Marx speaks

Karl is reanimated for this Prospect interview. Good stuff, though I would be much more interested in what he thinks of new technologies. He recognized that some forms of labor were inherently alienating, and (I suspect) this is why his early work never indicated what a communist utopia would look like. What happens when napster fabbing and ubiquitous robotics continue to shove human labor into tighter and tighter corners. In other words, what happens when it is cheaper to have a robot do the work than it is to run a Guatemalan or Malaysian sweatshop?

One answer to that question is that the kinds of creative, humanizing work that Marx thought we would be doing is itself continuously commodified: e.g., engineers are made designers and universities model themselves after Phoenix. The other is that people who have traditionally done very rote jobs, separated from their means of production, can now–because of outsourcing, etc.–more easily move out of the working classes. The trick is that both of these things are happening at the same time.

It seems most people have now rejected the possibility of a real revolution in economic structure. After all, the welfare state (and Friends) helps to ensure a a placid proletariat that is split into those descending into abject poverty and those joining the petit bourgeois–just the opposite of what Marx anticipated. The nature of labor in the US is changing, and it will be interesting to see what those changes look like over the next two decades. (via C.T.)

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