexs overall valuation (FT 2011). The world of finance, which dominates the global value practices of contemporary capitalist, seems to say that there have been many more opportunities for profit making in the traditional industries than in the new knowledge industries. This, however, stands in stark contrast with what could be regarded as the hegemonic discourse of the importance of the knowledge sectors of the new economy, such as management consulting, advertising, the arts and other aspects of the cultural industries (Bhm and Land, 2009). Attention to the material production that often underpins the knowledge economy brings our analytical focus back to the kinds of primitive accumulation that Marx discusses in Capital, and that Wallerstein (1974) took up in world systems theory, where those nations on the periphery of the world system of capitalist value production have their raw materials exploited to feed development at the centre (see also Munck, 2002). The example of Coltan mining is exemplary here (Shukin, 2006; Montague, 2002). Coltan is an essential mineral for the production of Tantalum, a metal that is indispensable in the manufacture of mobile telephones and wireless laptop computers that are needed to access the Facebook platform. The largest reserves of Coltan are found today in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where a bloody civil war has been fought over the political control of the country, and the control of the lucrative Coltan mines. Often employing child labour or dispossessed peasants, these mines are a necessary dialectical part of the articulated value chains of the knowledge economy, producing both free labourers from previously land-bound peasantry, and an accumulation of wealth that creates hierarchical inequalities within the DRC, supported by the militia, and, captured by the hardware manufacturers, produces a double profit for transnational corporations, which are primarily based in the North and West of the globe. These profits are double in the sense that they are created first when the hardware that is needed to run Facebook is purchased and then again when users actually access and spend their spare time on this proprietary, advertising oriented social networking platform.

It may be possible to analyze some of these global value chains, or Global Production Networks (GPNs) as David Levy (2008) calls them, in terms of the labour theory of value. It might be possible to consider that a kind of super-exploitation is occurring in the periphery of the global economy and the surplus thus produced is used to feed the centre, a classical imperial analysis. However, it is precisely in creating these egregious inequalities that the logic of these GPNs lies and this is not a logic of value production so much as one of expropriation: Recent theoretical and empirical work on [Global Commodity Chains and Global Production Networks] is valuable in illuminating the inequalities that stem from asymmetric power relations across firms and regions, recasting value chains as systems of value appropriation as much as creation. (Levy, 2008: 945) Here then we see a second deployment of De Angelis (2007) concept of value practices. As Levy (2008) recognizes in his study of the coffee GPN, the totality of this network includes the hegemonic discourses of neoliberalism and its value practices just as much as it does the material practices of the workers on the bean plantations suffering the effects of pesticides and chemical treatments. The same applies to knowledge work or digital labour, which applies to Facebook. The design that goes into the latest Apple iPad or the coding that is done for Facebook are linked via globally integrated value chains - to Chinas exploitative labour practices (see, e.g. the Foxconn story; Business Week, 2010) and the extractive industries that produce the raw materials without which the knowledge economy could not function (Dyer-Witheford, 2010). It is the structure of these GPNs to create inequality by valuing the branding work of Nestle or Starbucks over the work of these labourers and farmers, however fair the trade that buys their beans. In this distributed process of valuation we can see, then, the inversion of Marxs labour theory of value as a value theory of labour (Harvey, 1999; Elson, 1979): a model whereby we can see not only how labour creates value but also how specific forms of labour are valued, and others devalued, by particular regimes of production. c) Facebooks (Monopoly) Rent For Hardt and Negri (2009), this is not the end of the story however. For them, real subsumption is only realized at the point where the biopolitical production of life, sociality, and communication are entirely subsumed under the capitalist logic and structure the whole chain of value from production through distribution, exchange and consumption to reproduction (Dyer-Witheford, 1999; Vercellone, 2007). Here the logic of the factory, and the transformation of activity into labour, extends to the whole of society so that it becomes a social factory, a term that indicates the extension of the logic of the factory to all social activities but also that society has itself become the main product of that factory, in the form of productive social-relations (Dyer-Witheford, 1999; Gill and Pratt, 2008; Hardt and Negri, 1994). Here Autonomist Marxists depart from Marxs own political economy. For Marx, under capitalism labour is the sole source of value and therefore of surplus value. Capital itself is unproductive and so all value is the product of labour. Profit is simply the extraction of a portion of surplus value for the capitalist as a result of labour performed for the capitalist, but not paid for by the capitalist. In one sense we can see the development of this real subsumption in Facebook where friendship and social networks are offered as commodities and where these commodities are produced, though a kind of unpaid communicative labour, by those participating in the use of the site. We can also see this logic at work in the kinds of branding that Adam Arvidsson (2006; 2008) has written about in terms of an ethical economy. For a brand-based organization, the exchange value of a brand is dependent upon it having a communicational use-value for consumers: i.e. it must enable them to perform socialized identity work through their consumption of the branded product. For

Arvidsson (2006) this consumption is necessarily productive, however, as it reproduces the social and communicative space within which that brand has a potential use-value, thereby augmenting brand value. In effect, consumers of branded products are working for the brand owner as their consumption is productive of brand value, which in turn becomes the new locus of capitalist accumulation (Marazzi, 2010: 56), as witnessed by the booming interest in questions of brand equity and valuation (Lury and Moor, 2010). Our example of Facebook supports Hardt and Negris (2009: 142) paradoxical point that, just as social communication, politics and life are becoming subsumed under capital, so this labour is increasingly autonomous. For Facebook, the value of the site is entirely dependent upon users creating the content through what Terranova (2004) calls free-labour: labour that is both free because unpaid, but also free because it is autonomous and cannot be controlled. Similarly, Martin Kornberger (2010) has recently argued that the production of brand value is similarly autonomous. Because the value of a brand is co-produced in consumption, it is necessarily outside the direct control of the company that owns the brand. This would also be free labour in the double sense that consumption is usually unpaid. This relative autonomy of the immaterial labour (Lazzarato, 1996) of cultural production, knowledge work, brand-work and social net-work both extends and unsettles the real subsumption of labour under capital. On the one hand, it extends the logic so that all forms of social activity, even communication and friendship, are brought into the circuits of value production. On the other hand, it breaks with the logic of real subsumption as Marx theorized it. This is because, for Marx, real subsumption was characterized by the capitalist exercising complete control over the form and content of the labour process, whilst here we see an apparent liberation of productive activity, to the extent that its autonomy appears to be structurally necessary to the effective production of value precisely because so much productive activity lies outside of the formal employment contract. This appears to change the basic structure of capitalist value production and profit. With Marxs understanding of real subsumption grounded in industrializing, mid-nineteenth Century England, the labour theory of value still made analytical and political sense, even if it was not a particularly accurate theory of price (Harvey, 1999; Bhm and Land, 2009, 2012). Now, however, Hardt and Negri (2000) suggest, the labour theory of value has become irrelevant. They argue, if labour is free in Terranovas (2004) double sense, then it cannot stand as an effective measure of value production. iek (2009) makes this point very clearly in his discussion of Microsoft. There is simply no way that Microsofts model of value production and profitability can be explained in terms of the productivity of the labour power it deploys. On such grounds it would not be able to compete with the Open Source movement, which has been producing functionally equivalent software for years (Linux and Ubuntu operating systems and the Open Office package, for example, which are produced using free labour and are free to the consumer). Instead, Bill Gates business model is based on creating a form of monopolistic control over the basic infrastructure of the knowledge economy and doing everything he can to ensure that Microsoft maintain effective control over the networks and protocols of communication that are used in the communicative circuits of production in the social factory. Facebook is the new Microsoft. It has established itself as the de-facto gatekeeper and standard of the social networking world. This idea of a profit-becoming rent shifts the dominant logic of value production in the heartlands of the so-called advanced capitalist economies. Rather than resulting from the direct exploitation of labour at the point of production as the labour theory of value would posit value is now appropriated through a form of rent. As Hardt and Negri put it:


Rather than an organ functioning within the capitalist body, biopolitical labor-power is becoming more and more autonomous, with capital simply hovering over it parasitically with its disciplinary regimes, apparatuses of capture, mechanisms of expropriation, financial networks and the like. (Hardt and Negri, 2009: 142). It would seem then that Peter Drucker (1992) was at least partly right when he speculated in The Age of Discontinuity that control over the means of production had fundamentally shifted to knowledge and that workers might even rent the means of production from owners, rather than owners directly employing labour. However, he was fundamentally wrong when he extrapolated from this potential the conclusion that the old concept of ownership may no longer be very relevant (1992: 147). On the contrary, it is precisely ownership that enables a rent to be extracted and profit realized. Hence the constant news stories of battles over intellectual property rights from Napster and the music industry to Microsofts anti-trust case over the bundling of Internet Explorer with other software or even to Apples ongoing court cases over the design of the smartphones of their competitors, such as Samsung. This analysis of the production of surplus value through the extraction of rents on (relatively) autonomous forms of production still leaves the precise nature of accumulation unexamined (Willmott, 2010), as well as creating problems for the full circuit of capital, because free labour creates no additional capacity for the consumption (by wages) of the surplus it produces, a significant contradiction in the current regime of value production and accumulation. In answering this question of what form the new constant capital takes, Marazzi (2010) proposes that it is the visibility and prestige of brands: In this model, the production of profit by companies would take place over and against the individuation and capture of a lateral surplus-value (the sale of publicity, and the sale of data produced by the activity of users, the capacity to attract financial investments on the basis of visibility and the prestige of new global brands like Google and Facebook) The new constant capital, different from the system of (physical) machines typical of the Fordist age, is constituted, apart from information technology and information (TIC), by a totality of nonmaterial organizational systems that suck surplus-value by pursuing citizens in every moment of their lives, with the result that the working day, the time of living labor, is excessively lengthened and intensified. (Marazzi, 2010: 55-56) This analysis resonates with the idea that we are living in an attention economy (Beller, 2006; Davenport and Beck, 2001), whereby the ability to attract attention and structure communication is the main source of value. People today, particularly young people, are watching less and less television and spending more and more time on interactively programmed media, such as web 2.0 applications like Facebook, YouTube and other forms of demand-led, streamed media (Kornberger, 2010). In such a context attention can no longer be assured in the traditional broadcast media so it becomes a scarce resource for those wanting to sell. Although being proposed as new, the analysis here is not that far from Herman and Chomskys (2002) analysis of the political economy of the mass media whereby a traditional newspapers real product was a market demographic that they sold to advertisers. Here the same process happens but with the difference being that the content that generates this advertising audience (and simultaneously generates a wealth of marketing information about itself) is produced by the audience itself, dispensing with the labour costs (or variable capital in the Marxist lexicon) that the traditional print-based media had to bear in the form of a writing and editing staff. Crucially, the model for constant capital here is the brand itself. In order for Facebook to function and continue to generate a surplus of attention, it must maximize the reach and depth of the communication lines that flow through its websites. It is for this very reason that Facebook

constantly encourages its users to upload more and more content, change their profile pictures and make more of their stuff available to the wider public (rather than just to their closest friends). This is to maximize the exposure not only of the Facebook brand but also the brands that the site carries in its advertisements.

Conclusions Facebook is often celebrated today as the archetypical company of the post-Fordist age of web 2.0. Its extraordinary valuation in its recent IPO suggests that the company, which was only founded in 2005, is the start of a new production of value in an age of informational capitalism, characterized by communication, immaterial labour, and knowledge sharing over the Internet. Yet, equally, most commentators seem to be baffled about exactly how a company, employing a mere 2000 knowledge workers, can be valued at north of the $100 billion mark. In this paper we have analyzed Facebooks value through three concepts, labour, primitive accumulation, and rent, which we have applied directly through a reading of Marx and Marxist literatures. By explicitly linking to Marxs oeuvre, we have attempted to explore the value of Marx for a critical analysis of contemporary modes of work and organization. First, we have suggested, through a reading of the work of Fuchs (2011a,b,c, 2012), that Facebooks main commodity is not its various online web services, but the vast amount of data its users create on a continuous basis by chatting, uploading photos and creating web pages. The value of this data commodity is hence created freely by its 800+ million users worldwide, which the company then packages and sells to advertisers and market researchers. In this way, Facebooks business model is very much in line with that of many other media companies that are dependent on creating and selling audience commodities (Smythe, 1981). The extraordinary value of Facebook can be explained by its competitive advantage of being able to gain access to its media content for free. It is hence the free labour (Terranova, 2004) expended on Facebook that creates its high IPO valuation. We have argued, however, that this free labour analysis of Facebook only provides one side of the explanation of the companys value. We have hence, second, argued that the free labour analysis needs to be augmented by a focus on its dialectical Other: what Marx called so-called primitive accumulation (Marx, 1976: 875). This is to realize that Facebook is dependent on a vast network of value chains (Levy, 2008) of extraction and exploitative labour processes that are typically located thousands of miles away from the high technology and knowledge sharing world of Facebook. That is, Facebook chatting and sharing run alongside widespread processes of industrial deskilling and violent, often militarized, expropriation of the raw materials of production (De Angelis, 2006). As land is expropriated for mining - producing the raw materials needed to produce the technology gadgets on which Facebook is running - those previously dependent upon that land for their subsistence are set free to work in capitalist labour markets in the very moment that they are liberated from any other options but wage labour. To put this in another way, simply focusing on the labour process of Facebook - thereby accepting the legal/structural boundaries of incorporation is not adequate. That is, conceptions of the labour process need to be extended through networked forms to embrace the full range of the commodity chain, from extraction through to social production and consumption, from mining, police action, property right legislation and warfare through to branding and consumption. In respect of the latter this must also recognize that the privileging of the labour process as the main locus of value production embodied in the employment relationship limits unnecessarily our ability to understand the broader processes of change within labour (as value productive activity), and within political economy more generally.

Whilst this analysis can go some way towards helping us to understand the production and accumulation of capital in diffuse, but propertied, immaterial systems like branded social networking sites, it only takes us so far in understanding contemporary systems of accumulation. We have hence developed a third conceptual image based on Marxs conception of rent. We have argued that our example of Facebooks free labour model, which takes place outside of the employment relationship but nevertheless really does produce value, is accompanied by a new system of profiteering and accumulation not based in labour and value production, but in the realization of rents based on enclosure and appropriation. We have argued that Facebook is able, in addition to the surplus value created by its millions of users, to also capture value by its sheer ability to monopolize social interactions over the Internet. As Microsoft has monopolized PC computing through its proprietary software platform, Facebook has created an obligatory passage point through which most people wanting to use the Internet need to go. This monopoly positioning has nothing to do with its ability to produce surplus value and profit, but must be seen as an additional frame of analysis. Without recognizing this distinction, critical approaches to organization studies risk misapprehending the global realities of work today by restricting analysis to forms of labour taking place within the boundaries of specific organizations or simply focusing on an expanded conception of labour and the productive consumption, whilst missing the new logic of profit-becoming rent. Overall, it is our argument that critical, Marxist studies of organization today must follow the flows of labour through production, distribution, exchange and consumption as it crosses and combines activities within the primary, secondary and tertiary sectors. Such an approach would combine Marxs (1976) understanding of primitive accumulation, as developed by De Angelis (2006) with autonomist understandings of immaterial labour (Hardt and Negri, 2000) by using a form of commodity chain analysis (Levy, 2008) to appreciate the full range of distributed, interdependent, forms of labour that constitute contemporary, globalized processes of value production.

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