In other words, there are technicians who are responsible for repairing machines, while workers, as just ordinary users, do not necessarily have the technical knowledge to take care of machines, to extend the lives of machines beyond the moments of their creation and production and use them in support of the laborer’s own individuation.Individuation here, to risk simplifying it, means the worker’s capacity to benefit from their work beyond economic means in sublimated form, namely either as repression or elevation, conscious or unconscious.Within the concept of free time, Marx envisions a communist emancipation of the subject, since free time “[transforms] its possessor into a different subject, [who] then enters into the direct production process as this different subject.” This idea resonates with Marx and Engels’s famous lines in The German Ideology in which they state that within a communist society, it is “possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticize after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or critic.” Instead, free time needs to be understood as productive, as for allowing individual interests and desires to be developed while contributing to societal and scientific progress at large.The will for free time requires its organization against constant valorization, which is to say, alienation.In other words, the question is not whether full automation will negate capitalism and dialectically result in a postcapitalist society.If we raise the question of post-labor as such, we will fail to take into account the social history of industrialization and will mistakenly consider automation as something that happens only in factories, like Marx’s fixed capital.One hundred and sixty years after the Grundrisse was written, Marx’s question of how to effectively sublate surplus labor has yet to be fully resolved.
When these artisans work with machines, they are merely users, repeating their gestures according to the predefined operational procedures and the rhythms of the machine, which gives rise to an existential malaise.
The environmentalization of fixed capital in the name of smartification characterizes an algorithmic governmentality that effectively modulates transindividual relations and valorizes them through quantification, data analysis, and predictive algorithms, all the while establishing and institutionalizing new regimes of truth.
Those who “play” on Facebook or its equivalent as if they have plenty of time are not enjoying free time as such but rather entering into a constant process of valorization in which time and experience are exteriorized as data and immediately analyzed to further seduce users into consumption.
If artisanal labor is conditioned by the technicality of the tools, then new, industrial technologies produce a new form of labor.
As Simondon pointed out, in the transition from artisanal labor to industrial labor, there was no change in the polarity of technical knowledge, namely the division between technicians who are conscious of technology and reflect upon it (like adults) and ordinary people concerned only with use (like children).