Anita's Response

Team 4, Question 3 Response

In “The machine versus the worker,” Karl Marx describes the impact that the introduction of machinery into the labor process has had on manual laborers, by citing Nasmyth’s claim that he was able to reduce his workforce by half, “from 1500 to 750,” and that this led to “a considerable increase in [his] profit” (157). Marx argues that the machine controls the human apparatus, because machines are built with a specific purpose in mind, and do not allow those who use them (in this case, the manual laborers) to deviate from this intended purpose in their work. This both allows the designers of the machines – those who own the means of production that Marx wants to put back in the hands of the worker – to dictate how laborers do their jobs, and ensures that the workers complete their jobs more efficiently than would be possible without the machinery. An increase in efficiency inevitably leads to an increase in profits, and to the redundancy of a significant proportion of the human laborers who previously did the work of the machine.

Marx believes that mechanical processes replace human workers’ skill by eliminating the nuanced methods of production brought by human laborers, through the automation of the process of production. Because workers now have to conform to production by machine, which leaves no option of deviation from the intentions of the designer of the machine, workers lose the ability to use their individual knowledge and skills to do their jobs. The machines, inevitably, are designed to maximize profits for their owners. By profit, it seems that Marx means maximizing productivity, while employing the fewest possible number of workers, in order to maximize financial capital, and minimize the amount of revenue that would be lost to wages paid to human workers.

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