Marx on Agile


Agile is a modern way to organise software development. Karl Marx (1818-1883) was a philosopher, economist, historian, political theorist, sociologist, journalist and revolutionary socialist. His ideas, and revolutionary socialism he kickstarted, have caused quite a stir in the XX century, and it's still not certain whether they were good or not, because they were never properly implemented and truly tried. I'm not going to try convince you to agree with Marx, dear reader, or say that I do. We're going to merely examine some of his ideas, and see how they apply to the modern tech world.

Class conflict

Marx divides society into classes, the lowly and exploited class being dubbed "workers" which always rubbed me off wrong as if they were the only ones doing actual work. In Silicon Valley there allegedly are company founders that come up with big ideas and get venture capital money thrown at them, that then gets used to hire people who will actually implement it. These people then sweat on the code while paid in free lunches, fussball tables and stock options - which might be worth a lot, they are told, like these early Whattsapp employees that now have 160 million $ each. Clearly, the VCs exploit everyone in this game because they earn the most from it. Together with the founders and CEOs they form the new bourgeoisie.

Class consciousness

The new bourgoisie reads Hacker News, books like The Lean Startup, starts new religions and microdoses LSD. They know they're the movers and shakers, just like the upper classes from Marx's times knew they were the upper classes because they've been to a fancy high school.

The modern proletarians are not very class conscious and mostly haven't yet realised they won't be millionaires, movie gods, and rock stars. They cultivate an ethos of craftsmanship, and have many ideas about how you should behave while building somebody else's dream. It makes tech workers feel good about not being the movers and shakers by instead giving them this also desirable "craftsman" status.


Alienation is also known as Marx's theory of shitty jobs: the worker, turned into a mere instrument in a private system of industrial production, is disconnected from the products of his labour. This is what JIRA achieves- we no longer write code according to our ideas of justice, truth and beauty, but instead complete tiny pieces of work on a modern equivalent of an assembly line.

Oppression and power

Marx, perhaps blinded by various priviledges he enjoyed, did not appreciate that the bourgeoisie exploits female workers of colour much harder than white male workers. His writings on oppression are unfortunately woefully outdated and have largely been supplanted by the modern Marxist feminist movement, that has brought Marxist feminist critical theory into the Intersectionality framework. Marx's fundamental insight on the topic, however, remains spot on - the oppression happens through systemic channels that the ruling class has devised and everyone else has bought into. In tech these are, of course, code reviews.

The modern tech workers have accepted that they can't be trusted to just change stuff. Instead, a process is put in place, in which the poor sod that actually tried to write some code is ripped into shreds by their colleagues for violating various software development best practices and not using correct design patterns.


Dear reader, it could be that you might work in tech yourself. Now you understand that your company exploits you by having you write code for a living, and it is time you steal all their code and put it up online. You have nothing to lose but your personal liberty and a possibly pretty interesting job. If you are not ready yet, you must spread awareness, which could consist of telling your friends about this blog. There will be more revolutionary content here soon. Till then!