Generic and Typical Plan

Extract from Typical Plan as Index of Generic: Labour Struggle Engenders the Space of Production, presented at the Berlage Institute on 7/11/2010, part of Marullo’s ongoing Ph.D. research Typical Plan: Architecture of Labour and the Space of Production
1. Mario Tronti, Poscritto di Problemi, in Operai e Capitale (Turin: Einaudi, 1966) p.298
2. Definition derived from Lorenzo Rocci, Vocabolario Greco-italiano (Città di Castello: Albrighi, Segati e C., 1941)
3. Karl Marx, Economic Manuscripts of 1857-58, Chapter XXIV (New York: International Publishers, 1987)
4. Paolo Virno, A Grammar of the Multitude: For an Analysis of Contemporary Forms of Life (Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2004): “Capitalists are interested in the life of the worker, in the body of the worker, only for an indirect reason: this life, this body, are what contains the faculty, the potential, the δύναμις.”
5. Gilbert Simondon, The Genesis of the Individual, in Jonathan Crary & Sanford Kwinter, eds., Incorporations, (New York: Zone Books 1992); an introduction to L’individu et sa genèse psycho-biologique:l’individuation à la lumière des notions de forme et information, (Paris: PUF, 1964)
6. Standing for Simondon’s ‘metastable’ subject; Paolo Virno, Quando il Verbo si fa Carne (Torino: Bollati Boringhieri, 2003) p. 191
7. Karl Marx, Grundrisse: Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy (London: Penguin Books, 1993), p. 276: “the use value which the worker has to offer to the capitalist, which he has to offer to others in general, is not materialized in a product, does not exist apart from him at all, thus exists not really, but only in potentiality, as his capacity”
8. Karl Marx, Capital. A Critique of Political Economy (London: Penguin Books, 1993), Vol. I, Ch.7: “The capitalist buys labour-power in order to use it; and labour-power in use is labour itself. The purchaser of labour-power consumes it by setting the seller of it to work. By working, the latter becomes actually, what before he only was potentially, labour-power in action, a laborer.”
9. Karl Marx, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, Ch.XXIV.
10. Rosalind Krauss, ‘Notes on the Index: Seventies Art in America,’ Part I, October (Spring/Fall 1977); referring to C.S. Peirce’s definition of index: a sign “being really and in its individual existence connected with the individual object.” Charles Sanders Peirce, ‘A Sketch of Logical Critics,’ in The Essential Peirce, Selected Philosophical Writings, Volume 2 (1893–1913) (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1998) pp. 460-461
11. Raniero Panzieri, ‘Sul Controllo Operaio,’ in La ripresa del Marxismo-Leninismo in Italia (Milan: Sapere Edizioni, 1972) p. 178: “The political battle of the workers’ movement cannot be reduced to the space of the factory, but must be fought at all levels of society. However, the fundamental place of this battle is the factory in its character as a mode of production; it is here that the worker must oppose the social conditions of production with his struggle. The problem of workers’ control is the call for antagonism at the level of the centers of production”.
12. Giorgio Agamben, The Signature of All Things: On Method (New York: Zone Books, 2009)
13. Mario Tronti, ‘La Strategia del Rifiuto,’ in Operai e Capitale, p.238
14. Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. I Ch. XIV: “Capitalist production only then really begins, as we have already seen, when each individual capital employs simultaneously a comparatively large number of labourers; when consequently the labour-process is carried on on an extensive scale and yields, relatively, large quantities of products. A greater number of labourers working together, at the same time, in one place (or, if you will, in the same field of labour), in order to produce the same sort of commodity under the mastership of one capitalist, constitutes, both historically and logically, the starting-point of capitalist production”.
15. Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. I Ch.XIV
16. Raniero Panzieri, ‘L’uso capitalistico delle macchine,’ in Lotte operaie nello sviluppo capitalistico (Torino: Einaudi, 1967) available in english at “But the worker, as owner and seller of his labour-power, enters into relation with capital only as an individual; cooperation, the mutual relationship between workers, only begins with the labour process, but by then they have ceased to belong to themselves. On entering the labour process they are incorporated into capital. As co-operators, as members of a working organism, they merely form a particular mode of existence of capital”. 

Labour struggles are an irreplaceable instrument of self-consciousness for capital: without them it does not see, it does not recognize its own adversary and, therefore, it does not acknowledge itself.
– Mario Tronti[1]

The term generic comes from the greek substantive γενος ‘race,’ ‘kind,’ ‘species’ and the verb γιγνομαι ‘coming into being’ or ‘generating,’ ‘producing.’[2] Generic thus refers not only to an undifferentiated common quality or ability, which is prior to the individual and constitutes the very essence of its species-being, but also to the idea of a ‘life-activity,’ ‘originating,’ ‘giving rise,’ ‘becoming.’

In his Economical and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844, Marx merges the twofold roots, γενος and γιγνομαι, defining man as social individual,[3] a twofold entity made both of singular determinations and generic faculties. In this sense, the individual seems to be the arrival point of a process of individuation, gradually achieved from an undifferentiated basin of generic existence. Such a pre-individual field of biological and intellectual endowment constitutes a common potentiality (δύναμις)[4] which is progressively declined in each singular individual becoming, in relation to its milieu of possibilities and actualizations. Therefore, the process of individuation does not exhaust in a single act or in a final balanced state but in a permanent struggle of adaptation and becoming: the living being is both the agent and the theater of individuation;[5] it is an ‘amphibious’[6] character always including a certain unavoidable charge of indeterminacy.

Marx defines this continuous and unstable process of adaptation as production, meaning that generic human activity through which man becomes aware of himself actualizing its own potentiality.[7] Therefore, physical labour is only an external concrete manifestation of the pre-individual generic disposition to work: the embodiment of a possibility, which does not have an autonomous spatial-temporal existence per se and whose actualization[8] produces profit. Then, the real objects of exchange, between capital and labour-force, are the abstract possibility and the bio-political potentiality, which are both beyond the mere body of the worker.

At the very beginning of its development, capital extracts the potentiality of living labour, turning it into a reified quantity, which could be later accumulated and sold. To perform such a metempsychosis of value, capital is compelled to become fixed, an apparatus laid out to capture and actualize the generic. Abandoning its circulating form of relation, it is condemned to a continuous reshaping of its inner ‘objective structure’ to the modes of the labour-force and to the progressive refinement of its technology of exploitation.

In order to better approximate the generic source of living labour, the capitalist apparatus comes to adopt the same characteristics of its enemy. The more labour is reduced to its most generic form, devoid of any specific duty and estranged from its human source, the more the apparatus of fixed capital is obliged to embody the barest form of possibility: a Typical Plan or a simple, flexible, reproducible layout able to restrain and make productive any form of human subjectivity.

Therefore, a Typical Plan is always drawn out of labour conflict. The typical itself contains all the struggles, the subsequent variations, selections and revolutions that progressively moulded a form, a ‘plan,’ on specific circumstances of production. Since labour is ubiquitous, because indissolubly bound to the generic human existence (Gattungswesen),[9] then the Typical Plan could be conceived as a sort of formal ‘Index’[10] of the generic.
Moreover, if labour coincides with the essence of the human being, then the most radical movement to shape the Typical is that of the labour-force, just as the most paradigmatic Plan is the one of the factory.[11]

The paradigm is a singular case that, once – and only insofar as – it is isolated from its context, it makes intelligible a new ensemble, whose homogeneity it constitutes by itself.[12] In other words, to elect a particular example means to subtract a term from its normal use moving it to another context where it is presented as a canon, as a rule of that new use.
Following these premises, the paradigm of the factory, founded on production and enhanced by living labour, embodies a crucial apparatus able to structure the whole social, economical and political reality. In this sense, there is no ‘industrial’ society but rather a ‘labour civilization’:[13] factory and society exist only because of the labour-force as well as social production could be arranged at a large scale[14] only because of the workers’ mass and precariousness.

Thus, Fordism represents the first rational project of the generic, based on the simultaneous employment, organization, coercion and exploitation of the masses: in other words, ‘cooperation.’ Although the single worker enters in relation with capital as an individual, as an aliquot part of the collective working-day,[15] he is exploited for his pre-individual generic faculties, which gratuitously increase when arranged among other working forces. Therefore, cooperation turns out to be an instrument against the workers themselves, used to systematize their unconscious common domain[16] into the division of labour. The resulting massification of the working process, which reduced the art-craft work to labour sans phrase, is nothing but the conscious capitalistic dispositif to attain the generic human productive faculties, which do not have particular qualities or specifications by themselves.