Immaterial Physicality and Marx

story © Michael Betancourt, February 6, 2013 all rights reserved.


My new article "Automated Labor: The ‘New Aesthetic’ and Immaterial Physicality" is now in print on CTheory.

This essay considers Karl Marx' short essay ‘The Fragment on Machines’ and its relationship to digital automation. The ‘new aesthetic’ described by James Bridle is a typical example of this new, automated labor beginning to impact the physical world and provides a reference point for the examination of ‘The Fragment on Machines’: Marx divided labor into three categories (means, material and living labor) that is in the process of being reorganized by digital automated systems (in both immaterial labor and physical production forms). This reorganization forces an underlying paradox in capitalism into focus, foregrounding the mismatch between a capitalist productive system and the consumer society required to maintain that system, a paradox that emerges precisely because exchange value emerges from the relationship between one commodity and another—from the exchange of a commodity for the acquisition of another: human labor is the underlying commodity required by this entire system, a commodity rendered obsolete by digital automation; the ‘new aesthetic’ provides physical examples of this transition-in-progress.

Copyright © Michael Betancourt  February 6, 2013  all rights reserved.

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