Blue-collar jobs disappearing?
kbevans at panix.com
Thu Feb 29 06:10:50 MST 1996
As to the changes in work, first work will always have to be done.
Second, much of the "blue collar-less" ideas about the future are
demonstrably bourgeois fantasies.
That being said, the automation of the workplace has always been
groaned about on the left because, despite greater efficiency and living
standards, automation has also been used to foster a meritocratic idea that
the people who do the actual work are less important. Capitalists defend
rationalize their privilege by claiming that they are "worth" more than
workers, because of the kind of jobs they have. The computer has capitalists
licking their lips at somehow being able to "get rid" of the worker all
Clearly that is stupid, but the rational is out there. The flip side
of the automation coin is that people like computer programmers - whose
efforts are far more like industrial labor than management - are creating a
rank of the proletariat that has more of the intellectual component to their
work than the management/capitalists. Right now people such as this are
compensated well enough, and enjoy enough freedom in the workplace, that they
do not feel the proletarian pinch. Looking forward to a time when 4500 a
year Indian software writers enter the market in significant numbers, this
will not be the case. Quaintly, I think we are near a situation close to the
last turn of a century when booms in employment quieted revolutionary
tendencies. It didn't last then and it won't now.
However, the automation boom does allow capitalists to further
undermine the perceived value of industrial work. Not only that but
automaters with these attitudes reject the idea of smarter, more responsible
workers, and tailor their automation to puppet-string Taylorism. As much as
automation can help, sensors and cameras no longer require humans to monitor
them, thus there develops the new "overseer" such as exists in telephone work
(like airplane reservations).
Structurally, there is no difference between the "new" work and the
old. Even fully automated factories require maintenance. Those workers are
much like migrant fruit pickers. They have no connection to the huge
money-making property/machine that they service.
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