Zero Robot Work

In his [Rifkin’s] most recent book, The Third Industrial Revolution, he says that a reshaping of society made possible by a variety of trends, including automation systems and green technology, could leave people more time for what he calls “deep play.”

He imagines robots’ making manufacturing so cheap and efficient that most people will simply be able to work less to meet their basic needs. He says we will then be free to start new kinds of nonprofit activities that link us with other people in new ways, helping us lead more-fulfilling lives.

The New Industrial Revolution“Jeffrey R. Young

I shouldn’t complain about mainstream journalists who seem to lack historical awareness, but I will: the Chronicle of Higher Education, which is supposed to be written to and for intellectuals, can be almost shockingly unaware of history. Perhaps the problem is less a lack of historical awareness and more a question of an institutional sensitivity to recent trends. They want to be relevant. I suppose these two things are identical.

The Chronicle writers are also mainstream in avoiding anything that might be leftist, much less Marxist, less they be accused of (a liberal media) bias. In this case, the article mentions Henrik Christensen and Burton J. Bledstein and Jeremy Rifkin– all very trendy– but says nothing about Terry Eagleton, much less Harry Cleaver and Karl Marx, all of whom have more interesting things to say about productivity, work, and technological change.

Capitalism creates problems (contradictions) by making certain forms of work obsolete. It then has to reinvent work, not for existential or economic reasons, but for political reasons. Work is the central organizing ideology of capitalism and without it, as Marx said, “the knell of capitalist private property sounds.” These liberal academic debates about the loss of meaning from the loss of work are silly. We can figure out how to live without it.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol]

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Post Navigation