Amateur (english version)



by Bernard Stiegler


"Amateur” is the name given to one who loves works or who realizes him- or herself in traversing such works. There are lovers of science and technology, just as one speaks of art lovers. The figure of the amateur extends the figure of taste, as suggested by the Enlightenment, as cognition of the sensible or mediation of the immediate, as the singularity of an educated sentiment. It accompanies, therefore, the question of the formation of a critical public (irreducible to the audience).


When we speak of the "economy of the amateur," we designate not a reality, but an ideal type in the Weberian sense. The figure of the amateur opposes itself to the figure of the consumer: as amateur taste gives the percept by which it is constituted, it participates in what it desires and is thereby individuated. To love is to contribute to the being and/or the becoming of that which is loved.


The modern seems all the more capable of tasting anything at all—and all the less capable of careful attention.”1


To love anything at all is like loving nothing at all, and to love nothing at all is to be no longer capable of careful attention: the amateur can no longer love wherever consumption has killed attentiveness to what is consumed.


Everyone knows that love is not something of the order of possession or consumption, but is rather of the order of involvement, investment and the circulation of libidinal energy. In this sense, love preserves and elevates a contribution as co-individuation. And one loves not just beings, but also sites or situations: one likes – or dislikes – one’s work, for example.


The dissociation of the worker from his or her worksite lay at the basis of the industrial organization of labor. Correspondingly, the dissociation of the consumer from his or her sites of leisure lies at the foundation of the industrial organization of the spectacle. The amateur resists this double dissociation, and does so because of the time of the amateur is that which resists the dissociation of the time of life into time of work (or production) and time of leisure (or of consumption).



Against a consumer economy that depletes the desires of consumers, an economy of contribution (one that makes possible cultural and cognitive technologies) would be psychically and collectively individuated by amateurs. All that one calls "social networks" does not constitute networks of amateurs far from it. Indeed there should, as a rule, be established the possibility of critiquing the network structure, of intervening in it, of contributing to the organization of the processing algorithms and the operating metadata they generate all precisely in the service of collective individuation and a critical transindividuation. Such an objective for the critical socialization of those networks said to be social (following from social engineering) should be at the heart of public policy in education and in the service of an industrial economy of contribution – that is to say, in the service of "care".


The figure of the amateur is the ideal type for the economy of contribution because the amateur is the one who builds him- or herself a sustainable libidinal economy and does not expect industrial society to put it in place. In this regard, the hacker is a subversive figure in his or her ability to appropriate the technological and industrial situation without conforming to its requisite prescriptions, from marketing through to plans for industrial development. Hackers are neither consumers nor clients or users: they are practitioners—that is to say, amateurs of the world in the age of its numerization. Working outside of salaried work-time, such as one sees in the case of hackers or occasional performers,2 is exemplary of the work of the amateur.



1 Paul Valéry, Autres Rhumbs (Paris: Gallimard, 1934): 337.


2 It is in the name of this same idea that André Gorz mobilizes the first figure, and Maurizio Lazzarato the second. On the first figure, one may also read Pekka Himanen, The Hacker Ethic and the Spirit of the Information Age (New York: Random House, 2001).


Translated by Robert Hughes, Ohio State University