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Thursday, December 22, 2016

Today's Automation and Marx's Capital--"Machinery and Large-Scale Industry"

"The instrument of labour, when it takes the form of a machine, immediately becomes a competitor of the [worker]…The self-expansion of capital by means of machinery is thenceforward directly proportional to the number of the workpeople, whose means of livelihood have been destroyed by that machinery. The whole system of capitalist production is based on the fact that the workers sell their labour-power as a commodity. Division of labour specialises this labour-power, by reducing it to skill in handling a particular tool. So soon as the handling of this tool becomes the work of a machine, then, with the use-value, the exchange-value too, of the workperson's labour-power vanishes; the worker becomes unsaleable, like paper money thrown out of currency by legal enactment. That portion of the working class, thus by machinery rendered superfluous, i.e., no longer immediately necessary for the self-expansion of capital, either goes to the wall in the unequal contest of the old handicrafts and manufactures with machinery, or else floods all the more easily accessible branches of industry, swamps the labour market, and sinks the price of labour-power below its value. It is impressed upon the work- people, as a great consolation, first, that their sufferings are only temporary ("a temporary inconvenience")…[but] since machinery is continually seizing upon new fields of production, its temporary effect is really permanent…
Marx, Capital, Volume I: “Machinery and Large-Scale Industry”