Human Labour

Labour is apparently human, but it is bound by a paradox. In its disregard for immediate compensation, it represents a turn away from immediate ‘animal’ needs and inclinations. This suspension of immediate existence is the manifestation of the human rationality of labour (Hegel). This process, however, does not stop at simple processes of delayed gratification (the manufacture of goods to be bartered, sold, etc.), it leads to processes of labour in which the end can scarcely be seen at all, in which abstraction, fragmentation and delay become endemic. Paradoxically then, the inhuman forms of modern labour are inextricably linked to the suspension of immediacy that lends primary human value to labour. Machine labour only exacerbates this inhuman dimension, representing the discrete functions and repetitive patterns of labour in inanimate terms. If machine labour appears uncanny it is precisely because it is the logical consequence of the primary impulse of human labour – it indicates the play of the inhuman within the very texture of human self-definition.

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