“Machinery hurtful to Commonality”

Like the Slow movement is today, Luddism was a struggle against industrial capitalism. Those preindustrial saboteurs fought against not machinery in general but a specific kind: “all Machinery hurtful to Commonality,” as stated in a letter written by Luddites in 1812. “If the workmen dislike certain machines,” explained The Nottingham Review in 1811, “it was because of the use to which they were being put, not because they were machines or because they were new.”

The source of their resentment was an incipient socio-economic structure dominated by capitalist owners who used technology for their own benefit, while workers paid a steep price. Behind the Luddite rhetoric lies a more sophisticated understanding of the relationship between technology and society than many give them credit for.

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