Affective and biological labor such as that found in call center and surrogacy work are indices of new forms of exploitation and accumulation within neoliberal globalization, but they also rearticulate a longer historical colonial division of labor. In this essay, feminist materialist scholarship provides the grounds to continue to scrutinize which kinds of exchange and subjectivity can even be represented by categories of labor. Leading to the question of what stakes are involved in asserting that gestational surrogates and others whose productivity occurs primarily through biological and affective processes are subjects of capitalist labor power. This essay argues that tracking vital energy, rather than value, as the content of what is produced and transmitted between biological and affective producers and their consumers holds on to the human vitality that Karl Marx describes as the content of value carried by the commodity and absolute use value of labor power to capitalist production, while also describing the content of these value-producing activities as greater than what can be described in terms of physical commodities and their value as represented through exchange.
Research Article|October 01 2012
Kalindi Vora; Limits of “Labor”: Accounting for Affect and the Biological in Transnational Surrogacy and Service Work. South Atlantic Quarterly 1 October 2012; 111 (4): 681–700. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00382876-1724138
Download citation file: