General intellect

Marx’s “Fragment on Machines”, which is the logical culmination of the Economic Manuscripts 1857-1858 or the so called Grundrisse, expounds on the “natural development” of capitalism where the labor that produces material objects and even the working class itself will be displaced from the core of the production of wealth. The evolution of capital will proceed to its “final phase” because capital itself, instead of the working class, causes a change in the nature of the production of value – a change that will lead to the dismantlement of the organization of production based on exchange value. According to Marx, the reason for this change is that abstract knowledge and thinking become immediate productive power. They will replace direct labor and its fragmented and monotonously repetitive tasks, or industrial labor and the society based on division of labor in the traditional sense. As a result, the “great foundation-stone of production and of wealth” will no longer be the immediate labor performed by men (modification of natural resources, manufacture of goods), or even the time used for this (work time). Instead the “forces of social combination”, the “development of the general powers of the human head ” and the “development of the social individual” as a whole will now take this role. For Marx, the foremost expression of the power of this general intellect, or general social understanding, is the increasing importance of machines and systems of machinery – i.e., of fixed capital – in production. For us, Marx’s Fragment on Machines appears both amazingly prophetic and amazingly failed. For more see Akseli Virtanen (2006): General Intellect.

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