Prefiguration and the futures of work

Ana Cecilia Dinerstein, Frederick Harry Pitts

Research output: Chapter or section in a book/report/conference proceedingChapter or section


This chapter suggests that a post-capitalist society will not come through the options offered by a post-crisis Left that until recently sought to escape work alone (principally via automation and universal basic income), as opposed to escaping the social relations that characterize a capitalist society. The association between transcending capitalist social relations and transcending work misses what is specific about capitalism: the subordination of the social reproduction of human and non-human life to the value-form. The main feature of capitalism is not its productive activity, but rather the social conditions that underpin a society where we must work to live in the first place and the specific social forms the results of production assume in the market and society. We contest both the common interpretation that the problem with capitalism is work and the proposed solution of prefigurative forms featuring less or no work. In contemporary society, work is not just an activity undertaken to produce something, but capitalist work or labour. We explore the implications of this insight for how we understand prefiguration and the futures of work. First, we explain how specifically capitalist relations of social reproduction precondition work, and the relevance of this for prefigurative politics. We then set out how work in a capitalist society is mediated by abstract social forms, and the relevance for creating prefigurative alternatives to the unfolding futures of work. Subsequently, we reflect on the impact of these insights in the broader question of how prefiguration is understood in theory and practice.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Future Is Now
Subtitle of host publicationAn Introduction to Prefigurative Politics
EditorsLara Monticelli, Eleonora Gea Piccardi, Laura Centemeri
Place of PublicationBristol, U. K.
PublisherBristol University Press
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9781529215670, 9781529215687
ISBN (Print)9781529215656
Publication statusPublished - 20 Sept 2022


  • work
  • capitalism
  • universal basic income
  • post-work hypothesis
  • social movements
  • automation


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