This article focuses on the new economy. While a number of recent analyses have considered how new economic arrangements rework a range of material relations, this article suggests that such considerations have tended to stop short of considering how material relations may be reconstituting vis-à-vis the people who are working in the new economy. This is so, it will be argued, because there is a pervasive assumption of what is termed a social contract model of personhood, where people are assumed to own or at least to strive to accumulate skills, capacities and abilities (that is, labour power) as forms of property in the person. However, what this article underscores is that the relations between people and their labour in the new economy are being reworked. In particular, it highlights how qualities previously associated with people are being disentangled and are becoming the object of processes of qualification and re-qualification. However, such qualities do not take the form of property in the person as claims towards the ‘ownership’ of this labour lie in the domain of audience effects - that is, in relations external to the person. This shift, it is argued further, locates labour in the new economy firmly in the domain of the production and circulation of cultural value. Indeed, more broadly this article suggests that the now commonplace idea that economy and culture are de-differentiating involves a previously unrecognized restructuring of the relations between people and property and even the end of the modern notion of personhood.
Theory Culture and Society: Explorations in Critical Social Science Vol. 22, Issue 1, p. 111 - 130