Assembly LINE in Production

[at Tryst now...library kicked me out; why it's not open 24 hours in the summer is a mystery]

Ultimately technology is about being productive – it’s expensive to make, to innovate, and maintain. Therefore, the capitalist funds it, causing a number of social, political, and economic impacts [for example, technology and development]. Marx articulated the relationship of the capitalist, the worker and technology in his essay, The machine versus the worker. The following passages note these changing relationships in regard to the industrial revolution:

  • "The object of improved machinery is to diminish manual labor, to provide for the performance of a process or the completion of a link in a manufacture by the aid of an iron instead of the human apparatus,"(Marx 156).
  • "Whenever a process requires peculiar dexterity and steadiness of hand, it is withdrawn, as soon as possible, from the cunning workman, who is prone to irregularities of many kinds," (Ibid.).
  • "Machinery...is constantly on the point of making him superfluous," (Ibid.).

The "self-acting" tool machinery that Marx sites as the characteristic feature of modern mechanical improvements created a blueprint for the later information industry, including patterns for social interaction of workers “within the machine” of industry. The assembly line leaped out of the factory and mapped itself onto the fabric of social relations of domestic life (work time onto leisure time; or production at work to consumption at home). Physically, its form is reinforced by the straight lines and right angles of streets and avenues, as well as modern homes and buildings, that "channel desires in ways that allow controlled moments of release necessary to keep the wheels of industry turning," (Taylor 30). With the utilitarianism of industrialization, rational (the Cartesian grid of universal reason) activity came to be associated with economic benefit. Imagination takes a backseat and time cannot afford to be wasted.


In today's era of late capitalism [Jameson], capitalism has benefited from technological innovation increasing productivity to the extent that consumption has turned into a productive force in its own right; consumption is the key organizing principle of contemporary society. Additionally, the product consumed is increasingly information-based, raising communication perhaps the main (only?) form of interaction/exchange.

One of the most visible ways to notice how the speed and efficiency programs of modernist, productive machineshave influenced our consumption behaviors, and therefore bodily movements, is in the restaurant. Having worked at McDonald’s for a number of years as a teenager, my body learned first-hand what I later read in George Ritzer’s The McDonaldization of Society. The assembly line production of food became a part of my muscles’ memory, and years later as I am waiting tables again, I am finding myself making the most efficient movements as possible in order to speedily serve the customer.

Mythology Machine/Chain Value, 2004
Kathryn Cornelius
performance still

In the performance art piece, Mythology Machine/Chain Value I explored the assembly line and worker subjectivity in relation to the production of academic discourse. The movements of the physical body in LINEAR production are mapped onto intellectual processes, and then remapped back onto the movements of the physical body; the mind follows the body and vice versa. As we produce in a LINE, we are beginning to consume, and generally move throughout our daily lives, in linear fashion.