Machinery and Large-Scale Industry (chapter of DAS KAPITAL)

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Marx, Karl. "Machinery and Large-Scale Industry." Ch. 15 of Book I (i.e., the first volume) of Capital: A Critique of Political Economy (in Part Four). 1867. Frequently trans. and rpt., e.g. Ben Fowkes, trans. Ernest Mandel, introd. New York: Vintage-Random, 1976.

See esp. section 3 of the chapter, "The Most Immediate Effects of Machine Production on the Worker," and section 4, "The Factory." Includes descriptions and analyses of working with machines in the UK in the middle of the 19th c. and a very important comment on two possible relationships between humans and machines in a factory: "In one, the combined collective worker appears as the dominant subject [...], and the mechanical automaton [i.e., the machine] as the object; in the other, the automaton itself is the subject, and the workers are merely conscious organs, co-ordinated with the unconscious organs of the automaton, and together with the latter subordinated to the central moving force. The first description is applicable to every possible employment of machinery on a large scale, the second is characteristic of its use by capital, and therefore of the modern factory system" (544-45; 2nd paragraph of 15.4). For application of KM's insight to industry in general, see E. S. Rabkin, "Irrational Expectations" (162-63), cited under Literary Criticism.[1]


The image is of the worker as part of the machine is repeated (plagiarized?) by Joseph Goebbels:

"The worker in a capitalist state [...] is no longer a living human being, a creator, a maker. He has become a machine. A number, a cog in the machine without sense or understanding. He is alienated from what he produces.” 
[Nazi propaganda pamphlet:] Written by Joseph Goebbels and Mjölnir, Die verfluchten Hakenkreuzler. Etwas zum Nachdenken (Munich: Verlag Frz. Eher, 1932). Translated as “Those Damned Nazis: Why a Workers Party?"[2]

In its context in Lapham's Quarterly 7.2 (Spring 2014): 42-45, "Revolutions" issue — a work featuring technological revolutions among other kinds (and our losing battle to keep up with them — a quotation from The Communist Manifest is also relevant (and its immediate context checked out).[3]

The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionising the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society. Conservation of the old modes of production in unaltered form, was, on the contrary, the first condition of existence for all earlier industrial classes. Constant revolutionising of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind. (Lapham's p. 44).[4]

RDE, Initial Compilation, expanded 10Feb20; 18Dec21