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

The framing of policy, therefore, is not neutral. It absorbs the fourth industrial revolution concept according to market conforming logics that allow government to limit its responsibility for shaping the future, even as it continues to herald the potential. And this, of course, segues easily into the kinds of concerns and foci that consultancies, such as McKinsey, necessarily find most conducive to explore: investment as a corporate wealth generating and protecting exercise. To be clear, we by no means wish to suggest that a technological future will be dystopian nor that the future of work involves worse-case outcomes of rapid catastrophic displacement as simply fate. It is rather that public policy is currently not really focused on preventing this latter outcome becoming fact.  (p.391)


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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