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Marx and the Robots

Marx and the Robots

Networked Production, AI and Human Labour

Edited by Florian Butollo and Sabine Nuss

Translated by Jan-Peter Herrmann

A wide-ranging, myth-busting and balanced materialist account of an overheated discourse

Marxist discourse around automation has recently become waylaid with breathless techno-pessimist dystopias and fanciful imaginations of automated luxury communism. This collection of essays by both established veterans of the field and new voices is a refreshingly sober materialist reflection on recent technological developments within capitalist production.

It covers a broad range of digital aspects now proliferating across our work and lives, including chapters on the digitalisation of agriculture, robotics in the factory and the labour process on crowdworking platforms. It looks to how 20th century Marxist predictions of the ‘workerless factory’ are, or are not, coming true, and how ‘Platform Capitalism’ should be understood and critiqued.

Through rich empirical, theoretical and historical material, this book is necessary reading for those wanting a clear overview of our digital world.

Florian Butollo is a Research Fellow for Globalisation, Work, and Production at the Weizenbaum Institute for the Networked Society, Berlin.

Sabine Nuss is managing director of the Karl Dietz Verlag. As a political scientist, she has published books on Karl Marx's analysis of capitalism, economic crises in capitalism, digitalisation and automation.

'Cuts through the hype about automation and artificial intelligence to explain how technologies actually make it from the showroom to the factory floor'

- Aaron Benanav, author of 'Automation and the Future of Work'

'Excellent ... summarises the entire breadth of the debate about Marx and digitisation'

- Soziologie Magazin

'Stands out, [...] bringing a remarkably wide range of perspectives to debates often dominated by technological determinism and fetishisation. A compelling analysis of contemporary trends that combines theoretical sophistication with an unusual breadth of empirical detail'

- Virginia Doellgast, Professor of Comparative Employment Relations, ILR School, Cornell University

'In this engaging and valuable collection, Butollo and Nuss show how Marx's lens on the industrial revolution can help us examine and interpret the digital transformation'

- John Zysman, Professor Emeritus, UC Berkeley and Co-Founder, Co-director - Berkeley Roundtable on the International Economy (BRIE)

'Brilliant. From factory to platform, from value to variety, the authors analyse the past, present and futures of work. Highly recommended for radical educators'

- Kendra Briken, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow

'An essential volume on digitalisation and platforms, moving beyond technology fetishism and technological determinism to highlight the contradictory nature of technical change within capitalism'

- Matt Vidal, Reader in Sociology and Political Economy, Loughborough University, London

Introduction - Florian Butollo and Sabine Nuss
1. Automation: Is It Really Different This Time? - Judy Wajcman
Part I: Productive Force between Revolution and Continuity
2. ‘Voracious Appetite for Surplus Labour’ - Elena Louisa Lange
3. Industrial Revolution and Mechnisation in Marx - Dorothea Schmidt
4. A Long History of the ‘Factory Without People’ - Karsten Uhl
5. The Journey of the ‘Automation and Qualification’ Project - Frigga Haug
6. ‘Forward! And Let’s Remember’ - Christian Meyer
Part II: Robots in the Factory – Vision and Reality
7. High Tech, Low Growth: Robots and the Future of Work - Kim Moody
8. Productive Power in Concrete Terms - Sabine Pfeiffer
9. Drones, Robots, Synthetic Foods - Franza Drechsel and Kristina Dietz
Part III: Digital Work and Networked Production
10. Networked Technology and Production Networks - Florian Butollo
11. Computerisation: Software and the Democratisation of Work as Productive Power - Nadine Müller
12. Designing Work for Agility and Affect’s Measure - Phoebe V. Moore
Park IV: Platform Capitalism under Scrutiny
13. Old Power in Digital Garb? - Christine Gerber
14. The Machine System of the Twenty-first Century? - Felix Gnisa
15. Digital Labour and Prosumption under Capitalism - Sebastian Sevignani
16. Artificial Intelligence as the Latest Machine of Digital Capitalism - For Now - Timo Daum
17. Forces and Relations of Control - Georg Jochum and Simon Schaupp
Notes on Contributors

Published by Pluto Press in Feb 2022
Paperback ISBN: 9780745344379
eBook ISBN: 9780745344393

336 pages

135mm x 215mm