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11 June, 2017

Automation and the planned obsolescence of the Proletariat

Garry Glass discusses how advances in automation are disrupting class relations.

Part 2 - Fully automated luxury Communism

The contemporary left, which let’s face it is on the back foot, has been searching for a new leit motif. It has grasped at its utopian past, recasting soviet science fiction with the import of advances in robotics and artificial intelligence, branding it “Fully automated luxury communism”. The promise is essentially that humanity could escape the drudgery of work entirely, live in material abundance and have machines take up the heavy lifting.

This seems like a nice idea on the surface. Marx described human work in a factory as a symbiosis of man and machine, effectively bone and sinew were as cog and piston. The only difference was that humans experience misery and would one day seek emancipation as a dialectical inevitability.

Encumbered by drudgery, leisure time was a dream for most early industrial workers. The idea of a life of leisure was a paradise afforded only to the bourgeois. Later leisure time would be a functioning part of the work week, as noted by the Situationists, we would spend our earnings in our time off work. The threat of starvation gave way to the threat of boredom.


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