Since the robotic revolution began, automation has empowered the digital generation in a myriad of ways. From e-democracy to reproductive technology, the almighty machine has ubiquitously been a liberating force on modern society. With its omnipresence conquering more and more of our everyday lives, what will automation be used to free us from next? The answer is capitalism.
Luxury communism is the latest movement making waves amongst post-capitalist activists. Riled by the injustices of neoliberal economics, luxury communists trumpet full automation as a post-work alternative to our current socio-economic landscape. Their techtopian vision sees all workers replaced by automated labour and a universal basic income guaranteed for all. Machines toil whilst humans play, emancipating workers from the drudgery and despair of capitalism’s hegemony. Just sit back and let the robots do it for you…
Historically, social movements have flirted with different strands of communist futurism many times before. Its genesis lies with Marx who believed that increased technology fused with human cooperation would lead a trajectory towards socialism. Since then, radical social activism throughout history has been scattered with dreams of automation. Feminist movements in particular have frequently lusted over robo-luxury uprisings, as first seen in Valerie Solonas’ 1967 SCUM Manifesto which called for the substitution of all men with machines. Similarly Shulamith Firestone’s 1972 ‘The Dialectic of Sex’ put faith in automated reproduction to unshackle the female body from the burden of motherhood. Following in the same vein, fully automated luxury communism paints a picture of a radically egalitarian future.
Within the context of global austerity, luxury communism offers a shiny new alternative to our current economic malaise. Over the past five years, the Conservative government has restricted the flow of funds to society’s most vulnerable, brutally cutting public services and devastating communities in their class-warpath. Whilst the right-wing austerity narrative insists that these cuts are necessary for economic recovery, luxury communism suggests otherwise. Instead of axing the public services that predominantly help minority and marginalised groups, a communist futurism regime ensures the democratisation of healthcare, education and all other state services. Owned by all and available for all, automated services will ensure a regulated standard of living for every faction of society.
Similarly, the instatement of a universal basic income will eliminate inequality between wages. Although there would be a small number of jobs available for humans who wanted to earn extra, automation would dominate the majority of the workforce. In their Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work, Nick Srineck and Alex Williams highlight the introduction of a basic income as a triumph for feminism. Just as home informatics once eased the burden of housework, a basic income will be significant in finally recognising the labour of the stereotypically female domestic sphere with a working wage.
A post-work society has also been recognised for its environmental benefits. Venezuela has recently responded to its energy crisis by reducing its working week to just four days in a bid to save electricity. The logic is simple; less working days results in reduced travel emissions and wasted energy in the workplace. As the dreaded worker’s commute becomes the ghost of capitalism’s past, the environment will undoubtedly begin to reap the benefits of a robo-revolution.
Alongside Venezuela, Scandinavian countries are currently at the vanguard of post-work experimentation. Sweden has reduced their working day to just 6 hours, whilst Finland is experimenting with a universal basic income. Although the UK is far away from any post-work legislation, grass roots momentum is growing in size and force. The Plan C tumblr provides a digital platform for activism to gain pace, whilst books such as Paul Mason’s Postcapitalism: A Guide to Our Future circulate the post-work message loud and clear. What’s more, following Osbourne’s catastrophic budget and Cameron’s Panama Paper scandal, now is a better time than ever to present the electorate with a revolutionary alternative.
The robots are coming. And they’re welcomed.
Words by Hannah Downes.
Illustrations by Georgia Haires.