For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Automation and labor: Is Marx equal to Adam Smith?"

by Moraes-Neto, Benedito (2004)


The qualifications for employment within the modern microelectronic-based, automated systems can be understood as a negation of the Marxist claim that work would come to demand less skill as technology developed. This paper attempts to criticize this interpretation by seeking the work-deskilling concept in the writings of Marx himself. The result is the proposition that that which is observed in the modern factory; that is, the radical dispensability of living work really mirrors work deskilling according to Marx. The more usual idea of work deskilling, attributed erroneously to Marx, is in reality Smithian in nature. Based on this analysis, a critical analysis is made of Labor and Monopoly Capital by Braverman, which has become accepted as the definitive interpretation of the ideas of Marx on the subject. The sole cause for confusion arising from equating the Marxist and Smithian analyses concerning technology and work should be attributed to an incorrect understanding of Taylorism and Fordism. Here we propose that recent technological developments in reality signify an end to the mistake of equating Marx with Smith, and also indicate the great relevance of Marx today.


Marx, Adam Smith, Automation, Technology, Taylorism


Smith, Marx, Automation

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