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Showing posts with the label automation

Shop talk (1984)

A Short Story from the June 1984 issue of the Socialist Standard
In the town of Inverness a talking checkout machine was recently introduced in a blaze of glory by Your Caring, Sharing Co-op, which should be more accurately described as Their Profit Making Co-op. Computer technology is zooming ahead at such a fantastic pace that it is difficult to keep abreast of all the improvements. Clive Sinclair, the current whiz-kid of the computer market, has predicted that new robots will soon be on the go performing all sorts of mental acrobatics.
After the recent case of the supermarket check-out girl who was fired for intolerably bad temper towards the customers on Monday mornings, the logical desire for any supermarket owner is a machine which replaces workers (and therefore saves wages) while at the same time is constantly pleasant to the punters whom it is relieving of their cash. However, since even the most sophisticated machine is fallible, there is a prospect of one of these devices h…

Wage slavery or liberation from toil

Overall real wages have scarcely budged in the 1990s in America, and earnings for college-educated workers actually declined by more than 6 percent. Productivity per person-hour increased by 5 percent between 2009 and 2010. 

These days, workers are expected to be on call 24/7—24 hours per day, seven days per week. Seen in this light, innovations like flexi-time or working from home are in fact strategies to bring new sorts of workers—mostly women—into the job market and to subject them to a new set of (frequently electronic) rules and controls.

Think about it. Fifteen years ago, would you have taken a job if you had to be available every day, respond to messages from your boss late at night, and maintain contact with the office while on vacation?  But today just about any job, especially the good ones, exhibit precisely this oppressive 24/7 character. At the same time technology has redefined labor into assembly-line piecework and new gadgets have allowed our less inviting piecework t…