For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Will we work in twenty-first century capitalism? A critique of the fourth industrial revolution literature"

by Morgan, Jamie (2019)


The fourth industrial revolution has become a prominent concept and imminent technological change a major issue. Facets are everyone?s concern but currently no one?s ultimate responsibility (perhaps a little like financial stability before the global financial crisis). In this paper, we argue that the future is being shaped now by the way the fourth industrial revolution is being positioned. Whilst no one has set out to argue for or defend technological determinism, anxiety combined with passivity and complacency are being produced in the context of a quasi-determinism. The contingent quantification of the future with regard to the potential for job displacement provides an influential source of authority for this position. A background narrative of ?the future is coming, so you better get used to it? is being disseminated. This favours a capitalism that may ?deny work to the many? perspective rather than a more fundamental rethink that encompasses change that may liberate the many from work. This, in turn, positions workers and responsibility for future employment, reducing the urgency of calls for wider societal preparation. Public understanding and policy are thus affected and along with them the future of work.

Key Passage

Formerly, automation and computerization had their greatest impact on Fordist continuous flow mass production lines and on clerical and secretarial work. That is, work that could be reduced to strictly repetitive actions or multiply reproducible essentially identical forms – some kinds of work whose primary task base could be expressed in simple routines. However, the new technology introduces combinations of mobility, monitoring/surveillance, discrimination, multi-functionality, language and effectively more complex decision making capacity (which is not to suggest this requires an AI be conscious). This greatly extends the range of tasks that could be duplicated by technology and thus the types of work or employment that seemingly could be affected. (p.377)


Post-Work, The Future Of Work, Fourth Industrial Revolution, Industrial Revolution, Automation, Technology, The Future Of Work, Production, Post-Work


Technology, Employment, Fourth Industrial Revolution, Automation

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