For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work


by Marx, Karl (1993)

Key Passage

In machinery, the appropriation of living labour by capital achieves a direct reality in this respect as well: It is, firstly, the analysis and application of mechanical and chemical laws, arising directly out of science, which enables the machine to perform the same labour as that previously performed by the worker. However, the development of machinery along this path occurs only when large industry has already reached a higher stage, and all the sciences have been pressed into the service of capital; and when, secondly, the available machinery itself already provides great capabilities. Invention then becomes a business, and the application of science to direct production itself becomes a prospect which determines and solicits it. But this is not the road along which machinery, by and large, arose, and even less the road on which it progresses in detail. This roadis, rather, dissection [Analyse] – through the division of labour, which gradually transforms theworkers’ operations into more and more mechanical ones, so that at a certain point a mechanism canstep into their places. (See under economy of power.) Thus, the specific mode of working here appearsdirectly as becoming transferred from the worker to capital in the form of the machine, and his ownlabour capacity devalued thereby. Hence the workers’ struggle against machinery. What was the livingworker’s activity becomes the activity of the machine. Thus the appropriation of labour by capitalconfronts the worker in a coarsely sensuous form; capital absorbs labour into itself – ‘as though itsbody were by love possessed’.  (p.704)


No Keywords


"Fragment on Machines", Living Labour, Science and Work, Automation


Fowkes, B.



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