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Voorkant Wendling 'Karl Marx on technology and alienation' Amy E. WENDLING
Karl Marx on technology and alienation
Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009; 252 blzn.
ISBN-13: 978 02 3022 4407

[Wendling's boek bevat bijzonder intelligente analyses van de belangrijkste teksten van Marx over wetenschap, techniek, en hun rol in de vervreemding van arbeiders onder het kapitalisme resp. in de opheffing van de vervreemding van het proletariaat onder het communisme. Waar ze in debat gaat met andere auteurs over Marx is ze bijzonder overtuigend. Ze laat ook goed zien dat Marx als een van de eerste techniekfilosofen al de nadruk legt op de context waarbinnen wetenschap en technologie functioneren (in zijn geval: het kapitalisme), iets waar latere techniekfilosofen als Heidegger nog iets van kunnen leren.]

[Naast de Grundrisse en Das Kapital betrekt Wendling Marx' notitieboeken en manuscripten in haar analyse, die ze speciaal bij het IISG in Amsterdam is komen bestuderen. Wendling blijkt daarnaast in staat heel helder te schrijven over een toch behoorlijk abstract en complex onderwerp. Een goed boek.]

(1) Introduction

Het thema 'vervreemding' wordt meestal toegeschreven aan Marx' vroege werk. Wendling zal - in een soort van conceptuele geschiedenis van het begrip in Hegel, Rousseau, Locke, Smith, Feuerbach, en Marx - laten zien dat het ook aanwezig is in Marx' latere werk.

"When Marx was finished transforming the concept, it had become a ringing indictment not only of the forms of life produced by the capitalist world, but also of the forms of thought characteristic of the alienated worlds of both nascent and developed capitalism."(1)

In dat latere werk koppelt Marx de vervreemding aan hoe hij aankijkt tegen machines en technologie in het algemeen.

"Alienation, Marx claimed, is made worse by the entrance of machines into production. Because machines automatically perform all the interesting parts of the work, they render the proletarian’s activity dull and repetitive."(2)

Zijn idee over 'de natuur van de mens' verandert van een Hegeliaanse idee (de menselijke natuur stond tegenover en boven de wereld) naar een modern, wetenschappelijk geïnspireerd idee (waarin de menselijke natuur in wisselwerking staat met die wereld en niet meer ver verheven is boven het dier, de machine, en zo verder). Het kapitalisme verbergt de vervreemding zo goed, dat het lijkt alsof die er niet meer is.

"It is the capitalist world that reduces labor to labor-power; that eliminates human agency from political revolution; and that makes alienation unthinkable because there is no longer any human essence to lose. Capitalism denigrates and demoralizes human prominence ideologically as well as materially. Humans become a calculable resource like any other within the economy."(4)

Marx blijft dus ook later denken in termen van vervreemding en een vorm van humanisme, maar valt in zijn analyses in Das Kapital niet terug in romantische prekapitalistische ideeën daarover: hij ziet de menselijke natuur nu als door en door historisch en als gevormd door materiële condities en menselijk kennen en handelen.

"However, Marx’s own humanism has already undergone some critical scrutiny and revision. Unlike his philosophical predecessors, Marx at least attempts to include women and the racially marked subjects of the US South in the concept of liberated humanity on which he insists. That is, the humanism of communism is based on an enlarged notion of what the concept 'human' is and what it encompasses; it is not a reactionary capitalist humanism."(8)

Wetenschap en technologie zijn voor Marx bevrijdende krachten die het kapitalisme kunnen weerstaan. Daarom is Marx' denken ook relevant in de 21ste eeuw.

(13) 1 - Karl Marx’s Concept of Alienation

Marx gebruikt het begrip 'vervreemding' niet meer in zijn latere werk, bv. Het kapitaal. Maar de gedachten zijn er nog wel, bijvoorbeeld daar waar hij schrijft over waardenfetisjisme en arbeid aan machines en duidelijk maakt waartoe de burgerlijke politieke idealisering van de arbeid leidt. Die ontwikkeling wordt in dit hoofdstuk geanalyseerd.

"Marx begins his analysis and redefinition of the terms 'objectification' [Vergegenständlichung], 'alienation' [Entäusserung], and 'estrangement' [Entfremdung] in the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 and continues it in the Grundrisse of 1857–1858. In particular, Marx makes a distinction between objectification and alienation / estrangement."(14)

Mensen objectiveren zichzelf door hun werk in de wereld: arbeid is zelfverwerkelijking. Dat hoort bij de menselijke natuur, bij de mensheid als collectief. Maar binnen het kapitalisme krijgt die objectivering de vorm van vervreemding: arbeid is geen zelfverwerkelijking meer en daarmee heeft arbeid niets menselijks meer.

"In these conditions, as we shall see, the worker is alienated (1) from the objects produced, (2) from the means of production (i.e. the tools and instruments through which production is carried out), and (3) from the process of objectification itself, because he or she finds that his or her practical life activity stunts, abuses, and undermines itself."(17)

"The revolution has the power not only to restore the worker’s activity, but with it to restore the essence of the human species as such to produce freely, and to produce itself as a free producer in nonalienating practical life activity. Revolution thus restores objectification and what alienation has taken away as a result of objectification's loss: spirit (i.e. personality)."(21)

Maar dan wel een revolutie die veel verder zou gaan dan de burgerlijke revoluties uit de 19e eeuw. Een communistische revolutie, een proletarische revolutie.

In Marx' uitwerking van de begrippen is veel te vinden van het denken van Hegel, hoewel Marx voor heel andere oplossingen kiest. Ook herkenbaar zijn de invloeden van:

"Drawing on these historical sources, Marx’s full account of alienation develops over the course of his works, both early and late. His complete account of alienation has at least five overlapping dimensions: theological, political, psychological, economic, and technological. For each dimension, there is a corresponding metaphysical object into which the human essence is alienated. For Marx, these objects are produced by human beings themselves, yet come to dominate humans as alien powers over which they have no control. These objects are God (and related theological fictions), the state, ruling class ideology, and, finally, the commodity and the industrial machine.

Combined, these structures give rise to alienation in its most general sense: through them the alienation of the human being from his or her fellow human beings is accomplished. As a whole, Marx’s critical project shows the material, human roots of each of these objects, demystifying its metaphysical status and thereby alleviating its alienating power. But a critical explanation will not be enough to do this in a world constituted by and in alienated forms. Philosophy will also have to come out of its explanatory role and enter the political realm as an agitator: Marx’s famed eleventh thesis on Feuerbach is an injunction to change the world rather than merely to continue interpreting it."(37-38)

Het toppunt van vervreemding: de arbeider wordt zelf handelsartikel / grondstof ('commodity'; 'Wahre'): hij heeft alleen zijn arbeid te verkopen en kan dus gekocht worden. Die situatie wordt als 'natuurlijk' gezien door de gegoede burgerij die arbeid koppelt aan individuen en niet meer het grote geheel van het kapitalistische systeem kan zien. Het beeld van de arbeid die de arbeider te verkopen heeft is een mystificatie, een fetisj.

"Marx has powerfully likened the economic discourse of his day to that of a totalizing ideological religious program."(54)

Technologische vervreemding van arbeid en de arbeider gaat zelfs nog verder:

"Technological alienation is a situation in which the practical life activity of the vast majority of human beings is undertaken as labor on machines that they neither own nor understand. Such labor is characterized by the reduction of the worker to an extremely partial use of his or her faculties. In addition, it is characterized by the repetition of a single function for long periods."(56)

"Relationships with machines and other means of production in capitalism are correspondingly mythologized, and in no less baroque a fashion than God and the state."(57-58)

[Nog even een citaat uit noot 34 bij hoofdstuk 1 over Marx' humanisme:]

"In the 1960s, Louis Althusser divided Marx’s works into early and late blocks (1969, 227). Althusser characterizes the early texts as Marx’s 'humanistic' period, and the later block as his 'scientific' period. Althusser dates the split from 1845–1846, the years in which The German Ideology was written. Althusser does not suggest that the philosophical study of Marx should be limited to either the early or the late texts; he went on to write a lengthy book on Marx’s late work Capital (1971). But his characterization of Marx’s late work as 'scientific' rather than 'humanist' requires qualification, because for Marx the terms would not have been mutually exclusive, nor would they have been controversial in the ways they became in the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries."(218)

(61) 2 - Machines and the Transformation of Work

Na 1848 hebben ideeën over machines in de politieke economie en de energetische opvattingen die voortkwamen uit de opkomende thermodynamica een grote invloed gehad op Marx. De essentie van het laatste:

"The science of thermodynamics precipitates a series of shifts that change how the activity of labor on the part of the worker is conceptualized, and thus change what 'doing labor' means. Labor changes from a creative endeavor wrought by human spirit on inanimate nature, as conceived in Aristotle, Hegel, Smith, and Locke, into a mere conversion of energy in which nature goes to work on itself. Labor is no longer a spiritual, form-giving activity that infuses matter; it is merely a part of the transformations of a natura naturans. In a related change in thermodynamically influenced physiology, the notion of a vital force or animating spirit is progressively eliminated from explanations of human activity."(61)

Marx hanteert beide conceptuele kaders.

"Marx’s late texts and the commentaries and debates about them are marked by the fact that he runs the older and the newer meanings of labor—labor as ontological objectification of the human species and labor as energeticist transformation—alongside one another without always distinguishing between them. When he does draw a distinction, it is usually a moralizing one, in which the older, creative notion of labor is deployed as a criticism of the second, degraded, alienated notion. This locates Marx with the romantic, humanist resistance to the flattening of human beings, their instruments, their products, and nature itself onto an equitable ontological plane."(63)

Dat dat soms tot tegenstrijdigheden leidt ligt voor de hand:

"As Postone (1993) argues, this causes Marx to turn away from the bourgeois theme of emancipation through labor and toward the theme of emancipation from labor. In his later texts, Marx is increasingly hopeful about the elimination of arduous human labor in favor of the production of material wealth primarily, if not exclusively, by machines. But this hope rests uneasily with his earlier discussion of labor as an ontological principle by which the human being defines himself or herself and spiritualizes nature."(65)

Ook Marx' ideeën over revolutie veranderen onder invloed van dit energetische model:

"Revolution must be explained in thermodynamic terms rather than political ones: as a restoration of balance necessitated by systemic considerations, rather than as actions resulting from freedom, will, and the self-determination of a laboring subject. Moreover, revolution does not represent an absolute rupture with the past, but is the truth of an already-existing system expressing itself politically. Such a happening requires little political action or conscious social reorganization, the cornerstones of earlier revolutionary models."(66)

Marx schrijft al in 1846 over machines als reactie op Proudhon's opvattingen daarover en over die in de poltieke economie en het wetenschappelijke materialisme (neo-kantianen, Büchner, Vogt, Moleschott) van zijn tijd. Machines worden gemaakt en ingezet omdat de markt het vraagt, in samenhang dus met de economie. Ze werden simpel gezegd niet ontwikkeld en ingezet om nieuwe inzichten toe te passen of om het arbeiders gemakkelijker te maken, maar om meer winst te maken. Hij verzet zich tegen het simpele materialistische determinisme van mensen als Moleschott (hij noemt het 'vulgair materialisme').

Na de mislukte revolutie van 1848 verpakten antireligieuze, antiautocratische, democratisch denkers en revolutionairen hun boodschap in wetenschappelijke taal, al bleven ze voor het grote publiek schrijven.

"The scientific thinkers of this generation in Germany were divided into two generations: Feuerbach and Liebig were representative of the first; Ludwig Büchner, Hermann von Helmholtz, Karl Vogt, and Jacob Moleschott were representative of the second. Marx, as we shall see, was influenced by both generations during his lifetime, inheriting the critical energy of the first generation and, by the time he wrote the Grundrisse and Capital, the conceptual discoveries of the latter."(72)

De opkomst van de thermodynamica had een heel andere manier van denken over mensen, en dus ook over arbeiders, tot gevolg. Hieronder in citaten de belangrijke elementen van dat denken.

"Energy becomes the guiding metaphor of the age, a means of explaining the workings of other things during this period: social and political bodies, human bodies, and cosmological bodies. (...) In the new metaphysics, dignity is conferred upon the material world, which can no longer be conceived of as hostile and resistant to spirit, or as the ground for spiritualization by force."(74)

"Both matter and force drop out of use as concepts and are replaced by heat, motion, or energy."(75)

"A literal explication of the conversion of matter into energy and heat, the steam engine becomes a model for all of nature and for its system of energetic conversion."(76)

"The new physics and metaphysics were perceived by both the scientific materialists and their opponents to have direct political consequences. This politicization goes beyond the stints at the 1848 barricades often served by the scientific materialists themselves."(77)

"As Rabinbach argues (1990), this model of thermodynamic human embodiment completely transforms the cultural discourse about labor. In particular, the notion of resistance to labor is transformed by the new model. Workers resist labor not out of laziness, a failure of the spirit or will, but out of a lack of energy, the loss of an inordinate amount of unrecompensed heat. Fatigue rather than willful resistance comes to be seen as the chief enemy of productive labor."(78)

"Rabinbach words the terms of transition too strongly. The new scientific materialist evaluation of labor does not wholly supplant the old moral discourse, which is still prevalent well into the twenty-first century, and especially in the literatures of colonization; rather, the thermodynamic model of labor springs up alongside it. The new model does, however, challenge the older one in crucial respects. Labor is neither a product of the spirit, nor a practice unchallenged by the demands of materiality. Labor must be tempered with periods of rest and repose, not only to preserve the worker, but also in order to ensure the maximal productivity of the labor itself. Fatigued workers are prone to error, not through moral lapse, but through the iron laws of energetic necessity."(79)

"Paradoxically, the reduction of human labor to the model of the steam engine tends to extend concessions to workers, albeit in energetic rather than spiritual terms. That is, workers must be allowed food and rest not because of their humanity or vital spirits, but because all machines require fuel and maintenance in order to work well."(80)

Fysiologen grijpen in, om het arbeidsproces te hervormen en effectiever te maken. Marx wantrouwt deze hervormingen en ziet ze als het in stand houden van het bestaande economische systeem door crises te voorkomen.

Desondanks hebben genoemde theorieën ook invloed op zijn taalgebruik en denken. Zo verandert bij hem bijvoorbeeld de term 'arbeid' later in 'arbeidskracht':

"Marx’s adoption of the concept of Arbeitskraft (labor-power or labor-capacity) is one of his major discoveries of the 1850s. Alongside Marx’s continued but increasingly ambiguous use of the concept “labor,” “labor-power” comes to distinguish the quantifiably measurable units of force added by workers to production, and the quantifiably measurable units of force needed to supply workers with the basic life necessities (e.g. food, sleep). In his later work, Marx also uses the concept of labor-power to distinguish the margin of inequality between what workers give up to capital in the labor process and what they receive back from it in the form of the wage’s purchasing power."(83)

"In Marx’s system, labor qua labor-power is a degraded and alienated way of describing human activity, even if the concept of labor-power is a useful one for arguing, on scientific grounds, on the workers’ behalf."(84)

"Marx’s critique is a moral critique of the reduction of a part of the human species to the maintenance of its mere labor-power. Because to be a laborer is to have barely enough to replace one’s labor-power, laborers are absorbed by the capitalist system in the way of other means of production. (...) After Marx’s application of the concept of labor-power to industrial life, the terms 'alienation' and 'exploitation' are transformed to carry moral indictment within their very meaning. "(86-87)

Een ander begrip met grote invloed op het denken van de 19e eeuw was 'entropie': het verloren gaan van warmte in de conversie van warmte naar kracht. Het ging gepaard met een uiteindelijk totaal verloren gaan zaken als de aarde. Het geeft daarmee dus een tijdsdimensie aan dit denken.

"The importance of history in nineteenth-century thought has a relationship to this scientific discourse of time’s direction. The powerful new metaphors of entropy invest the discourses of social and political change with new urgency."(90)

Marx past dit denken toe op het kapitalisme dat onvermijdelijk tenonder zal gaan door de dalende winst, al is heel het systeem gericht op voortdurende groei. De communistische revolutie zou dus vanzelf komen, maar kon ook pas komen wanneer het kapitalisme op een bepaald punt van crisis zou belanden. Het is een mix van optimisme en passiviteit.

"Finally, Marx’s appeal is not so much to political action, the false forms of which he often warns against. It is simply an observation that the capitalist way of life is unsustainable, and that it squanders the very energy it should struggle to preserve. "(92)

[Ik krijg de indruk dat die invloed van de thermodynamica en van de materialistische wetenschap in het algemeen Marx en anderen toch op een spoor zet waar de aandacht steeds meer uitgaat naar kwantiteiten en reducties en determinisme. Het gaat steeds minder over de normatieve visie op wat er mis is met het systeem en op wat er zou moeten veranderen. Determinisme en fatalisme lijken hand in hand te gaan. Als alles zich noodzakerlijkerwijs zus en zo zal ontwikkelen hoef je niet meer te moraliseren, of mensen te beschuldigen van slecht gedrag. Je gaat er dan niet meer van uit dat mensen iets aan hun situatie kunnen doen.]

[Waarom zou de arbeid van de arbeiders gekwantificeerd moeten worden om de onrechtvaardige verhoudingen te laten zien? In feite maak je dan een knieval voor de machthebbers die dat goed kunnen gebruiken. Zoals de fysiologen in feite doen.]

[De ontwikkeling van de wetenschappen moet in de 19e eeuw een enorme indruk gemaakt hebben. Je kunt het ook zien aan het denken van Nietzsche. En ook bij Nietzsche wordt het er allemaal niet helderder van omdat je een mix krijgt van wetenschappelijke pseudo-exactheid en filosofie. Wetenschap is veel te veel geïdealiseerd in die periode.]

(93) 3 - Machines in the Communist Future

"When treating the issue of technology in Marx’s texts, one must remember not only the legacies of Feuerbach and Hegel, of the socialist utopians and the political economists, but also the contest between Enlightenment and Romantic attitudes toward nature and technology."(93)

De groei van de bevolking speelde een grote rol op de achtergrond. De ontwikkeling van technologie liet zien dat er geen natuurlijke grenzen aan waren, dat grenzen in mogelijke voedselproductie steeds weer verlegd konden worden om aan bevolkingsgroei tegemoet te komen. 'Schaarste' (aan natuurlijke bronnen) bleek een rekbaar begrip en geen natuurwet. 'Schaarste' bleek ideologisch gekleurd.

"Marx’s materialism, from its beginnings in his doctoral dissertation on the swerving paths of atoms, appealed to the possibility of a nature not marked by a fixed determinism. Marx also read and made extensive notes on Liebig in 1851. In his manuscripts of the decade that followed, including the Grundrisse, the idea of technology takes on an enhanced significance. A new world, founded on the advances of technological production, makes possible undreamt material wealth."(96)

"Caught between the two views of the human interaction with nature—designated as 'vitalist' and 'energeticist' in Chapter 2—Marx’s later work shows how technology is a social product of such views and of the modes of production that work, symbiotically, to generate such views. For Marx, technology will differ according to the mode of production in which its structures are concretized ... (...) In Marx’s late work Capital, the Enlightenment ideal in which nature’s fixed boundaries can be driven back in order to improve the human lot is less pronounced than in his earlier texts."(96)

"In this chapter, I describe Marx’s positive account of technicization from the 1850s and early 1860s, an account that unfolded prior to these darker themes of Marx’s later work. In the earlier texts, the overcoming of the supposed boundaries of nature result in the production of material wealth that creates the possibility of a form of human association not based on scarcity as either a natural or a social postulate. The question of immediate human comfort is very much alive. But already there are also inklings of the technological skepticism that will be increasingly characteristic of Marx’s later years as his view of technology becomes increasingly circumscribed by the form technology takes in the capitalist mode of production. In Chapter 4, I will describe Marx’s largely negative account of technology in Capital. "(98)

Marx maakt uitvoerig aantekeningen over wetenschap en tecnniek in zijn notitieboeken, verwerkt een en ander in de Grundrisse, en werkt het om en polijst het voor zijn Das Kapital. De manuscripten en de Grundrisse werden pas openbaar na de dood van Stalin in 1953 en heeft een heel nieuwe lijn van Marxisme voortgebracht (bijvoorbeeld Antonio Negri, Moishe Postone). Das Kapital I is volledig abstract, de bedoeling was de historisch realiteiten uit te werken in deel II en III. Maar dat is door Marx' dood dus niet meer gelukt. In de Grundrisse zit die historische realiteit nog wel.

"Likewise, the Grundrisse offers possibilities for technology that do not conform to technology’s deployment in the alienated mode of production. Rather, in continuity with the excerpt notebooks and the Liebigian attitude toward nature (discussed earlier), the Grundrisse emphasizes the potential for technology to produce material wealth that will be available to the human species as a whole, and that will assist in pushing back the limiting boundaries of the natural and social worlds, the very boundaries that create and enforce scarcity."(100)

"The redistribution not of wealth but of the means of producing it undoes the real subsumption of labor by capital, though it does not necessarily need to eliminate communal forms of production. (...) For Marx, a just redistribution of the means of production will cause technological alienation to become simple objectification. The story of how this will come about is hardly a simple one, and it is not one Marx tells so much as glimpses. However, the redistribution of the means of production is the crucial starting point. After this redistribution is accomplished, the means themselves, like the humans conditioned with them, will not be the same. Both technology and humanity will be subject to a different social form, and have a different telos."(100-101)

De Grundrisse laat al zien dat kapitalisme in feite vijandig staat tegenover technische vooruitgang omdat die het systeem naar een crisis voert door afnemende winst.

"In this respect, a straightforward identification of constantly increasing technicization with capitalism misses the crucial dissonance between the two forces. We find a clear recognition of this dissonance in Marx’s Grundrisse."(108)

Volgt een analyse waaruit duidelijk wordt hoe mensen / arbeiders onder het kapitalisme hetzelfde behandeld worden als machines. Er is ook geen tegenstelling tussen de arbeiders en hun machines: een symbiose wordt nagestreefd want dat werkt positief uit voor het grote doel. Dat is: mens en machine zo snel mogelijk opgebruiken en uitputten om zo snel mogelijk de meeste waarde - niet: welvaart - te produceren. Het leidt tot een heel bepaalde negatieve kijk op mensen en machines.

"Machines should be valued for what they add to our lives, including the extension of material wealth and the aesthetic possibilities they make possible. Furthermore, we ought to be able to conceptualize a mode of human activity without pain, the doing of which is its own reward, a mode of activity that requires not simply the renunciation of our instinctual drives but also their amplification and enjoyment. Effectively conceptualized, such a notion might eliminate the concepts of 'work' and 'labor'. The need for such activity will be the first development based in real wealth."(115-116)

"By enjoyment, I mean something different from simple hedonism, which in modernity is itself often driven by the logic of exhaustion. If I recreate, or 'blow off steam' like an engine, in order to work more pro- ductively the following day, then my leisure activity is as commodified by the logic of exhaustion as my labor. Forms of recreation dependent upon self-obliteration often follow this structure. (...)

By enjoyment, I do mean the sort of cultivation that is eclipsed for all, including the most privileged, in capitalist structures. Enjoyment must especially include the cultivation of the mind, body, and emotions as nonmutually exclusive ways of life, as systems that work together. It must include the simultaneous cultivation of sociality and solitude, and a relationship between the public and the private spheres that is neither coercively integrated nor dichotomized. Such enjoyment will require the removal of socially punitive measures for forms of perceived and actual nonproductivity. Current results of these measures include the devaluation of the work of caring for children or other dependent or independent folks out of love; hostility to some forms of religious practice; prohibitions on nonreproductive sex; the end of the education of the mind, body, and spirit at the age of 22, if not earlier; the neglect of proper rest and time for reflection; and the risibility of the practice of philosophy."(116-117)

[Grappig, ineens een tamelijk persoonlijk normatief pleidooi van Wendling, midden in een behoorlijk pittige analyse. Maar: ik ben het aardig met haar eens.]

Zoals al eerder uitgewerkt staat Marx toch dubbelzinnig tegenover zo'n visie: de arbeid wordt bij hem uiteindelijk niet opgeheven, arbeid zal nooit spel worden, is er niet om te genieten.

"Thus, the 'Fragment on Machines' concludes not with the image of humans developing themselves in abundant free time, but with the image of workers who now own and direct the machinery of production. (...) What is reinstated in communism is the right to work and to retain the ownership of the surplus resources one creates, including these tools."(121-122)

"Thus, the class-kinship systems Marx envisions still build upon the bourgeois notion of inheritance merited through work. However, instead of being benefited by one’s family, one would be benefited by the members of one’s class. This would eliminate the last vestiges of the bloodline from the concept of inheritance. Workers would be made wealthy as owners of machines and other accumulated capital that their forbearers suffered to produce. This would eliminate the strife between workers and machines, which workers would own rather than smash. And when workers own machines, alienation becomes simple objectification, for the worker’s body and labor is returned to him or her."(124)

"In communism’s historical life, the moment when the working classes of the various European nations went to battle against one another during World War I is generally regarded as the moment of communism’s political defeat."(124)

(128) 4 - Machines in the Capitalist Reality

In dit hoofdstuk verschuift de aandacht van Wendling naar Das Kapital.

[Van de andere kant is in de vorige hoofdstukken regelmatig vooruitgekeken naar dat boek. Er komen zo langzamerhand herhalingen in Wendling's heldere analyse.]

"Although Capital tells us a lot about capitalism and its functioning, it tells us little about Marx, who does not speak straightforwardly in the text. Thus, we must decode the text with some care. Marx's method in Capital is deeply informed by Hegel’s Logic."(128)

Het is daardoor bijzonder abstract, de werkelijkheid van het kapitalisme wordt sterk geschematiseerd, en de gebruikte categorieëm worden als het ware aan de empirie opgedrongen om de essenties van het kapitalisme te laten uitkomen.

"Marx's prognostications about the good life to come are infrequent in Capital. The revolutionary prescriptions and hopeful visions that still run alongside the economic analysis in the Grundrisse are often not selected for a second presentation in the later work. Gone too are Marx's philosophical anthropology and the possible positive changes in human status brought about by symbiosis with machines. The Enlightenment's promises of objectification are eclipsed by the reality of alienation. The human–machine symbiosis produces only monstrous and deformed ways of life for the working class, rather than wealth, enjoyment, or free time. (...) These features of the text allow Engels and later Lenin to interpret Marx as an economic and technological determinist."(130)

"It is unsurprising, then, that when the human being appears in Capital, he or she appears as little other than an archetype: a puppet pulled by commodity relations, a pathetic wretch, an occluded and trapped exploiter, or a cog that is part of a factory."(130-131)

Er was in die tijd wel sprake van een tegenbeweging, een kapitalistisch humanisme. Maar dat was er alleen om de privileges van bepaalde groepen te verdedigen, het was dus reactionair:

"These include the patriarchal privileges of the manufacturing classes, the male sex; and the sex-specific use of tools in guild labor. As such, capitalist humanism unleashes particularly virulent misogyny, anti-Semitism, racism and technophobia."(131)

"Capital contains Marx’s fullest and most historically detailed account of machinery, the lengthy chapter XV. But the tone of this chapter is radically different from that of the fragmentary Grundrisse. Marx limits his description of the role of technology to the role played by technology in the capitalist mode of production. This leaves him less and less optimistic about technology's ultimate good for the human species. Because of capitalism's reliance on human labor for profit, technology is only deployed within capitalism to mortify and discipline human labor, never to eliminate it."(135-136)

[Volgt een uitgebreide analyse van de passages in Das Kapital over machines. Die bepalen het economische systeem van productie. Marx heeft voortdurend de stoommachine in gedachten. Iedere auteur in de 19e eeuw lijkt daar zwaar van onder de indruk. Logisch, omdat het een vorm van energie genereren was waarin mensen de natuur controleerden ipv. dat men er van afhankelijk was zoals bij water- en windmolens. Maar vanuit nu gezien is dat toch ook een enorme inperking waardoor de tekst van Marx - en de analyse - minder relevant zijn.]

"For Marx, machine use also affects human embodiment. The integration of a set of instruments into the human corporeal schema defines the human species as such. In chapter XV, Marx uses the bodily integration of tools to set off human beings from animals and to elevate them above nature."(140)

"In addition, the changes brought about by hybrid human–machine embodiment are not all Promethean victories over the gods. Marx quickly shifts emphasis, stressing the negative aspects of this form of embodiment in capitalism. For although the human species as a whole may have annexed some powerful organs, working-class humans suffer direct damage to their bodies as a result of the interaction of these bodies with machines."(141)

"The functional interchange of human and machine means that capitalists retain the upper hand in constantly sinking the value of human labor-power. Capitalism selectively develops technologies in order to deprive the working class of its demands for better conditions, because its labor-power can always be replaced by machinery."(144)

Marx heeft het in zijn beschrijvingen van de grote machines in de industrie vaak over 'das Ungeheuer' (Wendling vertaald: 'monstrosity'. Monsterlijke apparaten die de arbeider tot niets reduceren spelen een belangrijke rol in zijn kritiek op de vervreemding door het nog rauwe kapitalisme. Het is bij Marx echter geen technofobie zoals in de Romantische reactie of het kapitalistische humanisme het geval was, al lijkt dat zo vanwege een paar pamfletten die veel gebruikt zijn zoals Het kommunistisch manifest.

"When people defend capitalism, it is usually not the capitalism sketched by Marx. In Western countries, massive legislation that regulated and transformed capitalist production intervened between Marx's understanding of capitalism and our own. At his most cynical, Marx would argue that these modifications in capitalist production occurred only out of bourgeois self-interest, and not for humanitarian reasons. (...) This cynicism is perhaps too strong, as this legislation was at least in part motivated by progressive empathy. But whatever the reasons, in most Western nations we are no longer faced with the consequences of unregulated capitalism. If these spectacles still exist, they are at least safely out of sight, and usually relegated to places beyond our borders. Marx faced the spectacle of unregulated capitalism. Documenting the horrors of factory life, he gives a moral argument about human decency and its failures, about the incremental and systematic murder of a class of persons for profit, about a system of slavery in which the life of the slave is not even worth preserving beyond the most minimal functionality. Against this backdrop, we can understand why Marx’s analytic and scientific pretensions drift to the background, and why he falls back on inflamed rhetoric when sketching this appalling system. Nonetheless, some of these descriptions can appear to endorse a technophobia that Marx’s philosophy of technology, taken as a whole, does not espouse."(145-146)

"The technophobic rhetoric of the Communist Manifesto also helps us to understand the rhetorical form in which technophobia was passed on to nearly all subsequent forms of Marxism, and with it, a conservatism that Marx scarcely would have recognized and certainly would not have condoned. Marx's positive accounts of technology and scientific life, limited as they are to the manuscript material external to Capital and to certain detailed passages in the central chapters of Capital, are often eclipsed by the indictments of technology in his famous works."(149)

"In order to sketch the resulting nineteenth-century technophobia, let me turn to the Victorian context in which Marx was writing. To historicize Marx in 1848 is different from historicizing him in 1867, after his emigration and almost 20 years in London. In Victorian London, the factory was not the only venue in which the monstrous steam engine made its appearance. There was also the railway."(149)

Technofobie was er dus zeker in de 19e eeuw. Vooral de opkomst van de spoorwegen leidde daartoe. Er ontstond een anti-cultuur waarin anti-semitisme en industrialisme samen gezien werden als oorzaak van alle ellende. Joden mochten allerlei beroepen niet uitoefenen en waren daardoor vooral te vinden in het geld- en zakenleven waarin ze de industrialisatie ondersteunden. Kritiek op het kapitalisme werd daarmee kritiek op het Jodendom. Ook in Marx' werk vind je dat soort formuleringen.

Zoals je er natuurlijk ook seksistische ideeën in tegenkomt. Het kapitalisme leidde tot de tewerkstelling van vrouwen en kinderen als goedkope arbeidskrachten, ook al was dat in tegensopraak met ideeën over vrouwelijkheid en zo verder uit die periode.

"The discourse of women’s natural weakness must have been difficult to maintain in an environment where working-class females were visibly performing hard labor. For this reason labor and femininity had to be dissociated. Among the bourgeoisie, the discourse and performance of women’s natural weakness and unfitness for work becomes all the more insistently pronounced and enacted. As the women of the nineteenth-century’s working classes headed toward the factories, canals, and mines, bourgeois women’s activity became increasingly circumscribed. A bourgeois woman, to mark both her class and her femininity, must always give the appearance of being leisured. "(157)

"For the nineteenth-century bourgeois Victorian, female wage labor was accompanied by the chilling specter of female sexuality. Sexuality was a favorite bourgeois obsession, associated with laboring women and women of color, and therefore forcibly and vocally expelled from the attributes of white, bourgeois women. But this displacement was hardly simple, as Michel Foucault reminds us. In fact, the bourgeoisie drew attention to its body and its sex, and asserted their importance via the prohibitions deliberately placed on the expression of white women's sexuality. Because of this, these prohibitions cannot be understood without reference to social class."()

Over het alternatief voor het kapitalisme is Marx in Das Kapital niet echt duidelijk - andere werken van hem zeggen er meer over. Techniek en machines kunnen een bevrijdende rol spelen onder een ander productiesysteem en andere eigendomsverhoudingen.

"In their constant revolutionizing of the received division of labor, machines have the potential to revolutionize what for Marx is the most important division of labor: the polarizing division between the two classes. Because of this, in Marx’s Communist Manifesto, machines themselves are key elements of developing revolutionary consciousness as well as the material foundation for the communist mode of production. Habituation to industrial life may produce not only monstrosities, but also liberations from old patriarchal norms."(172)

(174) 5 - Alienation Beyond Marx

De voorgaande hoofdstukken hebben duidelijk gemaakt dat Marx dubbelzinnig is over techniek en vervreemding door de techniek. Wendling vat het nog eens samen aan het begin van dit nieuwe hoofdstuk:

"Marx's critique of technological alienation is most fully expressed in his description of the role of machines in modern industrial life. But Marx's account of technological alienation, even at its most mature, is not without lines of tension. In fact, Marx's description of technology is vexed, and this vexation corresponds to an ambiguity in the social uses of science and technology in nineteenth-century capitalist society. On the one hand, Marx supports the scientific and technological revolution in the means of production that is expressed in machine usage. In this revolution, Marx sees the opportunity for machines to fulfill their promise to liberate human beings from drudgery, to shorten labor time and intensity, and to leave more time for self-cultivation, that is, to overcome or eliminate alienation. In this, he follows the utopian socialists of whom he is otherwise so critical, and he stays within the parameters of the Enlightenment attitude toward technology.
On the other hand, Marx has seen machines bring about the opposite effects. Machines intensify labor in its most horrifying forms because the mode of production in which they are employed has a single measure for calculating value: maximum production of surplus value. (...) Machines, supposedly the material instantiation of the Enlightenment narrative of progress, become the instruments of torture, death, and misery. The working-class human being is worth less than he or she was in the feudal period, less than animals, less than the slaves of antiquity, and far, far less than industrial machines themselves. Machines, far from overcoming and eliminating alienation, tend to exacerbate it."(174-175)

Wendling concentreert zich nu op de notitieboeken met uittreksels over wetenschap en techniek vanaf de 1850-er jaren en op zijn economische manuscipten van 1861–63. Marx was zich zeer bewust van de belangrijke rol van wetenschap en techniek in de economie en deed er daarom veel onderzoek naar. Dat kwam op allerlei plaatsen in zijn notitieboeken terecht, temidden van andere studies, bijvoorbeeld naar Hegel's Logica. Het was dus moeilijk toegankelijk te maken en veel is nog niet eens gepubliceerd op dit moment of alleen in het Duits in de Marx–Engels Gesamtausgabe die gestart werd in de 1990-er jaren.

Een belangrijke informatiebron voor Marx blijkt Charles Babbage. Ze liepen in dezelfde periode tegen soortgelijke dingen aan, al was het vanuit een heel verschillend perspectief.

"Unlike today, where technological know-how is the province of a certain educated class and ownership of technological objects a sign of relative wealth, the wealthier classes of Babbage’s time tended to be nonusers of machine technology and ill-informed about its possibilities. At that time in England, an upper-class education was still largely theological. (...) To put this in perspective using the terms of Marx's history, the upper classes of the nineteenth century were still steeped in survivals from the outdated ideologies of feudalism, and virulently so among the ruling classes who resisted science, democracy, and other markers of bourgeois life."(183-184)

De gedachten van Babbage werden dan ook niet met open armen ontvangen en veel van zijn voorstellen en verzoeken om financiële steun voor zijn analytische machines werden door de overheid afgewezen. Hij zag dat arbeiders meer van machines wisten (en ze zelfs verder ontwierpen) dan mensen uit de rijkere klassen, gewoon omdat ze gedwongen waren er mee te werken. Babbage vond dat hij daar veel van kon leren.

"Babbage himself enhanced his technical education by touring England’s manufacturing workshops incognito (Babbage 1989a, 169–172). This explains how Babbage was able to publish his best-selling book The Economy of Machinery and Manufacture in 1835. Like Büchner’s Stoff und Kraft, with which it was roughly contemporaneous, Babbage’s book was immediately translated into all of the European languages."(184)

Marx las dat boek in 1845 en maakte er uittreksels van. Hij zag met Babbage in dat de nieuwe machines zouden leiden tot een vergaande arbeidsdeling in het nadeel van de arbeiders voor wie er geen directe relatie meer is tussen hun lichamelijke kracht en vaardigheden en de arbeid die ze moeten verrichten (vervreemding). In tegenstelling tot Babbage ziet MArx niet dat de machines ook weer de ontwikkeling van nieuwe vaardigheden kunnen stimuleren, waardoor ook weer nieuwe opdelingen in de arbeidsklasse ontstaan.

"At the end of Babbage's Economy of Machinery and Manufactures, in passages that Marx evidently read, even though he does not comment on them directly, Babbage agitates for absolute cooperation in manufacturing enterprises. In this proposal, the worker and the capitalist would shade into one another, because both would own the means of production and share in the profits of the operation: Babbage speaks of 'partnership'. Babbage's concern is not persons but the optimization of technology, an optimization that he fears is undermined by the system of profit-extortion."(189)

"But because of the teleology Marx inherited from Hegel and Smith, the possibilities of real working-class knowledge and agency are excluded from any world prior to capitalism's revolutionary demise. Babbage's suggestions of profit-sharing would be a simple, self-defeating reform of the labor market that might hold off the political revolution by making conditions for the working classes more bearable."(189-190)

"Although one might admire Marx's tenacity for an uncompromised vision of freedom from labor and alienation as the telos of industrial society, nonetheless one should hesitate before sacrificing the welfare of multiple generations to the logic of this telos. Under such a doctrine, any improvements in working conditions serve only to push back the date at which alienation will have become severe enough to bring about revolution. Paradoxically, the intensification of the very alienation Marx criticizes becomes one of the required intermediary steps of his project. "(190)

[Ik ben het daar erg mee eens. Die aanpak van Marx valt echt op, ook wanneer je Marx volgt in zijn politieke strijd. In feite ligt daar toch een erg fatalistische of deterministische visie aan ten grondslag. Maar ook een terechte zorg, nameljk dat de kleine aanpassingen en verbeteringen van hun leefsituatie de arbeiders dreigen af te houden van een fundamentele omwenteling van de kapitalistische eigendomsverhoudingen. En dat is toch de essentie. Het is een moeilijke keus. In de praktijk is niet Marx' route van de revolutie gevolgd, maar de weg van de kleine aanpassingen. Dat die de leefomstandigheden van arbeiders verbeterd hebben staat buiten kijf. Maar even waar is dat de eigendomsverhoudingen niet veranderd zijn en dat er nog steeds sprake is van een kapitalisme dat vervreemdend werk en uiteindelijk nog steeds ten koste kan gaan van hele bevolkingsgroepen.]

"Babbage reasoned that low wages resulted in reduced social pressure for innovation, because in such a system human labor would always be cheaper than new machinery. Exploited workers also had no incentive to apply innovations of their own design to the production process, because they did not stand to gain from increases in its profitability. Babbage’s solution was to raise wages.
Marx's refusal to accommodate bourgeois value leads him to scorn Babbage's strategy of profit-sharing as a means of improving working conditions and technological development. For the same reason, Marx also neglects Babbage's positive account of the developing technological agency among workers themselves. Only a total revolution, a parallel of the Nietzschean revaluation of all values that calls the good and bad into question on economic grounds, will suffice for Marx. Hence, he cannot consider schemes like agitating for better wages as anything other than counterrevolutionary: such schemes merely illustrate that the worker has adopted the bourgeois mode of valuation."(190)

"Viewed from this perspective, Marx's reasoning also replicates a structure that he already rejected in the Grundrisse (see Chapter 3). That is, the notion of generational sacrifice is closer to the Hegelian, Smithian, Darwinian, and Malthusian injunctions that forbid interference with the operation of nature than to Liebig's humanitarian demand that nature be interfered with, and its potential expanded, for immediate human use. It turns current generations of workers into an exchange-value for future generations. But by Marx's own criteria, such an instrumentalist view of humanity should be impossible."(191)

[Volgt een sectie over de invloed die de mechanisering had op de hantering en beleving van tijd. Om treinongelukken te voorkomen moest de tijdsaanduiding in dorpen en steden aan de spoorlijn gelijk getrokken en gesynchroniseerd worden Typisch de standaardisatie die bij een netwerk of infrastructuur hoort. En het werk van arbeiders werd voortaan in uren uitgedrukt en gemeten met een speciaal mechanisme. En zo verder. Maar het is wel weer een ander verhaal. Marx was zich in ieder geval zeer bewust van de relatie tussen de machines, hun snelheid, en de gevolgen voor de abstracte tijd.]

Waar het gaat over technofobie en technofilie in relatie tot de klassen van de 19e eeuw geldt dat de bourgeoisie dweepte met de technologische ontwikkelingen als de stoommachine omdat ze die goed konden gebruiken voor hun industriële doeleinden (een kleine groep als de fysiologen dacht daar wat anders over, zie eerder hoofdstuk). De feudale aristocratie en het proletariaat waren over het algemeen technofoob.

"In contrast to the bourgeois of both stripes, both the aristocratic and the proletarian classes demonstrate a marked technophobia: the former, in opposition to the bourgeois class’s bids for power; the latter, in opposition to changes in labor that render their embodied habits of work superfluous. Although Marx's education in German idealism was marked by his criticism of certain aspects of idealism, this aristocratic education nonetheless armed Marx, in his formative years, with the concepts that can easily turn into a reactionary antitechnological romanticism, and certainly did so in other thinkers. Marx’s understanding of the proletarian history of technological resistance is a later development in his thinking, acquired through his reading of Engels, Babbage, J. H. M. Poppe, and a critical reading of Andrew Ure."(199-200)

En over het technofobe luddisme en allerlei variaties daarop:

"The rebellion against the instruments or means of production (i.e. machines) is symptomatic of a form of false consciousness. The real target of proletarian ire should not be machinery but the conditions that give rise to inequalities in the distribution of the means of production, the conditions that conscript machinery into an exclusively capitalist usage."(201)

"This working-class technophobia has a counterpart in aristocratic ideology. Hatred and repudiation of technology was characteristic of displaced aristocrats interested in restoring their former privileges. (...) Aristocrats hated technology as emblematic of the Enlightenment ideals and project that were causing them to die out as a class. Steamdriven engines, after all, were driven along burgeoning railway lines that carved up feudal estates. This hatred was accompanied by an anti-cosmopolitanism that, as we have seen in Chapter 4, joined the anti-Semitism and anti-industrialization of this form of capitalist humanism."(202)

"So long as progressive scientific and technological changes have human enjoyment and development as their goal, and are not used as instruments of class warfare, they are unquestioned goods."(206)

Marx was een van de eerste techniekfilosofen, maar veel filosofen uit de 20ste en 21ste eeuw kunnen nog veel van hem leren (Heidegger, Carolyn Merchant). Bijvoorbeeld waar ze technofobische ideeën niet in relatie zien tot de economie en het kapitalisme.

"The mistake made by both Heidegger and Merchant is to collapse Marx's distinction between the means and the mode of production, regarding the exploitative characteristics of technology as it is deployed in the capitalist mode of production to be the total essence of technology."(207)

Wendling's conclusie over Heidegger:

"Heidegger's analysis is not therefore simply antitechnological, but ultimately antimodern. Heidegger argues not only against instrumentality but also against curiosity about the boundaries of the natural world and how these boundaries might be challenged, appealing to older, theological, prohibitions that warn against the manipulation of the received world. It is, however, unclear what Heidegger's analysis contributes to a politics that struggles within the modern world. Against this backdrop, such an analysis may even be harmful, because it shuts down the search for nonexploitive uses of science and technology that eliminate scarcity and equitably distribute material wealth; it might even lead thinkers away from political contestation altogether. Hence, Heidegger's analysis works symbiotically with the very forces it claims to combat, as a symptom of these forces."(209)

En dat is in lijn met Marcuse dei Marx meer volgt dan Heidegger:

"Thus, Marcuse preserves a critical account of technology’s use in capitalism alongside a continued belief in the ability of Enlightenment reason and science to better the human condition."(210)

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