Alternative to the assembly line?

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wojtek
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Nov 1 2012 10:08
Alternative to the assembly line?

Just started working on one and really don't like it for all the normal reasons (dehumanising, alienating, etc.), but how would things get produced on a mass scale otherwise? I'm certain a machine could do my particular job, but failing that what would we do?

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Chilli Sauce
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Nov 1 2012 13:32

The workshop with workers being involved in a majority of the production process?

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Khawaga
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Nov 1 2012 14:34

"everyone" does a shift once a week or month?

yeksmesh
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Nov 1 2012 15:44

Well although for example people involved in operaismo have already pointed to the fact that the use of technology is not neutral in capitalist society and is often used to supress class struggle, alot of the radical left apparently adheres to the thesis that the actual form a certain technology takes ( in this example primarily in regards to technology involved in the production process) is neutral. Which it obviously is not, technology involved in production processes is deeply influenced by the power relations inherited from capitalism, and of this the assembly line with its taylorist influences is a prime example.

And if you are looking for alternatives, certain experiences in cooperatives are usefull in this regard (although often incomplete), from the top of my head I can think of a program from the 70ies or 80ies in modragon where they experimented with democratising worlplaces further. They did this by for example replacing assembly lines by simple tables manned by production teams where everyone moved around simply assembled stuff and also each member acted as quality control for one another, basically eliminating the compartamentalized nature of the assembly process and eliminating the need for lower level management. Apparently increasing both productivity and working conditions quite significantly.

You can read about it in this book link in chapter 11, you also should be able to find some cool stuff on the kibbutz iirc (I know a good book that focuses on their problems associated with democratic management of the shop floor if you are interested). Also yes I know of the problems and limitations that are associated with cooperatives but as of now they still provide some of the best practical experiences for organizing a workplace democratically for longer durations of time, which can be of use to alot of portions of the radical left that generally tend to underestimate the technicalities and potential difficulties of it.

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Khawaga
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Nov 1 2012 16:31
Quote:
alot of the radical left apparently adheres to the thesis that the actual form a certain technology takes ( in this example primarily in regards to technology involved in the production process) is neutral.

True that, leftists tend to be pretty techno-optimists (I should add that I am one, though not an uncritical optimist), though that optimism is typically tempered by the recognition that technology is typically designed and implemented based on the needs of capital. While this is of course a good recognition, that does not mean that a "communist" design of technology would naturally be better.

LBird
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Nov 2 2012 08:23
Khawaga wrote:
...the recognition that technology is typically designed and implemented based on the needs of capital. While this is of course a good recognition, that does not mean that a "communist" design of technology would naturally be better.

Why not?

Surely '"communist" design of technology ' would be 'typically designed and implemented based on the needs of humans', and thus clearly 'would naturally be better'?

If we recognise that 'technology' is a socially-loaded concept (and thus has class content), then your 'optimism' (which I share) is well-founded.

Isn't this attitude to the potential benefits of 'technology' what separates us from the primitivists?

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Khawaga
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Nov 2 2012 14:25

I'd say it is, though I must say I am not convinced that "communist" technology would necessarily be better. It depends on the definition of technology, and if we just assume that it's machines in factories we're in trouble. But my optimism in relation to technology is that we will find out how to have "a free relationship" to technology (as Heidegger would say), or approach technology in a similar way (though obviously not identical) to that of the Amish. In general I think that anarchism is pretty weak on its critique of technology; either it is batshit crazy as in primitivism or an optimism that says as soon as we get to communism all tech will be just fine. Obviously there are many positions in between (and I'd characterize most libcommers' position as more in between than at the edges, at least from what I can tell from the various primmo threads).

wojtek
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Nov 8 2012 18:19
Quote:
yeksmesh wrote:
you also should be able to find some cool stuff on the kibbutz iirc (I know a good book that focuses on their problems associated with democratic management of the shop floor if you are interested).

Yes please, I'd appreciate that.

yeksmesh
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Nov 9 2012 13:18

this is it, although you might have some difficulties finding a copy if you havent got access to a uni library.

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qbbmvrjsssdd
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Nov 12 2012 09:16

Disassembly line

wojtek
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Nov 12 2012 14:43

Thanks yeksmesh. I'll have a read this afternoon.

JimJams
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Nov 17 2012 13:58

Been some great stuff about democratisation of workplaces/"neutral" nature of technology in this thread. I'd ask whether a free society should be "industrial" in the same way ours is. I do see a big role for technology in society but not as defining what work we do (like an assembly line) but rather freeing us from it. And that doesn't even necessarily mean assembly lines would exist, even if they were ran by robots! "Work" in a free society (past creating a relatively comfortable level of survival) should be based on wanting to do something for the community/yourself. Do we even want mass produced objects in a free society? Almost no one *wants* to work on an assembly line. Why would we? By reproducing the capitalist modes of production we'd simply be reproducing alienation, even if it's lessened by democratisation etc. A society where most people have the same jobs albeit with more control and less hours and are expected to work for reasons of "solidarity" doesn't interest me greatly.

Open Source Ecology might interest you. http://boingboing.net/2012/11/14/open-source-ecologys-build.html They're trying to produce an opensource toolkit for creating a small civilisation from scratch. Interesting stuff. They are a capitalist venture, no doubt about it, and i'm in no way saying this is perfect and how everyone should choose to reproduce themselves post revolution. But it's certainly an interesting starting point for non assembly line production catered to individuals/community needs.

http://opensourceecology.org/index.php

Stan Milgram
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Nov 19 2012 21:08
wojtek wrote:
Just started working on one and really don't like it for all the normal reasons (dehumanising, alienating, etc.), but how would things get produced on a mass scale otherwise? I'm certain a machine could do my particular job, but failing that what would we do?

End the division of labor. One week you'll be on a production line. The next week you'll be doing agriculture. The next week you'll be changing an old persons diapers. The next week you'll be bar tending at the peoples bar. Preferably all done in 5 hour work days with weekends off. Is this an impossible task?

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jura
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Nov 20 2012 11:27

And Saturdays you're doing neurosurgery. Bring a screwdriver or a shovel. Yeah, right.

wojtek
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Nov 20 2012 15:27
Quote:
Stan Milgram wrote:
The next week you'll be doing agriculture. The next week you'll be changing an old persons diapers.

Not really my thing coach unless its my family.

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Chilli Sauce
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Nov 26 2012 18:24
Stan Milgram wrote:
wojtek wrote:
Just started working on one and really don't like it for all the normal reasons (dehumanising, alienating, etc.), but how would things get produced on a mass scale otherwise? I'm certain a machine could do my particular job, but failing that what would we do?

End the division of labor. One week you'll be on a production line. The next week you'll be doing agriculture. The next week you'll be changing an old persons diapers. The next week you'll be bar tending at the peoples bar. Preferably all done in 5 hour work days with weekends off. Is this an impossible task?

Yeah, that sounds horrible, dude.

Why not just having a system where folks gravitate towards the work they enjoy the most and complete it in democratic workplaces for a majority of the year? Then a few weeks out of the year sharing out less desirable tasks which may include the occasional assembly line.

wojtek
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Nov 26 2012 19:11
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I'm certain a machine could do my particular job

programable robots are now cheaper than human beings – those jobs at the factory aren’t coming back

wojtek
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Jan 31 2013 14:50

Confessions Of A Minimum Wage Worker by The Trackie-Bottomed Somnambulist

wojtek
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Jan 31 2013 14:58

Was there any good literature, either fiction or propaganda, that came out of the whole '70s Detroit/ jazz era?

snipfool
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Jan 31 2013 15:41

To those who find the end of division of labour horrible, presumably you wouldn't mind others varying their work if that's what they enjoyed, if they had the adequate training. Or would it be too much wasted time to train someone up in more than one or two areas...?

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flaneur
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Jan 31 2013 15:58

Books about car assembly are usually good with this, On the Line at Suburu Isuzu and Rivethead which is on here.

Jazz wise, Falling Angel by William Hjortsberg's might be worth a go. Religious noir set in New Orleans in and amongst the jazz scene. I've not read it but the film with Mickey Rourke is a good un. I've heard good things about the novel on schizophrenic cornetist Buddy Bolden as well, Coming Through Slaughter.

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cardy lady
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Feb 1 2013 13:49

presumably there would be a lot less work to do as perhaps 70% of current pointless waged work would be done away with, caring work could be shared and would form a central part of community life, with more people taking part in this type of work instead of it falling heavily on certain sections of the community as currently and often isolating the cared and the carer, production of material needs could be automated to the max, our desires would probably change over time, education would be a central aspect of community life, how would we run the airlines though? presumably you would still need some highly specialised jobs which would require a lot of training and skill, though advanced technology is even replacing skilled work - a lot of surgery is actually currently aided by robotics a good game player could probably get a handle on it pretty quickly

batswill
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Feb 1 2013 14:12

Just a quick mention, maybe someone already brought it up but I'm in a rush, but 'planned obsolescence' is a capitalist methodology, we could all have the present material comforts we have now with a 10hr week, wasn't that the original purpose of machinery, but the capitalists FUCKED THAT UP FOR ALL OF US!!
But yeah, this thread is important because we can critique the Primitivist rhetoric with some sound workshop data.

wojtek
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Mar 21 2013 00:25
wojtek
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May 12 2013 02:01

BBC Four: Brushing up on... British Factories

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Danny Baker ponders the British factory - the products, the people, the bosses and what happens when the hooter sounds and the tools are downed.

Jacob Richter
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May 26 2013 15:58

What's more popularly known as the assembly line, connected line flow, isn't the only mass production method out there. There's also continuous flow (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Continuous-flow_manufacturing), which is even more "industrial," but this is used for very simple commodities like steel.

Job shops don't have anywhere near the scale or mass, but they're less "alienating": http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Job_shop

Between these forms is batch production: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Batch_production

autogestión
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Jun 7 2013 11:08

Automate as much as possible, and gamify the rest?

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ultraviolet
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Jun 15 2013 00:53
autogestión wrote:
Automate as much as possible, and gamify the rest?

I really like this idea of "gamifying" assembly lines and other rote work - or in other words redesigning them to be fun. But nothing comes to mind in terms of how to actually make this happen. How can such boring, rote work be made fun? Can you give an example or two?

The Wikipedia article wasn't helpful. All the examples were about marketing, customer loyalty, education, etc. There was brief mention of its use as a management tool, but the references linked to articles about call centers which used comparisons of workers productivity displayed to each worker in a 'sexy' way to make it seem like a game, but really all it was doing was making them more competitive to do the same boring job.

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boozemonarchy
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Jun 15 2013 02:39
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But nothing comes to mind in terms of how to actually make this happen. How can such boring, rote work be made fun? Can you give an example or two?

I worked in a batch production style factory for several years. We had the second shift and generally given the run of the place after 5pm. We always hoped and hoped for "table work" as we would get to relax at a table close to each-other and do some task with a bunch of objects. That was always good cause we didn't have a machine in our face. Here we would often tell tall tales and otherwise verbally entertain each-other. Often, we did end up spread out on the machines. In these cases we would often pass around that days crossword puzzle and solve it as a team. This was an excuse to get up from the machine every 10 or so minutes to stroll over to your friend and discuss this or that clue or argue the virtue of this or that answer. Sometimes we would conspire together, being at different points along the production process as we were, to produce weird, not to spec product and laugh at how funny it was when it was done. Often our not to spec products took a great deal of effort, time and group discussion to determine the particular goal for the evening. We would all get into it and sort of excited. This was beautiful as we we're not only wasting incredible amounts of time, but also our production materials as well. We revelled in the deed.

Somewhat incredibly, this situation was made possible because the plant manager started shifting production to "just in time" in a half-assed way. Basically, the management was always freaked out during the day, trying to get stuff produced, packaged and out the door promptly. This really made their focus on the day shifts activities and at worst would result in the night shift getting one, really big important task that must be done or you will all die!. This was awesome because the 3-4 us teamed up and got the "biggie" done in short order leaving the rest of the evening open for our hi-jinx. Like, if there was a "biggie", thats all they are gonna look for come morning and no questions will be asked about our shift.

I know this doesn't sound like much, but the shift was 1:30-10 and after 5pm, the atmosphere and just the general 'feeling' of the shift completely changed. Just the simple absence of a labor disciplinarian greatly relieved the psychological stress of repetitive rote work. We managed to make an absolutely shit job during the day an easy pill to swallow in the evening. We achieved this awesome result with informal workplace org (really a shared understanding that we'd like to relax a bit and have a time) and within the confines of capitalism. I find this obsession over "how will we ever manage to get crap jobs done in full communism??!/?!1?" as the laughable past-time of the unimaginative and unrealistic. Like seriously, people in full communism production situations are not going to chain themselves to machines and work themselves to death. Just making the atmosphere relaxed and conversational changes everything and relieves drudgery a great deal. Think of the opportunities an anti-capitalist paradigm would offer!

JimJams
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Jun 15 2013 10:32

The question is would there even be factories in communism? I think the answer would generally be no. Would people naturally organise themselves to work like that? Or would they consciously choose to? Of course not! If it can't be automated (which much assembly line work could) then that method of production would disappear. Meaning our society and how we use resources/work would be different. Communism isn't just a reordering of current production to make it more democratic and enjoyable. It's a complete change in society. Why would we still work in ways, or produce materials in ways that are aimed at maximising exchange value and not use value? This doesn't mean that these production processes couldn't be used and indeed they might be useful for a small percentage of work which HAS to be done (but could be shared). But to do so without recognising the alienating (both to worker and consumer) nature of such work would be.....strange.

So, maybe we shouldn't ask how work that no one wants to do would be made more enjoyable (as this would be tiny) and instead ask how we want to reproduce ourselves and what work, or lack thereof, that entails

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Jun 15 2013 14:05

Absolutely JimJams, good post, agree with your main points but. . . yea, there will be factories. Why does a factory being automated suddenly make it not a factory? This seems to be your suggestion, maybe I'm misreading. Also, mass production doesn't necessary entail the maximisation of exchange value. In capitalism it does almost exclusively, but in full communism it would probably just means folks aren't clamouring for artisan toothbrushes.