Visions of Labour

Visions of Labour
Lawrence Joseph

I will have writings written all over it    
in human words: wrote Blake. A running form, Pound’s Blake: shouting, whirling    
his arms, his eyes rolling, whirling like flaming cartwheels. Put it this way, in this language:    
a blow in the small of the back from a rifle butt, the crack of a blackjack on a skull, face    
beaten to a pulp, punched in the nose with a fist, glasses flying off, ‘fuckin’ Wobblie    
wop, hit him again for me,’ rifle barrel slammed against the knees, so much blood in the eyes,    
rain, and the night, and the shooting pain all up and down the spine, can’t see. Put it    
this way: in the sense of smell is an acrid odour of scorched metal, in the sense of sound,    
the roaring of blow torches. Put it in this language: labour’s value is abstract value,    
abstracted into space in which a milling machine cutter cuts through the hand, the end of her thumb    
nearly cut off, metal shavings driven in, rapidly infected. Put it at this point, the point at which    
capital is most inhumane, unsentimental, out of control: the quantity of human labour in    
the digital manufacture of a product is progressing toward the economic value of zero, the maintenance    
and monitoring of new cybernetic processes occupied by fungible, commodified labour   
in a form of indentured servitude. Static model, dynamic model, alternate contract environments,    
enterprise size and labour market functions, equilibrium characterisation, elasticity of response    
to productivity shocks: the question in this Third Industrial Revolution is who owns and controls    
the data. That’s what we’re looking at, labour cheap, replaceable, self-replicating, marginal, contracted out    
into smaller and smaller units. Them? Hordes
of them, of depleted economic, social value,    
who don’t count, in any situation, in anyone’s eyes, and won’t count, ever, no matter what happens,    
the truth that, sooner than later, they will simply be eliminated. In Hanover Square, a freezing dawn,    
from inside bronze doors the watchman sips bourbon and black coffee in a paper cup, sees    
a drunk or drugged hedge fund boy step over a passed-out body. A logic of exploitation.    
A logic of submission. The word alienation. Eyes being fixed on mediated screens, in semiotic    
labour flow: how many generations between these States’ age of slavery and ours? Makers,    
we, of perfectly contemplated machines

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