Partially Automated Dystopias + Utopias (Call for Submissions)

Every new technology seems to promise both liberation from drudgery and new forms of economic and social control. The contradictions between dead labor (accumulated productive capital) and living labor (workers), between the forces and relations of production, have always been at the center of Marxism. The way these contradictions play out in the cultural realm is contingent and evolving. Karel Capek’s 1920 play, R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots), was translated into dozens of languages, popularizing both the idea of the robot – and the idea of robot rebellion. Working-class audiences, at the time, tended to identify with Capek’s robots – who were not exactly mechanical automatons, but rather artificial persons of a sort. Within a few decades, however, the mechanical automaton “robot” replaced Capek’s artificial humans in popular consciousness. The mechanical robot was increasingly viewed as a threat; perhaps in response to the growth of unemployment by automation, the mechanical slaughters of the imperialist and world wars, and the alienation of post-war corporatism.

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Erasing Arnautoff

A false narrative has been produced pitting “aging white male art historians” against “young people of color.” This narrative is doubly false as some of the murals’ most prominent defenders are not white; and there is evidence that many students do not want the frescoes removed.[3] Moreover, this narrative creates a false choice between art and the needs and aspirations of the exploited and oppressed. The question to be examined here is (at least) twofold: why has this false narrative come to dominate and, secondly, what lessons do these dynamics hold for contemporary socialist artists.

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