If you would go out of your way to argue how easy it is for capital to automate away jobs when labor costs become too high, then you should probably know that you’re giving all kinds of credibility to those of us who advocate fully-automated luxury communism. I mean, think about it: you’re arguing that so much of human labor ISN’T NECESSARY because said jobs can be done by machines, and yet you STILL want the bulk of humanity to pointlessly scrape by laboring for the capitalist class, receiving meager wages to buy the shit they helped generate in the first place. The above billboard is a THREAT. Let’s not mince words – that billboard is bourgeois propaganda designed to turn the working class against each other and against the broader goals of resource democratization. “If you fight for a basic livable wage, just know that you’re easily replaceable, peon!”
This is what leftists mean when they say that capitalism is an economic system filled to the brim with tensions and contradictions; it’s also what they mean when they say that capitalism inevitably produces its own gravediggers. Automation is one of those gravediggers, and it’s a major one at that. As more and more jobs become automated in the coming decades, the working class will face widespread dispossession, ramping up revolutionary class consciousness in the process. At that point, capitalism will either focus on generating more superfluous jobs for people to work or set about instituting a universal basic income – regardless, the point is to keep enough scraps flowing downward so that people don’t call for a broader system change. In this way, capitalism’s ruling class can maintain control over the wealth-producing means of production and imperialist capital accumulation can continue unrestrained.
For these reasons, “more jobs” and universal basic incomes are not enough. We need to democratize the broader social infrastructure and eliminate the profit system. If you recognize how possible it is to automate away human labor, then you should defenestrate yourself out of the Overton Window and use some political imagination – cut out the unnecessary jobs, automate all the labor you can, produce for human need rather than elite profit, and you end up with drastically reduced working hours and bountiful leisure time. This is the essence of fully-automated luxury communism – the natural conclusion of the conditions that capitalism set in motion.
Be wary of automation in the present climate, but always trace it back to the class struggle. Robots taking our jobs SHOULD be cause for celebration; why should we treat these potential liberators as harbingers of dispossession? Technological advancements are pushing us exponentially towards a de facto post-scarcity world, where everyone’s needs can be comfortably met alongside their desires for community and leisure and entertainment, and yet we’re held back by Empire’s insistence on keeping the means of production hoarded under the command of a superfluous ruling class. As long as we are divided into capitalists and workers, humanity will never know full liberation.
TL;DR: automating jobs will eventually get rid of working for profit, cut down the class system, and give everybody time to focus on whatever they want to do.
Exactly, with automation will actually come more jobs and better paying jobs to manage those technologist. Technology always statistically creates more jobs than it destroys.
Okay but that’s also what we want to avoid. It’s not about resigning ourselves to HAVING to work a job just so we can access resources – it should be about determining what jobs are actually necessary for meeting people’s needs and for the maintenance of society, what jobs can be automated away, and how to properly transition towards a system that produces for need rather than for profit (and hopefully eventually reaching a point of abundant post-scarcity that money itself could be feasibly abolished from there), all accomplished by democratic control of the means of production and the infrastructure. I’m sick of this liberal discourse that keeps shifting all these radical developments in technology back towards the status quo, where the wealth-producing machines are still controlled by elites and where we have to just keep inventing new jobs for people to work so they can access resources. If feudalism couldn’t cope with the advancements in technology that eventually made feudal relations obsolete, then capitalism won’t be able to cope with the coming advancements in technology as well, try as it might – scarcity will have to be enforced (more so than it is now), more pointless jobs will be created, and politicians will opt for redistributive universal basic incomes in an attempt to stabilize the whole thing. We need to seize the opportunity to put the exponentially-increasing reach of technology to work for the benefit of humanity, not just for human benefit when it’s convenient to capitalists.
So this post reminded me of something from my childhood, and I couldn’t place what, until I remembered this joke from the Jetsons:
Now in the show this is obviously a statement about how easy Mr Jetson has it in the future’s workforce, but it more effectively highlights the absurdity of a capitalist system once technology has become able to automate entry-level labor: no one NEEDS Mr Jetson to do anything, but because his value in society is entirely based on income and thus employment, they need to FABRICATE a role for him to fill. In reality the only human necessary to keep the plant running is (maybe) Mr. Spacely, but goodness knows we can’t let EVERYONE enjoy an upper-middle class income in management, so they give him a bunch of useless peons to boss around all day.
The capitalist system the Jetsons live in finds THIS absurd future preferable to a system where everyone’s basic needs are met using the massive surplus generated by a fully automated workforce. The people who paid for the billboard in the original post above are even LESS sympathetic, as they’d apparently blame US for “making” them fire 90% of their employees in order to remain competitive. What a grand system, this capitalism.
also in regards to that post above about automation creating “better jobs”: automation today is not like the automation of the 20th century. it’s getting rid of more jobs much faster than it’s creating any. if an electronic cashier is putting human cashiers out of business, those people can’t just up and learn coding or IT. it’s not that simple.
at the end of the day though? I’m tired of talking about jobs. I’m tired of hearing politicians say “more jobs,” like pointless and inefficient positions that exist solely to give someone a job are anything to be proud of “creating.” I’m telling y’all it’s inevitable that luxury communism will come once we stop placing so much importance on the Almighty Job
I appreciate the discussion in this post. There are some very simple measures that would ensure the future of humanity would not be a bleak one, but they are so culturally different from the norm, that I fear the economically privileged will never allow them to happen. They’re simply too far outside the bailiwick. For example, making education free, so that those who have not been able to find employment in service or skilled but small fields can go and simply educate themselves in something interesting, to therefore supply us with the advancement to make new automated systems. Or the dissolution of currency so that a person can simply go back to the learning of a skilled trade in some sort of craft that will always be in demand, when automation and mass-production become the standard. The truth is, the more educated and the more advanced humanity becomes, the more it must necessarily tend toward one of two paths: extreme fascism, or socialism. There’s no way around it.