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Abstract

In his article "On the Ambiguity of Ambidextrousness, or, What is an Innovative Action?" Brett Neilson explores the significance of the fact that the technical equality of the hands is realized above all in the act of manual labor, revisiting an influential essay by Robert Hertz, a student of Emile Durkheim and associate of Marcel Mauss, published in 1909 and entitled "The Pre-Eminence of the Right Hand." In his text, Hertz argued that the basic spatial distinction between the left and right hand acquires the polarity of a social hierarchy owing not to the physiology or psychology of motor asymmetry but owing to a cultural choice rooted in experiences of the sacred and profane. With reference to Marx's discussion of productive and non-productive labor in his Grundrisse, the world-making capacity of the hands is analyzed vis-à-vis the productive regime of capital and its increasing subordination of human motor control to machines. Finally, following Paolo Virno's observations regarding immaterial labor and cognitive capitalism in his The Grammar of the Multitude, Neilson discusses what relevance (if any) the cultural distinction — and ambiguity — between the hands holds in the age of information.

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