The General Illumination which Bathes all the Colours: Class Composition and Cognitive Capitalism for Dummies


  • Gigi Roggero Commonware



Cognitive capitalism, cognitive labour, operaismo, class composition, cooperation, capture, autonomy, revolution


For many years, the concept of cognitive capitalism has been an important subject for elaboration, discussions, and polemics. In this essay, we will not summarize the various theoretical details of the debate; instead, we will try to clarify the political nature of the concept and examine what is at stake from a theoretical point of view. Then, we will give some provisional and explorative answers to some of the central questions on cognitive capitalism: What does it mean? In what sense is it useful as a tool for the struggles? What kinds of class composition and antagonist subjectivity are embodied in this concept?

First, we will explain why cognitive labour does not identify a particular sector of the class composition. We will use the term ’cognitivization’ (becoming cognitive of labour) to elaborate on the process of redetermination of the whole class composition.

Secondly, we will summarize a genealogy of cognitive capitalism and its peculiarities. Based on our readings, it is not a stage of development, but the site of a new battlefield in the ongoing class struggle.

Thirdly, we will point out the tension underlying cognitive capitalism, i.e., the tension between cooperation and capture, autonomy and subordination.

Finally, we will point out the problem of re-thinking a central category from operaismo: the class composition.

Following this pathway, we can underline the main theoretical and political question: What are the points of rupture in cognitive capitalism?


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How to Cite

Roggero, G. (2014) “The General Illumination which Bathes all the Colours: Class Composition and Cognitive Capitalism for Dummies”, Culture Unbound, 6(1), pp. 125–135. doi: 10.3384/cu.2000.1525.146125.



Theme: Capitalism: Current Crisis and Cultural Critique