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Capitalism, Labour and the Totalising Drive of Technology

Niklas Toivakainen, University of Helsinki, Finland

As the conference description rightly points out the automation of labour and its socio-economic, political and ethical challenges are directly connected to a strive for gained productivity. The goal of my paper is to analyse the dialectical relationship (particularly within a capitalist system) between labour, productivity and surplus-value, to illustrate that the expansion and deepening of automation of labour by the help of robotics pushes the logic of master-slave dialectics to its logical conclusion, and to illustrate how and why the question of just distribution (e.g. universal basic income) is inherently part of this dynamics. I will push the analysis further by reflecting on what hopes and promises are invested in the imperative for gained productivity, searching for, via a short genealogical depiction, the underpinning moral-existential energy and drive forming a (by now more or less) global culture that, in its imagination, has come to see a widening and deepening of a technological presence and dependency as unavoidable.