Fictional Labor

BookFictional Labor

Fictional Labor

Ethics and Cultural Production in the Digital Economy

Contemporary French and Francophone Cultures, 86


July 26th, 2022



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This book advocates for the ethically formative labor that fiction accomplishes. As a force of production, the fictional labor of literature and the visual arts shapes the formation of collective meaning in an era marked by the negligence of social, financial, and environmental responsibility. As neoliberalism’s hegemony since the 1980s has intensified through the proliferation of digital technologies in the 21st century, considering works of creative art as an ethically productive force is a necessary complement to political and economic critiques. The book invites readers to rethink how mutations in the production, circulation, and consumption of literary and visual materials are implicated in the commodification of information and attention for private gain. The link can have a positive effect that transforms the social relation from a capitalist ethos that expends life for profit to an alterity-driven ethos that defends life. But remedying the paucity of moral sentiments of social existence requires fictional labor to generate ethical sensibilities, cares, desires, and wills. The book’s close analyses demonstrate the aesthetic and formal aspects of literary and visual art that mediate between social relations to yield a dependence alterity, including the otherness of a precarious present, a menacing future beyond economic mastery, and an environment enmeshed with living beings and things.

  • A cross-media study of contemporary works of literature, photography, digital art, and painting based on close analyses.
  • A new approach to thinking about the function of the creative arts as labor, rather than as objects to be read, viewed, and interpreted solely through applying critical-theoretical frameworks.
  • Fills in a gap in political and economic accounts of neoliberalism, financial capitalism, and the digital economy by offering an ethical perspective on the role of labor.
  • Responds to the need to theorize new kinds of labor for giving rise to the willfulness, attention, care, and projection of life as worth the sustaining.
  • A study of cultural production that combines a breadth and depth of political, social, economic, and philosophical conversations, from the global reach of neoliberalism and the launch of the World Wide Web in the latter half of the 20th century to the spread of social media technologies in the early 21st century.

Author Information

Jiewon Baek is an independent researcher, formerly an Associate Professor of French at Covenant College.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
List of Figures7
1 Surplus-Word39
2 Mask101
3 Vector173
4 Savage-Word233