When Farmers Lost Their “Jobs”
DOI link for When Farmers Lost Their “Jobs”
When Farmers Lost Their “Jobs” book
The myth of the “original automation” is an alternate history that serves as the go-to narrative for many advocates of automation as well as for progressive capitalists who worry about technological unemployment. The story is as follows: when American farmers lost their jobs to mechanization, they were “freed” to become factory workers; when factories were automated, service jobs were liberated. Now that automation is taking over service work, we can expect technology to vouchsafe new, better, and more freedom-enhancing jobs. This chapter shows how original automation anachronistically posits capitalist social relations in the past in order to construct capitalism’s history as a smooth succession of stages of freedom and progress. The chapter unpacks the myth’s concept of “jobs” and demonstrates how it obscures the role of settler colonialism, race, gender, and class struggle in the emergence of American capitalism in the antebellum north.