This is Part 2 of an article. Part 1 is here, just before the Digital Economy Bill was about to be passed. Now it's an Act. Why was it passed?
Why have I started thinking like this? Why have I been looking at dusty Marxist tomes? Before anyone thinks that I'm a Communist planning a downfall of the state, please note that I mentioned also reading Adam Smith and I haven't turned into a raving Thatcherite either. In fact, if you're taking that logical stand, I've read L Ron Hubbard and I haven't turned into a Scientologist or started watching loads of Tom Cruise films. It's just rather neat to re-examine old economic philosophy, particularly those based around machinery exploitation, and then turn it on its head. The big leap on my part is that most of us are now the proletariat and not the middle class. Hey, well, David Cameron did say he was middle-class the other day. Maybe he was right? Because of the way wealth and gadget affordability is within the grasp of most, that doesn't mean everyone in society is now bourgeois and the working-class have ceased to exist; it's the opposite. According to Marxist philosophy in the digital age, this proletariat have expanded to be the biggest in society and their tools are no longer pick-axes or mining equipment, but computers. It's getting dangerous for a dramatically-depleted leisure class and a new ancien régime (I know, an oxymoron, deliberately so), because the internet connects these proletariat tools and might finally cause that deeply-unfashionable Marxist revolution that so many capitalists had deemed dead. It just won't come in the form of a quaint burning of a Reichstag by some cute overalled working-class types from the 1920s. It is emerging from genuine craftsmen doing creative stuff in their bedrooms.
Engels defines Marx's proletariat look like this.
"[The machines] introduction completely altered the existing method of production and displaced the existing workers. This was due to the fact that machinery could produce cheaper and better commodities than could the handicraftsmen with their imperfect spinning wheels and hand looms. Thus, these machines handed over industry entirely to the big capitalists and rendered the little property the workers possessed (tools, hand looms, etc.) entirely worthless. Soon the capitalists got all in their hands and nothing remained for the workers".
An aim of Engels is the abolition of private property - this isn't just flats or houses we're talking about, but the proceeds of a labourer's works now owned privately by someone else. So a modern day example would be copyright owners. "Private property will be abolished only when the means of production have become available in sufficient quantities". Did you read that, folks? I think we've just reached that stage, don't you? Cheap affordable machines that everyone uses (iPhones, computers, music and movie-making software etc) and the world-wide web (given away for free by Mr Berners-Lee) means the communication between a vast, creatively-aware populous is possible.
Furthermore, "[I]t not only degrades man, but also depersonalises him". The boss imposes the kind of work, the method and the rhythm, but he never bothers if the worker ends up as a "mere appendage of flesh on a machine of iron".
"What's important, is to grasp that each social class has its own interests and each holds views about the government of the state consistent with the defence of those interests. Social harmony which certain 'beautiful souls' preach, CANNOT exist. It can't, because so long as any one class lives by exploiting another, a struggle will exist against such exploitation. And this class struggle is NECESSARY for human progress."We can go back further into the past, just in case you all think I really am a Rampant Red. Hegel's "Philosophy Of History" argued that humanity advances and progresses only because of conflicts, wars, revolutions; that is, through the struggle of the oppressed against the oppressors. Peace and harmony don't make for progress. Despite Hegel mainly meaning a religious struggle, he still described it very much as a spiritual conflict; or a struggle between ideas. While not particularly associated with the spiritual, most proponents of the digital revolution are certainly full of ideas as to how the new business model might operate. Most of the supporters of the Digital Economy Act choose either not to understand or ignore the ideas espoused by the individual craftsmen releasing their individual craft online via technology. It's not bafflement or bewilderment; very simply, it's safeguarding their own private property as laid down by copyright in the analogue economy. Never mind the fact that just by opening a browser and accessing any website means you don't own that website, you own a copy that now sits in your machine - so strictly speaking, old copyright law never fitted into the digital model in the first place. Plus, here's where I kill off any suggestion that I'm a raging Marxist. Anyone with a red beret on their head during the 1970s claiming "[A]ll property is theft" ceases to have any meaning in a digital world, since all web properties are copies that are downloaded anyway. Music and video is only a small part of the way the internet works. It's where Adam Smith and Karl Marx end up in the digital afterlife, where there is a perfect virtual free market and all property is copied.
This blog entry is going to ensure I'm never employed ever again, isn't it? Oh well. Next week, I talk about Big Brother. Despite all my high falutin' philosophising here, you'd think I was talking about the Marx-inspired groundbreaking novel of George Orwell. Sadly, nothing as profound as that. I'm returning to the slightly more ridiculous terrain of previous blog entries and talking about the Channel 4 television series that's coming crashing to an end (and getting flooded in the process).