John Dunn

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Freedom from Idiocy and the Capacity Paradox

Friday, 23 Nov 2012

As women have entered the paid labour market, the capitalist economy has again shown its infinite capacity to soak up all available workers. The concomitant demonisation of sex discrimination is now being extended to old age and age discrimination, as retirement becomes a concept that recedes further and further into the future to the point of disappearance for most workers. To be discriminating was once considered to be a personal attribute. Now, as abhorrence of discrimination becomes the new ethic that supports workers into paid labour, other barriers to labour are demolished through a combination of technological, moral and legislative shifts. The way is left clear for the ‘24/7’ society, where Sunday becomes just another day and even Christmas day looks vulnerable to the juggernaut of capitalist assimilation and uniformity. A combination of indigenous population decline (a product of the single worker household) and the growth of newopportunities to work, have resulted in competition between Governments throughout the western world to import workers – itself a process that contributes to the homogenisation of the global workforce.

A crucial by-product of this process of homogenisation is that workers now have the potential to be freed from idiocy. The meaning of idiocy, in this sense, refers to workers who are so tied to a way of life, e.g. agriculture or a skilled trade, that they are ignorant of much else. It is the antithesis of the romantic view of the craftsman in his workshop,typical of a Morris and Ruskin utopianism.

Itmust be understood that there is a liberalising effect from atomisation. In being freed from idiocy, workers forfeit specific skills in exchange for a technology driven capacity to make guns one day and butter the next. The flexible workforce is the outcome of the socialisation, homogenisation, deskilling and interchangeability of labour that technology has brought about. It is technological development that is at the basis of the extended capacity of individuals to produce a wider range of commodities and carry out a greater number of services than ever before. It is this new, extended capacity that leads to the CAPACITY PARADOX, i.e, deskilling, paradoxically, broadens opportunity. In the capacity paradox is to be found the potential for the future all-round development of all men and women.

Idiocy is not confined to manual work, but is also prevalent amongst the professions. We are, at this very moment, witnessing the decline of the professions. The democratisation of knowledge (the wider access to knowledge e.g. via the internet) will lead to the decline of the role of the expert. This blurring of professional status is becoming apparent in education and health as nurses carry out tasks limited formerly to the doctor and teaching assistants pick up more of the teacher’s role.

John Dunn.

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