Elevator operators, coal shovelers, lamp lighters: these are just a few of the many jobs that no longer exist. Capitalism and technological transformation have led to ceaseless upheaval in the world of work. Good jobs become gig jobs, factories empty, and the office becomes an assembly-line.
But work as we know it is a relatively recent invention. Today we are witnessing a new chapter in the invention of work, as capital deploys the latest technologies to transform activities we once did for ourselves into labor we do for others. Far from lessening the burden, these technologies are helping to turn even the experience of mere selfhood into work. Historian Jason Resnikoff dives into the origins of modern work and the technologies that have abetted its expansion into the most intimate corners of daily life. How have the workplace and our working life changed over recent history? What role did automation play in the evolution of work? And will work -as we know it- still exist in the future?
Jason Resnikoff is Assistant Professor of Contemporary History at the University of Groningen. Formerly an organizer for the United Auto Workers, he is the author of Labor’s End: How the Promise of Automation Degraded Work. His writing has appeared in Labor, International Labor and Working-Class History, Paris Review, Los Angeles Review of Books, Jacobin, and elsewhere.