“No Humans Involved”: An Open Letter to my Colleagues

Sylvia Wynter

A letter by Sylvia Wynter written in response to the Los Angeles riots in 1992.

[T]he emergence of the category of the New Poor is due to a systemic factor. Capital, with the rise of the global processes of technological automation, has increasingly freed itself from its dependence on labor. The organized working class, in consequence, which had been seen as the potential agent of social transformation during the phase of capital accumulation, one that had been primarily based on production, no longer has enough clout, to put a stop to the process of expanding job erosion, now that consumption has displaced production as the primary medium of capital accumulation. During the production phase, the category of the jobless Poor, both in the First as well as in the reserve “native” Third worlds, had a function. This function had been that of providing an excess of labor supply over demand, in order to put a brake on wage costs. In this new consumption phase of capital accumulation, it has no function.

The poor and the oppressed . . . have therefore come to lose all attractions for the intellectuals. This category, unlike the working class jobholders cannot be seen, within the economic logic of our present organization of knowledge, as contributors to the process of production who have been unjustly deprived of the “full value of their labor power.”

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