Study as Commoning: Wage Labor

Notes from collective writings, e-mail exchanges, internal and public discussions.

(This section has been previously published in Spaces of Commoning: Artistic Research and the Utopia of the Everyday on pp.148-149)




S: We find ourselves as a group of eight members: one senior researcher who receives no salary from the project money, but receives a full salary from the larger institution; one senior researcher who receives a half-salary from the project and another half-salary from the larger institution for half of the project’s runtime; four pre-doc researchers who receive half-salaries from the project, none of them receiving additional salaries from the larger institution; one pre-doc researcher receiving no salary from the project but a full salary from the larger institution; one pre-doc researcher who receives no salary from the project but receives a half-salary from the larger institution for half of the project time.


GG: The image of an iceberg is one way of illustrating how what is usually regarded as ‘the economy’ — wage labor, market exchange of commodities and capitalist enterprise — comprises but a small subset of the activities by which we produce, exchange and distribute values.


T: It is not commoning if it doesn’t hurt.


U: How much money should I give to my fellow commoners to feel good about the pain? As we attempt to address the economic conditions and inequalities of our study in common, wage labor matters, but should we not also take into account the many other exchanges and currencies at play in our collaboration?


V: Exactly the different situatedness of the members of a group seems to be the basis from which a process of commoning can start; we cannot ignore our differences, our privileges and our experiences of discrimination. The problem soon arises: how we can start this conversation?


W: It seems to be too complex. This might be too much work. Let’s not research them. But researching would dismantle them, no? Or is it too self-referential?


X: For Silvia Federici, as I understand it, there is no commoning without reproductive labor. Federici concluded her answer to my question by pointing to the unsustainability of social movements if they don’t include cooperation and reproduction. Only self-reproducing movements are able to have continuity (and thus agency) — meaning taking care of each other and taking responsibility for each other’s lives.


Y: But meanwhile, I am finding strong resonance and maybe even a sense of hope in searching for agency within (oppressive) situations of maintenance and reproductive labor.


SF: The first lesson we can gain from these struggles is that the ‘commoning’ of the material means of reproduction is the primary mechanism by which a collective interest and mutual bonds are created.


SH: You simply struggle to be able try to arrange your lives together in such a way that you can spend the time you need to be together, to consider ideas and work together, and to try to affect some kind of experiment or transformation in the way that we approach knowledge together, and the ways in which we try to transform a relationship of strictly teaching and learning into one of some kind of collective study.


U: I just cleaned up our space (again) from moldy half-drunk Starbucks cups, half-eaten rice waffles and more … After a week of working here please clean up after yourself. (Yes, this is a call to order, but please don’t quote me in the study text). Best and looking forward to next week!




S, T, U, V, W, X, Y are members of the Spaces of Commoning research group
GG is J. K. Gibson-Graham.
SF is Silvia Federici.
SH is Stefano Harney in a public conversation with the Spaces of Commoning Research Group on the occasion of the Vienna Art Week, 2015