For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work


by Marx, Karl (1993)

Key Passage

Labour no longer appears so much to be included within the production process; rather,the human being comes to relate more as watchman and regulator to the production process itself.(What holds for machinery holds likewise for the combination of human activities and the developmentof human intercourse.) No longer does the worker insert a modified natural thing [Naturgegenstand] asmiddle link between the object [Objekt] and himself; rather, he inserts the process of nature,transformed into an industrial process, as a means between himself and inorganic nature, mastering it.He steps to the side of the production process instead of being its chief actor. In this transformation, itis neither the direct human labour he himself performs, nor the time during which he works, but ratherthe appropriation of his own general productive power, his understanding of nature and his masteryover it by virtue of his presence as a social body – it is, in a word, the development of the socialindividual which appears as the great foundation-stone of production and of wealth. The theft of alienlabour time, on which the present wealth is based, appears a miserable foundation in face of this newone, created by large-scale industry itself. As soon as labour in the direct form has ceased to be thegreat well-spring of wealth, labour time ceases and must cease to be its measure, and hence exchangevalue [must cease to be the measure] of use value. The surplus labour of the mass has ceased to be thecondition for the development of general wealth, just as the non-labour of the few, for the developmentof the general powers of the human head. With that, production based on exchange value breaks down,and the direct, material production process is stripped of the form of penury and antithesis. (p.705)


No Keywords


"Fragment on Machines", Leisure, Automation


Fowkes, B.



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