Machinery and Large-Scale Industry
Machines free up time, but not for leisure. Capitalism has other plans for the worker.
speed things up, standardise and control. More gets produced at an ever-accelerating rate, but increasing that rate is the end goal. Machines are not a liberator of workers from labour. Instead, they draw ever more people into the capitalist mode.
Busy Bees Might Not be Happy Bees
With a limit to the hours of work and the works who can work them the only way to increase surplus value is to increase productivity.
Shrinking time and space by bringing all the functions together in a single factory allows the entire process to be seen as a whole, and reconfigured to be more efficient. Tasks that were the role of the skilled craftsmen are broken down into tasks capable of being performed by the unskilled labourer.
Tasks that were the role of the skilled craftsmen are broken down into tasks capable of being performed by the unskilled, but specialist labourer, with a corresponding loss of understanding and control.
The delights of honey-gathering in the fields is swapped for the the drone of the factory.
After reading last week about the labour struggle to define and control the working day, I’ve found everything I’ve read this week raises questions over what had been fought for.
There is good and bad work, and just as some people are using the rights gained from that struggle to deliver less of what they “owe”, others are seeking fulfilment in more of it.
Love or hate work, what underpins it is consumerism. But consumerism too has changed. As always, there’s the choice of quantity or quality. However, as work becomes increasingly abstract, it gets increasingly difficult to distinguish between them.
The pleasures of progress are dulled as what was a choice becomes an acceptance.
“Moments are elements of profit” (page 353)
The history of labour is one of exploitation. The attempt to capture other people’s time as surplus value and the attempt to get as much of it as possible for as little as possible is the essence of capitalism. essential to capitalism.
But though capitalism might want limitlessness (and to some extent, capitalists are victims of this as much as they are drivers), people have limits and can only be worked so hard and for so long. Ironically, it’s the successful attempt to limit the working day that might have stopped capital from destroying itself. Continue reading