Saturday, April 05, 2008

Was Marx opposed to industrialism? --- the answer may surprise you

OK, ok, enough with the advertising slogan like titles. It's a very interesting question because, in my opinion, although the states in the Communist bloc were known for being extraordinarily polluting and for being extremely industrialized it could be argued that the answer is 'no'.

The basic distinction between being for people having goods and liking machine heavy industrial capitalism is something that starts in Marx's early writings but that goes on to the end with references to the concept in 'Capital'.

It goes like this: Marx believed in the necessity of workers controlling their own means of production and determining their own economic relations instead of being controlled by their means of production and being dominated by the economic relationships they found themselves in. The mode of production attached to industrial capitalism promotes a dehumanizing form of labor where rational thinking and creativity on the part of the worker are subsumed under the force of machines that reduce the active role of the worker to as little as possible. This occurs both for the sake of efficiency and for the sake of social control. Similarly, Marx commented on the increasing use of women and child labor in the production process of his time as being an extension of social control through the production process. Machinery in Marx's later thought does not exist autonomously from the social relationships that it's contained within, meaning that the accumulation of capital in the form of a semi-social, semi-concrete societal feature is the basic force aiming at reducing the role of the worker to that of an unskilled, unthreatening, servant and machinery is a means to that end.

The future society that Marx dreamed of was one where the working class controlled the economic capital that existed within society, directing it towards common goals instead of being directed by it towards goals of profit and the satisfaction of needs for the upper classes. This would no doubt manifest in actual work as people intelligently controlling the process of work, making the production process work for them instead of having them work for it, as well as changing things so that people's own intelligence and initiative was applied, in both an individual and collective team work way, thereby increasing the human satisfaction gotten from the work.

Marx made the statement in Capital that the machine culture may already have been making itself obsolete since it looked like greater economic efficiency could be gotten by changing the work process to have people work together more intelligently and more interdependently than was the case in the 19th century. This could also mean self management in a direct way through teams making more decisions for themselves.

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