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87

Why Homo Economicus had to Die … Over and Over Again

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Fleming, P. (2017). Why Homo Economicus had to Die … Over and Over Again. In Fleming, P. The Death of Homo Economicus: Work, Debt and the Myth of Endless Accumulation. Pluto Press, pp. 87-129

114

When we think of capitalism, we mainly think of the production of things. Commodities, services, experiences all have to be produced before they’re consumed. However, this type of capitalist activity takes time, investment and a paid workforce. Companies at the vanguard of the present, feudal-like world economy are not really keen on that. Is there an easier way to make profits? Yes, so it happens. Rather than produce goods and services, better to enclose them, making use of the means of production that people already are. That would keep costs down. This is the business model for so-called ‘platform capitalism’, be it the Uber, Deliveroo or YouTube. These organisations seek to commercialise the informal economy and rent it back to the community.

—p.114 by Peter Fleming 3 years, 3 months ago

When we think of capitalism, we mainly think of the production of things. Commodities, services, experiences all have to be produced before they’re consumed. However, this type of capitalist activity takes time, investment and a paid workforce. Companies at the vanguard of the present, feudal-like world economy are not really keen on that. Is there an easier way to make profits? Yes, so it happens. Rather than produce goods and services, better to enclose them, making use of the means of production that people already are. That would keep costs down. This is the business model for so-called ‘platform capitalism’, be it the Uber, Deliveroo or YouTube. These organisations seek to commercialise the informal economy and rent it back to the community.

—p.114 by Peter Fleming 3 years, 3 months ago
126

It is important to note that the ‘jobless future’ thesis has been around since the dawn of capitalism. Sure, many occupations have certainly vanished because of mechanisation. But steam power didn’t end the reliance on living labour and AI probably won’t either. What has changed, however, is the way sophisticated technologies are now paving the way for millions of ‘crap jobs’ to flourish. [...] In this respect, technology is probably not the answer when it comes to envisaging a future that is genuinely free of work. We need to tackle the social relationships behind the deployment of automation. Otherwise, any emancipatory stance that favours full automation risks inadvertently supporting what capitalists have desired all along – escaping their dependency on labour, while tapping the riches of a new generation of impoverished and insecure workers. [...]

—p.126 by Peter Fleming 3 years, 3 months ago

It is important to note that the ‘jobless future’ thesis has been around since the dawn of capitalism. Sure, many occupations have certainly vanished because of mechanisation. But steam power didn’t end the reliance on living labour and AI probably won’t either. What has changed, however, is the way sophisticated technologies are now paving the way for millions of ‘crap jobs’ to flourish. [...] In this respect, technology is probably not the answer when it comes to envisaging a future that is genuinely free of work. We need to tackle the social relationships behind the deployment of automation. Otherwise, any emancipatory stance that favours full automation risks inadvertently supporting what capitalists have desired all along – escaping their dependency on labour, while tapping the riches of a new generation of impoverished and insecure workers. [...]

—p.126 by Peter Fleming 3 years, 3 months ago