Skip to main content

Robots aren’t coming for our jobs – capitalists are

by Grace Blakeley

Globalisation and automation: these are the trends reshaping our world, or so we are told. According to the consultancy McKinsey, 80% of jobs could technically be automated by 2050. Globalisation will bring the Global South closer to the Global North. Together, they will create a world in which an ever greater number of human beings compete for a shrinking number of jobs.

But there’s a fatal flaw in this narrative: it doesn’t make any sense.

Globalisation’ can’t do anything – it is not an actor; it does not have agency. The same goes for ‘automation’ – whilst robots may one day become autonomous beings, as things stand they still have to be programmed by people. Hence the absurdity of claiming that ‘the robots are taking our jobs’. Robots don’t have the capacity to ‘take’ anything.

Capitalists, on the other hand, most certainly do.

Globalisation and automation are both examples of what linguists call ‘nominalisations’: nouns created from adjectives or verbs. For example, interference is a nominalisation of ‘interfere’. Whilst the verb ‘to interfere’ would have to be used with a subject (I interfere, you interfere, etc), the nominalisation does not. One can completely strip out the actor behind the change and rely instead on an abstract noun to do all the work.

This method of political discourse is powerful and highly ideological. Talking about ‘globalisation’ allows us to construct the idea of ‘globalisation’ as an inevitable, impersonal trend, driven by the agentless forces of history. The nominalisation completely obscures the fact that ‘to globalise’ is a verb – the same goes for ‘to automate’. ‘Automation’ doesn’t just happen – tasks are automated by people.

In fact, ‘nominalisation’ is itself a nominalisation – someone has to be doing the nominalising. Those who popularised the depoliticising of terms like ‘globalisation’ and ‘automation’ benefit from the processes they claim to describe but in fact obscure. And it is not hard to see how.

Popular use and acceptance of these terms represents a significant victory for the agents behind these changes. People talk easily of globalisation and automation, viewing them as abstract ‘facts of life’ to which we will all have to adapt, naturalising what are in fact contingent phenomena. This has served to obscure the role of those doing the globalising and the automating.

When it comes to globalisation, the wealthy have benefited massively from the dramatic increase in capital mobility since the 1980s. They are increasingly able to invest their money anywhere in the world, paying as much or as little tax as they would like to along the way. They would argue that this was an inevitable result of technological change, but legal, social and organisational changes were required too – from the removal of capital controls, to the massive deregulation of finance, to the creation of international financial institutions like the IMF and World Bank.

By presenting these changes as natural and inevitable, elites have been able to claim they are also irreversible. Fashionable nominalisations like ‘globalisation’ have allowed elites to argue that high tax rates don’t work in a world where capital is free to move wherever it likes. You can’t tax the wealthy, so the argument goes, because if you try they’ll just leave. Don’t like it? Take it up with globalisation.

The same kind of analysis can be applied to the idea of automation. We are increasingly being flooded with doomsday scenarios about mass technological unemployment resulting from developments in machine learning and artificial intelligence. Rather than challenging these narratives, many on the left have succumbed to these apparently inevitable changes and developed policies that will ease the pain – from universal basic income to the three-day week.

But such a narrative totally fails to grasp how these changes are being driven, and in whose interests. Much of the technology behind automation has been developed either by huge transnational monopolies or highly militarised neoliberal states. More importantly, the way in which these technological changes work their way into the production process is determined almost entirely by giant corporations and their state sponsors.

These actors have a direct interest in driving labour out of the production process entirely. This transformation would not only allow capitalists to dramatically increase their profits, but would also finally crush labour’s capacity to resist (whilst of course creating new contradictions to which this new mode of capitalism would have to adapt). Full automation under capitalism would represent the completion of a 40-year project to seize an ever greater share of national income for capital, at the expense of labour.

The robots’ aren’t coming for our jobs – but the capitalists who own the robots certainly are. And this is ultimately what the politics of automation comes down to – the ownership of capital. Unless ownership of that capital is dramatically broadened, the coming decades will witness ordinary people further stripped of power and control over their lives, with increasing numbers rendered surplus to an economy in which they have no role nor stake.

Resisting capitalist automation should be part of any socialist agenda, as the much-maligned Luddites were well aware. The movement towards a socialist mode of production may then allow us to achieve what might be termed ‘alter-automation’ – à la the ‘alter-globalisation’ movement – based on full automation, a universal basic income, and the full socialisation of wealth.

We on the left must stop presenting ‘automation’ and ‘globalisation’ as interesting, slightly scary, but ultimately inevitable changes to which we must adapt. These terms should be confronted for what they are: active processes to shift wealth and power from the overwhelming majority to a tiny elite. Without that recognition, we will struggle to wrest back control over our economic and political systems and rescue potentially liberating technological advances from the dystopian control of the powerful.

Source, links:


Related:




The dominant elite ready to break the "social contract"


It's a fact: Robots replace humans nearly in every professional field!


Humans replaced by super-intelligent machines: Extinction or Evolution?


Give jobs to all robots!

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Confirmed: Alex Jones' popularity rises after Infowars banning from social media

globinfo freexchange
We wouldn't expect to be confirmed so fast on this.
A few days ago in the article IT and social media supergiants have just made Alex Jones a hero in the eyes of the ultra-conservative audience, we wrote that Alex Jones' wet dream has just become reality thanks to the combined move by Facebook, Apple, YouTube and Spotify to ban Infowars. These private IT and social media companies couldn't give a better gift to him right now. At a time where Infowars was going through a saturated period according to the best scenario, the corporate giants actually saved it with that stupid(?) strategy.
Suddenly, a corporate branch of the liberal establishment gave real value to Alex Jones' awful performance, pretending to be the 'anti-establishment' hero - just like Donald Trump - and made him a real hero in the eyes of the ultra-conservative audience that has been brainwashed by his absurd conspiracy theories.
Only a couple of days later, Kyle Kulinski of the…

Corporate media begin typical operations to make progressives comply with the establishment

The operations will multiply and become more aggressive towards 2020
globinfo freexchange
Corporate media of the ultra-conservative side made already a ridiculous attempt to present Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as totally unreliable. In the video, TYT hosts analyze very well the specific strategy followed by Conservative Review TV.
The strategy is quite simple: you create a fake video, you upload it on social media and after being watched by thousands you admit that it was created for satire purposes. Yet, the propaganda will be definitely effective because only a small portion will notice that this was satire. Most of the viewers (especially from the conservative audience that has been heavily brainwashed for decades to love corporate America and believe whatever comes from the Fox apparatus) will believe whatever transmitted from the ultra-conservative propaganda machine.
But the corporate media of the liberal side have a very big problem right now. It is almost impossible to start an open …

While you've been occupied with that Infowars-banning story, the establishment machine already started a covert censorship operation against leftist independent media

globinfo freexchange
Developments are coming like storm. Just when the prediction that Infowars banning will actually strengthen Alex Jones' popularity became true, it seems that our second 'prophecy' (and prediction by many progressives), also becomes true. According to this, Infowars banning will be used as a blueprint by the establishment machine to shutdown progressive independent media and voices, based on that 'fake news' narrative.
We wrote that a corporate branch of the liberal establishment gave real value to Alex Jones' awful performance, pretending to be the 'anti-establishment' hero - just like Donald Trump - and made him a real hero in the eyes of the ultra-conservative audience that has been brainwashed by his absurd conspiracy theories.
Max Blumenthal speaks with Aaron Mate and gives details about Alex Jones' dark role in the whole story:
Alex Jones has always served establishment priorities. First, by taking the 9/11 truth movement, whi…

‘I knew and approved the assassination of Maduro’ claims TV show host

globinfo freexchange
Peruvian journalist Jaime Bayly claimed in his TV show Bayly, that he was aware and had personally approved the attempted assassination of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
"My reliable sources have called me and told me 'on Saturday we will assassinate Maduro' and I told them 'do it'," he said in his show and added: "When they asked me if I would condemn their move I replied that if they want I can buy them another drone."
Referring to Maduro, the journalist called him to be on alert. "My friends," he said, "are very capable, they have already scared you and there are more to come".
In a press conference, Maduro wondered how it is possible a host of a show in the US stating openly that he was aware of the attempted assassination.
Info from:
https://info-war.gr/gnoriza-kai-enekrina-ti-dolofonia-madoyro-ischyrizetai-paroysiastis-sto-maiami/

Meanwhile, Venezuelan Attorney General, Tarek William Saab, announced Wedn…

How normal human behavior became a false mental disorder epidemic

globinfo freexchange
In the early nineties, an epidemic of mental disorder was sweeping America and Britain. It had been uncovered by a new system for identifying disorders. Psychiatry had been attacked for relying on the personal and fallible judgement of psychiatrists.
But instead, a new objective method based on checklists had been invented. These listed only the objective symptoms, and deliberately did not enquire into why the individuals felt an anxiety. In the late 80s, nationwide surveys had revealed an incredible picture: more than 50% of Americans suffered from mental disorders.
But at the very same, the drug companies had announced that they had created a new type of drug, called an SSRI, which they claimed, targeted the circuits inside the brain that were causing these malfunctions. The SSRIs were marketed under names like "Prozac". What they did was alter the amounts of serotonin that flowed across the circuit connections within the brain, and they readjusted the …

The US empire was always conducting trade wars that even included deliberately created cartels

globinfo freexchange
Donald Trump is using his trade wars to support the part of the US capital that has heavily lost from free trade globalization, which is more powerful than ever in our days. This is also part of the Trump agenda to persuade Americans for his "patriotic devotion" based on his "America First" slogan.
The reality is that the US empire was always conducting trade wars that included not only tariffs on specific products, but even deliberately created cartels.
In the early 90s the Clinton administration uncritically adopted the neoliberal doctrine from Ronald Reagan and continued the big fraud against the majority of the Americans.
On the one hand, the Clinton administration was selling the big fairy tale of neoliberalism to the American public: free market capitalism would bring prosperity for all through that trickle-down fiasco. And it was translated, as always, in further cuts in public spending - more tax-cuts for the super-rich. On the other hand, …

Why the rapidly escalating and most disgusting propaganda against Jeremy Corbyn is actually a good sign

failed evolution
In the UK front, the liberal establishment machine is escalating its propaganda campaign against Jeremy Corbyn through that 'anti-Semitic' smearing. In reality, his only 'crime', of course, is that he is too lefty for the totally-occupied-by-neoliberalism Britain.
After the collapse of that ridiculous Skripal case - that ended to an embarrassing fiasco for the Western clowns - the establishment machine in the UK gave up its campaign to smear Jeremy Corbyn as a Russian stooge.
The new 'brilliant strategy' of the establishment tools is simply to paint Jeremy Corbyn as 'anti-Semite'. Which is actually the permanent smearing by the mainstream media and the liberal political center - many have been bought by the Israeli lobby- against anyone who has the ‘audacity’ to condemn the Israeli crimes against Palestinians.
The logical leap in this case is literally ridiculous: if you condemn the Israeli crimes against Palestinians, immediately means tha…

Retired US army colonel implies that a war with Iran could start with a Vietnam-type false flag operation

globinfo freexchange
After Tucker Carlson brought additional embarrassment to the pseudo-Left warmongering liberals with his anti-war positions, he tried to make Trump appear, more or less, as a kind of peace defender. He was joined by Douglas Macgregor, a retired US Army Colonel.
Both Carlson and Macgregor attempted to blame Trump's warmongering officials and the war lobby for the fact that another devastating war, this time with Iran, becomes more and more possible. The truth is slightly different because Trump has enormous responsibilities for this development too. He was from the start very hostile against Iran, he did everything in his power to kill the Iran nuclear deal and put the most bloodthirsty, anti-Iran neocons in key positions.
Yet, it would be worth to focus on a peculiar statement by Macgregor at the end of this short interview. As he said:
           You and I know that there are lot of people who would welcome conflict with Iran, that's obvious. I think the presi…

WikiLeaks paper shows France & UK pioneers behind Libya breakup

On March 16, 2016 WikiLeaks launched a searchable archive for over 30 thousand emails & email attachments sent to and from Hillary Clinton's private email server while she was Secretary of State. The 50,547 pages of documents span from 30 June 2010 to 12 August 2014. 7,570 of the documents were sent by Hillary Clinton. The emails were made available in the form of thousands of PDFs by the US State Department as a result of a Freedom of Information Act request. More PDFs were made available on February 29, 2016, and a set of additional 995 emails was imported up to February 2, 2018.
globinfo freexchange
A letter from Clintons' top advisor Sidney Blumenthal to Hillary Clinton in early March, 2012, reveals that two of the Western neocolonial powers, France and UK, were trying to breakup Libya in order to secure a privileged place upon the Libyan corpse for their big companies. It appears that both Sarkozy and Cameron, as well as their intelligence services, were working closely…

The financial system of chaos: no one can tell the 'when', 'where' and ‘how’ of the next financial meltdown

globinfo freexchange
In previous article we wrote that, the last mutation of capitalism, which has started about four decades ago, appears to contain the tools of its final demolition. Financial capitalism, accompanied with the corresponding neoliberal ideology, created a deeply unequal and unstable system.
Another study by The Democracy Collaborative comes to confirm that we live in the most unstable times, where financial crises become more frequent and more devastating. According to the study:
It appears that, contrary to the great moderation theory, the occurrence of financial crises has been accelerating in the neoliberal era.
An important 2001 paper by a number of economists from Rutgers, Berkeley, and the World Bank found that "since 1973 crisis frequency has been double that of the Bretton Woods and classical gold standard periods and is rivaled only by the crisis-ridden 1920s and 1930s. History thus confirms that there is something different and disturbing about our age.&qu…