...not the title they went with buuuuuut
- If technology reduced the need for work, Marx figured, workers would simply be made to work longer, harder, more efficiently, or on other things. Technology would create a population of the desperate unemployed who could be put to work making luxury goods, for which there would be an ever growing market—though growing only in terms of money, not in terms of the number of people wealthy enough to buy. Instead of the common good increasing, it’s inequality, exploitation, and misery that accumulate. What workers have been building this whole time is their own subordination, and they’ve been doing a good job.
After decades on the outs even among self-described Marxists, the immiseration thesis is looking empirically strong—especially when compared with Keynes’s vision of increasingly large groups of people graduating from the burden of economic need into the paradise of full-time leisure, or with Friedman’s belief that greater wealth at the top turns into greater wealth for everyone.
And workers weren’t the only thing Marx saw getting used up: “All progress in capitalistic agriculture is a progress in the art, not only of robbing the labourer, but of robbing the soil,” he wrote. “All progress in increasing the fertility of the soil for a given time, is a progress towards ruining the lasting sources of that fertility.” Environmentalism was not a basic tenet of Marx’s thought, but unlike the economists, he understood intuitively that extractive production had natural limits. The only answer for this species on this planet is to scrap the whole form of production, with its workers and capitalists, its cities and rural areas, its big piles of stuff and hollowed-out globe.