While reading Marx, I found really interesting the way he opens chapter 15 by quoting John Stuart:” It’s really questionable if all mechanical inventions yet made have lightened the day’s toil of any human being.” This preliminary assumption gives the tone of the book section, as the author keeps on reformulating that premise in different ways…
I would like us to reflect on the above excerpt, from section 5: “The Strife Between Workman and Machine”:
“Abbé Lancellotti, in a work that appeared in Venice in 1636, but which was written in 1579, says as follows:’Anthony Muller of Danzig saw about 50 years ago in that , a very ingenuous machine, which weaves 4 to 6 pieces at once. But the Mayor being apprehensive that this invention might throw a large number of workmen on the streets, caused the inventor to be secretly strangled or drowned”
What does the Mayor’s reaction to innovation reveal about the Early-Modern conception of machinery? In what specific way that invention could have led to underemployment? Which tools make that machine “ingenuous”? For which purpose(s) is Marx quoting Lancellotti more than two century later- especially after the Industrial revolution? Do contemporary men react or ‘have to react’ like the Mayor towards incessantly innovative and competitive forms of “machinery”?