Marxism 2.0: New commodities, new workers?
Publisher: International Socialism
Date Written: 05/04/2017
Year Published: 2017
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX21075
Book review of Ursula Huws, 'Labor in the Global Digital Economy: The Cybertariat Comes of Age' and Nick Dyer-Witheford, 'Cyber-Proletariat: Global Labour in the Digital Vortex'.
Digital, or cybernetic, technology has been identified by many theorists and commentators as facilitating a major reorganising of the economy and of work. The concepts of the digital economy and digital work have been used to draw together a number of features of contemporary capitalism. One such feature is globalisation; digital technologies and networks have provided the links for multinationals and global production networks, making it possible to shift production across organisational and national boundaries, creating new global divisions of labour and removing work from nationally-constituted regulatory frameworks. Digital technologies are also seen as central to temporal shifts in the dynamics of capitalism- where the internet has enabled instantaneous global communication as well as increasing the speed with which financial capital circulates through world markets. Mainstream and heterodox economists have attempted to deal with the problem of why the introduction of productivity-enhancing digital technologies has coincided with low rates of growth. And these technologies have been discussed in terms of dematerialisation- shifts towards immaterial labour- and the production of services and knowledge.
In the past two years a number of political economists have theorised transformations in contemporary work in terms of digitalisation. Digital labour has been used as a concept which could link rising levels of unemployment in the Global North with hyper-exploitation in the Global South. This review examines two important contributions to this discussion- Ursula Huws's Labour in the Global Digital Economy and Nick Dyer-Witheford's Cyberproletariat: Global Labour in the Digital Vortex.