Digital Labor

Christoph Spehr


Christoph Spehr was probably invited because he wrote a theory of free cooperation, which was embraced with interest by free software idealists, collaborative artists, communes, network activists and political critics, but not so much by academia, although it did win the first Rosa-Luxemburg-Prize in 2001. It was published as “Free Cooperation” in Lovink/Scholz (eds.), The Art of Free Cooperation in 2007. The theory of free cooperation aims to sort out what distinguishes fair and equal collaboration from forced cooperation, i.e., exploitation, which is useful because you don’t necessarily see it at first glance. For the Free Cooperation conference at SUNY Buffalo, 2004, Spehr also created a video work,On Rules and Monsters. An Introduction to Free Cooperation (with Jörg Windszus and Tony Conrad). Christoph Spehr worked for many NGOs, partly in self-owned, cooperative structures. Today, he is the head of the Left Party in Bremen and earns his living as a scientific assistant for its local parliamentary group.

Part of the solution: New labor rights, entrepreneurial rights and social transformation for the age of algo-capitalism.
Whoever owns a little bit of social conscience is facing again the old question if, doing what we do, we are part of the problem or part of the solution. The transformation of production, labor and society by digitalization and algorhythmization has provided stunning potentials for collaboration, creativity and for the liberation from dependencies and command. It has also provided stunning examples of intensified exploitation, new precarity, unfair labor, extreme inequality, total alienation, and outright boredom. Although it is important to experiment with alternative forms of social corporations and non-profit cooperation, you also have to fight collectively for a shifted balance of power. There is a strong need for a new generation of labor rights, but also of new entrepreneurial rights and a new role for public capital and collective ownership. And we should add the question: What do bosses do, and do we need bosses to do it?

Conditions of Possibility
Fri, November 13
11:00 AM - 12:50 PM