Paths to paradise: On the liberation from work

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  • 232 THE SOCIAL SCIENCE JOURNAL Vol. 24/No. 21987

    her diary, which often reveals the more unpleasant and incongruous realities of her younger life. The reader is treated to interesting passages describing Webbs early work as a rent collector in South London, her first attempts to do scientific social investiga- tion, her important research with Charles Booth on East London, her attraction to the collectivism of the Co-operative movement, her conversion to Fabian socialism, and her marriage to Fabian leader Sidney Webb.

    The problem with Nerds explanation for the paradox of My Apprenticeship is that it is weak on evidence. Considering Webbs addiction to diary writing, there ought to be, in support of Nerds thesis, an explicit reference quoted to demonstrate that Webb thought of her autobiography as a work of fiction. Nord does quote diary passages to show she had wanted to write fiction in 1896 and also to show that, in 1922, she apparently called the book a work of art. But, Nerds further interpretation, that this was her novel,is not supported from diary material.

    It is interesting and perhaps ironic that Nord, a professor of literature, has put together several chapters of social and intellectual history that are evidentially sounder than her major literary thesis. Her analysis of the contribution of Spencerian ideas to Webbs eventual socialistic orientation is especially lucid and plausible. The reader also can learn a great deal from this book about the complex road Webb traveled to reach socialism, a very interesting story in itself.

    Paths to Paradise: On the liberation from Work By And& Gorz, Translated by Malcolm lmrie Boston: South End Press, 1985,120 pp., $8.00

    Reviewed by Chronis Polychroniou, University of Delaware

    Andre Gorz is a distinguished French philosopher and one of the most innovative strategists of new left politics. In this book he makes an important contribution to the debate concerning the crisis of capitalism in the advanced industrialized societies. Gorz brings about the full extension of his radical frame of analysis, which recognizes the material possibility for the emergence of a postindustrial and postcapitalist society where the efficacy of technology would abolish work, the logic of capital and commod- ity relations (p. vii). It may be that Gorz himself was not entirely satisfied with his own clarifications in Farewell to the Working Class (1982); he returns again to the reconstruc- tion of the concept of politics of time as the most urgent and radical expression of a socialist strategy envisioning the fulfillment of a potentiality that paves the way for the actual realization of autonomous human activity. In any event, the author lives up to the expectations and produces an elaborate, articulated framework that lays down both the basis of the glaring contradiction of the crisis and the general feature of the new social order that should follow.

    Gorzs central theme is that capitalism is in a deep structural crisis, locked into a series of countless contradictions, as a result of its inability to insure continual growth and to preserve the systems traditional social and political values. The relation between the two becomes the focal point for his critical analysis of the capitalist mode of production. For Gorz, the crisis of capitalism above all reveals that the production system is using

  • Book Reviews 233

    increasing amounts of capital per unit of output (p. 8). The result of this development is the replacement of living labor by dead labor. Further, Gorz argues that this development coincides with the tendency of the rate of profit to fall and with the success of the labor movement. As such, the substitution of workers for machinery is introducing a new method of production that seeks to raise the rate of profit by improving productivity. But this process, he contends, is having countereffects, because the rate of profit depends heavily upon the specific relation of living to dead labor. In a sense, this is merely another way of saying that labor power constitutes the only source of profit.

    Gorz, then, believes that the sociohistorical determinations of the present crisis are signaling the disintegration of capitalist relations precisely because of the intervention of complex technological patterns (such as automation) in the production process, and subsequently the imposition of countertendencies in the context of the traditional work ethic, self-denial, and capitalist rationalization. Without resorting to utopian inspirations, he illustrates both the phenomenal manifestations of autoproduction and the need for common political will and human ingenuity. Thus, Gorz points out that although the automation of work leads necessarily to high unemployment and even to social and political disaffection, the moment for the realization of the abolition of wage labor goes hand in hand with the development of technology and, more specifically, the micro- electronic revolution.It follows, therefore, that the prime goal must be to find ways to use technology in a manner subservient to human purposes. Nevertheless, Gorz feels that the crisis cannot be resolved or transcended by the policies advocated by either the right or the left. These contrasting models are inadequate. He strongly condemns the traditional life, in particular, for its productivist tendencies and its affinity with social Keynesian doctrines.

    The author endorses a specific strategy. It is a strategy shaped by the belief that the vision of a better life depends on the politics of time. In his formulation, the advanced industrialized societies have reached a point where part-time employment must eventually be institutionalized because full-time employment for all citizens is not only impossible but also banal. According to Gorz, part-time employment is the only way to emancipate man from the compulsory and highly alienated activities demanded by capitalism. He then proceeds deliberately and convincingly to show how the drastic reduction of work- time will benefit everyone. Moreover, his strategy also calls for transforming individual labor into social labor. Of course what is required here is nothing less than the socializa- tion of production decisions and social control of production itself (p. 19).

    A final point must be mentioned concerning Gorzs perspective on the type of strategy required to make the transition toward a genuine postindustrial society. Briefly, it is his firm belief in the need to match the socialization of the means of production with the establishment of a social income sufficient to meet the basic needs of all citizens. For Gorz, the establishment of a social income is of utmust importance for at least two reasons: first, because it will contribute to the goal of a just distribution of social wealth; second, because it cannot but enhance the realm of autonomous activity.Nevertheless, it is interesting to note that in his strategy the author refuses to offer a coherent political- practical course of action. He simply presupposes that action is tied to circumstances and is therefore not confined within the ideological framework of a political party. Of course, this theoretical attitude runs against the dryness of the politics of the traditional left. In the final analysis, then, the weaknesses of Gorzs specific formulations are also its strengths. But for the moment, Gorzs analysis is more than enough to show the material framework of postindustrial society.