Sunday, December 25, 2016

Peak Robot: the Fragment on Machines

Martin Sklar's disaccumultion thesis is a restatement and reinterpretation of passages in Marx's Grundrisse that have come to be known as the "fragment on machines." Compare, for example, the following two key excerpts.

Marx: the degree that large industry develops, the creation of real wealth comes to depend less on labour time and on the amount of labour employed than on the power of the agencies set in motion during labour time, whose ‘powerful effectiveness’ is itself in turn out of all proportion to the direct labour time spent on their production, but depends rather on the general state of science and on the progress of technology, or the application of this science to production. ... Labour no longer appears so much to be included within the production process; rather, the human being comes to relate more as watchman and regulator to the production process itself. (What holds for machinery holds likewise for the combination of human activities and the development of human intercourse.)
In consequence [of the passage from the accumulation phase of capitalism to the "disaccumlation" phase], and increasingly, human labor (i.e. the exercise of living labor-power) recedes from the condition of serving as a ‘factor’ of goods production, and by the same token, the mode of goods-production progressively undergoes reversion to a condition comparable to a gratuitous ‘force of nature’: energy, harnessed and directed through technically sophisticated machinery, produces goods, as trees produce fruit, without the involvement of, or need for, human labor-time in the immediate production process itself. Living labor-power in goods-production devolves upon the quantitatively declining role of watching, regulating, and superintending.
The main difference between the two arguments is that for Marx, the growing contradiction between the forces of production and the social relations produce "the material conditions to blow this foundation sky-high." For Sklar, with the benefit of another century of observation, disaccumulation appears as simply another phase in the evolution of capitalism -- albeit with revolutionary potential. But also with reactionary potential in that the reduced dependence on labor power also suggests a reduced vulnerability to the withholding of labor power.


Eubulides said...

And then there's what contemporary engineers are thinking about robots and the role of labor, as opposed to the economists & other popularizers:

And how that relates to the social transformations in the calculation of the political construct dubbed 'profitability:

Santa Claus as automaton,


Owen Paine said...

The sit down occupation
If inadequate with low staffing levels
Then the struggle needs to add the new technique: civil invasion occupation
And a new age of sabotage

Shut down the facility brothers and sisters

Progressive Struggle outlaws are heroes of World history