High Tech, Low Growth: Robots and the Future of Work

In: Historical Materialism
Kim Moody University of Westminster

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For decades futurists, academics and business experts have argued that automation, robots and other new technology would eliminate millions of jobs. Yet the workforce in the US has continued to grow, even if more slowly, to new heights. Work has changed, but the predicted ‘end of work’ failed to materialise even as technology has advanced, albeit unevenly. This article will argue that the answer to this apparent riddle is not to be found in analysing the technology itself, but in Marxist political economy. The progress of robots and related technology will be examined, but the argument is that the limits on technical progress in the actual production of goods and services lie in the turbulence of capitalism since the 1970s with its uneven profit rates.

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