In Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 Karl Marx would ask: (1) What in the evolution of mankind is the meaning of this reduction of the greater part of mankind to abstract labor? (2) What are the mistakes committed by the piecemeal reformers, who either want to raise wages and in this way to improve the situation of the working class, or regard equality of wages (as Proudhon does) the goal of social revolution?
In political economy labor occurs only in the form of wage earning activity. But political economy knows the worker only as a working — as a beast reduced to the strictest bodily needs. Quoting Proudhon Marx will show that the goal of work is to eliminate labour time and replace it with free time:
“To develop in greater spiritual freedom, a people must break their bondage to their bodily needs-they must cease to be the slaves of the body. They must, therefore, above all, have time at their disposal for spiritual creative activity and spiritual enjoyment.”
Noticing the discrepancy between the ideal and the actuality of work, automation, and time Proudhon would remark: “Consideration has not been given . . . to this big distinction as to how far men work through machines or as machines.” Of course Proudhon in his Utopian vision thought that automation would bring about the elimination of work and the introduction of free time: “In the future life of the peoples, however, the inanimate forces of nature working in machines will be our slaves and servants.”