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14 June, 2017

Automation and the planned obsolescence of the Proletariat

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

Part 3 - “Scarcity is manufactured simultaneously with the manufacture of our consent.”


Henry Ford is credited with the idea that if bosses drive down costs through mass production whilst paying high enough wages for their factory workers, these workers will be able to get credit and eventually afford the high priced products of their labour. ‘Fordism’ was essential to modern industrialisation by driving the expansion of mass production through linking it to debt-based consumerism.

The crisis of overproduction comes when the worker as consumer can’t actually afford or get credit for the goods they make at the market rate given their stagnant, low wages. The strategies of expansion, debt accumulation, environmental exploitation and the privatisation of public services do little to conceal this contradiction of capitalism. In the medium term information technology and automation are expected to keep capitalism buoyant but the long term picture is one where profit margins approach zero thus removing the incentive to invest capital.

To solve this problem, some on the political right believe workers could be made to work for next to nothing, whilst those on the left (and increasingly many free market thinkers) believe giving everyone a basic income will solve this.

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