What is the line between entrepreneurship and precariousness? Nowadays, says Silvio Lorusso, everything seems to work as a startup – not just companies and institutions but first of all the individuals. Silvio recently published Entreprecariat – Siamo tutti imprenditori. Nessuno è al sicuro (“We are all entrepreneurs. Nobody is safe”) with Krisis Publishing, a book that explores the many ways corporate logics shape our behaviour, especially when we one is unemployed and is looking for next big step to make it.

Silvio Lorusso is an affiliated researcher at the Institute of Network Cultures of Amsterdam, a tutor at the Royal Academy of Art in Den Haag and a researcher at Willem De Kooning Academy. He’s also a member of varia and part of the editorial board of Italian graphic design magazine Progetto Grafico. His work was presented at Re:Publica (DE), MaXXI (IT), Transmediale (DE), The Photographers’ Gallery (UK), Drugo More (HR), Kunsthalle Wien (AT), Vögele Kultur Zentrum (CH), NRW-Forum (DE), MoneyLab (NL), Impakt (NL), Sight & Sound (CA), Adhocracy (GR). He holds a Ph.D. in Design Sciences from the School of Doctorate Studies – Iuav University of Venice. His work has been featured in, among others, The Guardian, The Financial Times, and Wired. Since 2013, he manages the Post-Digital Publishing Archive (p-dpa.net). He lives in Rotterdam and lectures internationally.


 Filippo Lorenzin: Your practice made you walk on the thin line between design and art – in fact, your works have been featured in many art exhibitions in the past. How do you define this eclecticism in relation to the entreprecariat concept?

 Silvio Lorusso: The eclecticism you mention plays a pivotal role in the “entreprecariat galaxy” (as Raffaele Alberto Ventura calls it in the postface of the
book). In this regard, a section of Entreprecariat is about Fiverr, the major online freelance services market. On Fiverr there is a number of “micro-entrepreneurs” that come up with anything to make a living. They write songs, translate from English, code in Javascript, make phone pranks, propose themselves as counselors, dress up as Jesus, etc. Some of these services look like proper performance art projects. For the  entreprecariat, eclecticism seems to be a necessity. We are witnessing the rapid prototyping of careers. This is what artist Sebastian Schmieg calls “survival creativity”. After all, what happens on Fiverr is not that different from the daily reality of many artists and designer – be they artists working as designers or designers introducing themselves as artists – namely to balance a number of more or less remunerative odd jobs and commissions whose artistic value is unclear.

Filippo Lorenzin: The expression “Fake it till you make it” reminds me a study [1] about the beneficial effects of the physical act of smiling for the mood. If you force yourself to smile you can actually feel yourself less under pressure and more happy. What do you think of psychological effects of faking a project? Who is the audience of the sham? The others or yourself?

Silvio Lorusso: This is the subject of the chapter of the book entitled “Fake it till you make it”. The fact that all the emotions, especially the positive ones, have been put to work isn’t new. In the late 1970s, sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild was already
studying the “managed heart” concept in relation to the duties of flight hostesses and stewards. Nowadays, the “feeling rules” to follow in both formal and informal work environments, such as the office and the happy hour, are not only a concern of pink-collar workers but for mostly everyone else. Specifically, the concept of niceness, an attitude combining politeness and sociability, plays an increasingly important role in at the expense of any forms of negativity. When work becomes social, sociability becomes a tool. This is particularly true for temps and unemployed who must constantly shape the public expressions of their selves for strategic purposes.

Filippo Lorenzin: In the book, you cover the management of the self. The individuals who want to achieve success must redirect their emotions and thoughts towards an ideal model of 24/7 busy activity. This tension between the fragmented now and an idealized later reminds me the restrictions individuals must put themselves into in order to make utopian plans reality. Who will be the beneficiary of entreprecariat society?

Silvio Lorusso: What make this sad is the configuration of this promised land. The utopia of inbox zero, of the email inbox finally emptied for once and forever. The utopia of the managed self is the mirage of a bureaucrat. Entrepreneurial rhetoric takes advantage of the concepts of autonomy and freedom to make you your own boss, but this seems only to correspond to an increase of administrative work, at least until when you are big enough to delegate the paperwork to someone else. Until then, this utopia, which sounds quite sad anyway, seems to be a long shot. What it remains is a boring dystopia [2] made of a collective management of enthusiasm and self-help, of life hacks and exhibited  productivity.

Filippo Lorenzin: What is the goal of the book?

Silvio Lorusso: The first goal is to make people read it, as for any other books. This is the reason why the Studio Frames graphic design is borderline fetish. The book features a number of illustrations where the “embellished chaos” of entreprecariat (a subject covered by Geert Lovink in the preface) is covered by a glossy layer. Next to these, the subtitle, which is a bit over the top mimics the entrepreneurial rhetoric à la Tom Peters. Behind these ruses there is an exploration of entrepreneurial values system and its effects. In this way, the book tries to appeal both to the integrated “micro-entrepreneurs” and the apocalyptic “no-good experts”, to mention Umberto Eco’s Apocalypse Postponed collection of essays.


[1] https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/07/study-forcing-a-smile-genuinely-decreases-stress/260513/

[2] https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/aekd5j/the-rise-and-fall-of-boring-dystopia-the-anti-facebook-facebook-group