A Labour Process Perspective on the Development of Free Software

Date and Time: 
6 November, 2010 - 10:45 - 11:15

My presentation is founded in one branch of Marx-readings which are known as "labour process theory". It looks at how technology is developed and introduced at the workplace in the tug-of-war between managers and workers. Examples abound of how machinery has been designed to discipline factory workers, deprive them of their skills, and weaken the political power of trade unions. Computers and computer engineers have played a key role in this process. From the 1960s and onwards, however, the business press has expressed a need for subsuming the computer engineer under the same strict regime as has previously been imposed on the blue-collar worker. In my presentation I suggest that the movement around free software licenses should be understood against this background of worsened working conditions and tightened management control in the computer sector. I will suggest that the demand for having a computer run entirely on free software should be seen as not just a moral and political issue, but that it can also be intrepreted as a kind of trade union strategy.

Room 1
Using Free Software to Fuel the Revolution