WILL WE BE FREED BY MACHINES?
Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw invites to the lecture of Paul Mason.
The historical achievements of the of the working class and the labor movement — among them social and political democracy — are today being called into question. Does this mean that the emancipatory function of the labor struggle, of men and women workers, has been exhausted? In mainstream European public debate, this matter already appears to have been decided. New forms of capitalism — now financialized, globalized, and digitized — have relegated to the dustbin of history the problems traditionally associated with work: its function and its relevance to the reproduction of the system. Technological progress is itself changing the world and making labor relations increasingly irrelevant in the struggle over the shape of our lives.
Or perhaps the fact that the political left has failed to produce any new entities that would rival the efficacy of the late labor movement simply proves the urgency of rebuilding the workers’ political power? The past few years have effectively refuted most early 21st-century theories about the end of labor. The financial crisis, the Arab Spring, the Occupy movement, revolts erupting in Chinese and Bangladeshi industrial zones, and general strikes in India all remind us that labor concerns remain at the very heart of our world today.
The antagonism between the labor force and capital has not dissipated. Whether the compulsion to work will continue to set the boundaries of our existence, or whether we manage to overcome it, depends on the workers — their struggle and their defiance. In other words, dreams of an emancipatory counter-labor movement will never come true without a struggle over the relations of production.
What does the landscape of today’s labor movements look like? What is their nature? Does the conflict between labor and capital play a key role in social change, given the current circumstances? Do dispersed, destabilized, and globalized labor relations continue to be the social plane on which the agency of the working classes can find a political foothold, and thus influence the system of social forces?