This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse this site you are agreeing to our use of cookies. For more information, see our privacy statement

New Left Review I/151, May-June 1985

Ian Steedman

Robots and Capitalism: A Clarification

Tessa Morris-Suzuki has opened up an interesting and necessary discussion of the consequences of automation in manufacturing and of the associated rapid growth of the software industries. [1] Tessa Morris-Suzuki, ‘Robots and Capitalism’, NLR 147, September/October 1984. I should like to thank D. Elson, D. Evans, N. Geras, A. Glyn, G. Hodgson and L. Mainwaring for helpful comments. As she shows, using Japanese data, the use of robots, etc., is now developing at a speed which makes it important to think clearly about the theory of the automated economy. In her view, ‘such economies are not merely a theoretical possibility but are actually appearing before our eyes’ (p. 112). Technological forecasts are notoriously unreliable (and prone to fashion) but one does not need to accept any particular forecast concerning the date by which automation will be achieved—or, indeed, to accept even the forecast that it will be completely achieved—in order to agree with Morris-Suzuki’s statement that ‘the task of analysis and debate [has] very real importance and urgency’ (p. 112). The powerful trend towards automation is itself sufficient to make that task important, whenever—or even whether—the trend will come to complete fruition.

Subscribe for just £45 and get free access to the archive
Please login on the left to read more or buy the article for £3


Ian Steedman, ‘Robots and Capitalism (Comment)’, NLR I/151: £3

If you want to create a new NLR account please register here

’My institution subscribes to NLR, why can't I access this article?’