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08 June, 2017

Automation and the planned obsolescence of the Proletariat

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

Part 1


Automation is redefining the contours of the state, corporate, societal nexus by establishing an even greater reliance on the technological infrastructure and further removing agency from organised labour and the democratic process.

With the rise of automation, society is staring down the barrel of massive increases in the rates of unemployment not seen since the first Great Depression. The massive political shock is that this will affect not just blue-collar workers but those with white-collars as well. As Capitalists drive this innovation the left is, well left, trying to articulate its own vision of automation as having liberatory potential.

Innovations are usually subject to political capture as those on both sides of the political spectrum naturally see any new technological development as a terrain of contestation. Will innovation be used to reproduce and advance capitalism or could it be used for greater empowerment of individuals, communities and the emancipation of the working class? Some argue that domination is inherent to reliance on what they see as technological empire, others speak of a liberatory technology epitomised by social ecology and the solar punk design aesthetic.

The fact that the term ‘revolutionary’ can be used to describe anything from disruptive technologies such as Uberisation and open source 3d additive manufacturing to the latest gimmick in dental hygiene demonstrates the openness of all that is novel to the politics of narrative construction. What is apparent is that we are embedded in a culture which values innovation in technique over the inculcation and advancement of sound ethics. As Bookchin noted we exploit nature as an extension of our exploitation of each other.

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