Accounting for the General Intellect: Immaterial labour and the social factory

Crawford Spence, David Carter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


With the decline of the fordist production model immaterial labour is increasingly recognised as the principal source of value in the contemporary economy. Yet this creates a crisis of measurement which capital has struggled to respond to. This paper analyses the attempts of various accounting technologies to respond to the emergence of immaterial labour through the lens of autonomist Marxism. Management and financial accounting are represented as impoverished attempts to measure the immaterial. The shortcomings of these traditional accounting technologies have been recognised by promoters of intellectual capital accounting, which attempts to account for the immaterial. From an autonomist Marxist perspective, intellectual capital accounting is perceived as an unsettling attempt to colonise 'biens communs' and the General Intellect. However, in the midst of these attempts to rationalise hitherto untapped areas of subjectivity and social life we find cause to cautiously celebrate immaterial labour whose complexity tends to elude measurement, thereby offering hope for socialisations which exceed capitalist control.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)304-315
Number of pages12
JournalCritical Perspectives on Accounting
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2011


  • Accounting and reality
  • General Intellect
  • Intellectual capital
  • Labour process

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Accounting
  • Finance
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Information Systems and Management


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