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Chapter 12 - Industry Culture: Labor and Technology in Marxist Critical Theory

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 March 2022

Colleen Lye
University of California, Berkeley
Christopher Nealon
Johns Hopkins University
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This chapter takes up the ways Marxist cultural theory has explored the intensified mechanization or automation of labor. It suggests that the relationship between labor-saving industrial technology and cultural transformation has been central to twentieth-century Marxist thought, from Frankfurt School theorists Walter Benjamin and Theodor Adorno; to mid-century forebearers of cultural studies like Antonio Gramsci and Herbert Marcuse; to activist thinkers C. L. R. James, Raya Dunayevskaya, and James Boggs; to the Italian autonomists. Despite and often alongside their persistent interest in consumption and the commodity, these thinkers have also explored the ways transformations in the “instruments of labor” affect productive workers themselves. The chapter concludes by drawing attention to the genre of the workers' inquiry, which yokes structural analysis of capital accumulation to a careful rendering of workers’ own experiences, and by calling for future workers inquiries exploring technology and the exploitation of university labor.

After Marx
Literature, Theory, and Value in the Twenty-First Century
, pp. 192 - 208
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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