Published November 17, 2022 by Nan Mykel

Work and the future of it in the age of automation is the focus of Alyssa Battistoni’s article/book reviews in the Nation’s Fall Books issue.  She is the author of A Planet to Win: Why We Need a Green New Deal, and she draws upon Automation and the Future of Work by Aaron Benanav and Work Won’t Love You Back by Sarah Jaffe.

Benanav reminds us that automation theorists hold that technological advances have increased productivity and reduced the need for workers altogether. Manufacturing has borne the brunt thus far, but artificial intelligence, they claim, threatens to replace many more jobs in the service sector, as well as in many professional fields.  One widely cited study estimates that 47 percent of jobs are at risk of being automated.  Many automation theorists are Silicon Valley tech boosters, who are thrilled by new advances in AI and information technology and concerned about their social consequences as an afterthought.  [Remember, one gadget even lets you know how cold it is outside without the bother of opening the door].

Jaffe’s vision of post-work politics is more clearly rooted in her descriptions of how workers are organizing today, and she places more faith in the potential of their agency to remake the world…..Moments of possibility can appear in unexpected places.  Although they are often associated with autonomous movements like Occupy Wall Street that explicitly seek to disrupt 6he rhythms of everyday life, Jaffe points out that they also appear in more “organized” forms of action, like teachers’ strikes.  We can even generate such moments when we imagine our lives otherwise.

“What would you do with your time if you didn’t have to work?” she likes to ask.

Such utopian moments won’t abolish capitalism, Jaffe acknowledges.  But the projects that generate them give us a glimpse of alternatives of bonds among people that can drive struggles forward. Political power can only emerge, partially and unevenly, out of actual experiences and relationships–the kinds of relationships of solidarity and,  yes, love, that organizing can create and sustain.

But Nan Mykel wonders, who’s going to feed us while we enjoy our time?   In the next post or two:  the problem of an aging population that only an elder could write.

4 comments on “BLUE COLLAR BLUES

  • HI Mom! We got home okay last night It was late, so I fell right asleep. It was a fun visit. Thanks for assisting me to make a difference! We did good!



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