In an extract from a new book that looks at Marx’s theory of alienation and Information and Communication Technologies, author Mike Healy outlines an agenda for future research on the key occupation of IT professionals and why it would need to consider workers’ alienation, not narrow job satisfaction. Marx and the Digital Machines: Alienation, Technology, Capitalism was published on 16th October, available open access.
Issues such as the application of project methodologies, the control the professional (and indeed the profession as a whole) has over the industry, the rapid commodification of skills such as programming, software maintenance and testing, and business processes, could all benefit from using Marx’s theory of alienation. Research that takes as its focus the role of the ICT professional in promoting the ethical use of ICT could benefit from a shift of perspective that sees the professional as one in command to a view of the professional as someone who is powerless and who cannot determine what they make, nor for whom or how it gets made. Research could also investigate what coping and resistance strategies they employ to deal with their alienated condition. Further research using theories of alienation and PAR [Participatory Action Research] would provide deeper insights into the problems ICT professionals face such as, for example, the contradiction discussed … between what they feel about their occupations and what they would do if given the opportunity to quit their jobs. Research on ICT professionals vigorously embracing Marx’s theory of alienation would enable it to move beyond the straitjacket of, and the inadequate categories associated with, job satisfaction thereby offering a greater explanation for, rather than a description of, the conditions in which ICT professionals work.
(From Chapter 8: Critique and Conclusion p. 126)