Audio: Aaron Benanav — Automation and the Future of Work

A 2014 billboard paid for by right wing lobbying group Employment Policies Institute.

On September 7, Aaron Benanav, whose A Global History of Unemployment, Since 1949 will be published by Verso in 2019, delivered the first talk in the International Institute of Research and Education's new Radical Futures lecture series. 

Benanav critically discussed new economic theories of the "rise of the robots," which claim that rapidly unfolding processes of computerization and robotization are the main causes of growing problems of unemployment and underemployment worldwide. The lecture discusses the real reasons behind the rise of a global precarious workforce and explores the consequences of these global developments for workers' struggles today.

"This discourse of automation is a kind of fetish discourse," Benanav says, "it takes the consequences of a social process — a very complex, unfolding social logic — and presents it as if it were a technological inevitability...But I don't for that reason want to dismiss the automation discourse out-of-hand. If the automation discourse appears periodically in the history of capitalism, it's for a very good reason. Talking about automation is a way of talking about a very basic and real problem in the labor market: it's getting harder and harder to find steady work." 

Listen to a recording of the full talk below. Benanav's accompanying slide presentation can be downloaded here