Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Robots vs. Luddites

Why would a Luddite break a machine? What is the social significance of software piracy? These questions and more are pondered in this brief discussion of the concept of the "forces and relations of production" in Industrial Revolution and the Information Revolution.

"In 1812 sabotage crept through the British countryside. By the cover of darkness gangs of weavers organized under their anonymous leader “General Ludd” broke into factories by night and smashed the new automated looms to pieces. Cloaked armies of “Luddites” appeared at factory gates in the day to demand better wages, better working conditions, and the right to produce higher-quality fabric. The weavers had not always been guerilla fighters. For 300 years they had passed down their craft from generation to generation of skilled artisans, weaving fine silk and stockings in the comfort of their own home. But now there was a machine that could do all that. It was called the power-loom.

"But why would a worker break a machine? A machine is supposed to make work easier and make life better. To understand the violence of the Luddite rebellion we need to remember that when a worker uses a machine he/she enters into social relations with people. Work is always a social process entailing some sort of social cooperation. (In a capitalist society we can’t understand this social dimension without understanding the relations of private property which define it.) A machine conceals a social relation. Lift the veil and we see that the machine is an expression of the relationship between capitalist and laborer."

Read the entire text here at Kapitalism101 blog

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