The End of Work

The End of Work

by Jeremy Rifkin

Jeremy Rifkin argues that we are entering a new phase in history - one characterized by the steady and inevitable decline of jobs. The world, says Rifkin, is fast polarizing into two potentially irreconcilable forces: on one side, an information elite that controls and manages the high-tech global economy; and on the other, the growing numbers displaced workers, who have few prospects and little hope for meaningful employment in an increasingly automated world. The end of work could mean the demise of civilization as we have come to know it, or signal the beginning of a great social transformation and a rebirth of the human spirit.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Economics
  • Rating: 3.77
  • Pages: 350
  • Publish Date: December 28th 1994 by Tarcher
  • Isbn10: 0874777798
  • Isbn13: 9780874777796

What People Think about "The End of Work"

UPDATE: New Headline: The Real Threat of Artificial Intelligence AI "will reshape what work means and how wealth is created, leading to unprecedented economic inequalities and even altering the global balance of power." -- New York Times UPDATE: New Headline: Some are worried Amazon will replace Whole Foods workers with robots UPDATE: New Headline: Now Five Men Own Almost as Much Wealth as Half the World's Population Recent Headlines: AUTOMATION AND ANXIETY HOW TECHNOLOGY IS DESTROYING JOBS WILL THE RISE OF ROBOTS IMPLODE THE WORLD ECONOMY? Economists were pointing out that many of the blue collar workers who had been laid off as a result of the recession, workers whose jobs paid well and who had health insurance and retirement benefits, found that, unlike during earlier recoveries, their jobs no longer existed when the recession ended. It happened because more and more manual labor was being performed by robots rather than humans and that explained why the economy did recover -- and why many workers did not. It was about that time that I first read Jeremy Rivkins book, THE END OF WORK: THE DECLINE OF THE GLOBAL LABOR FORCE AND THE DAWN OF THE POST-MARKET ERA, which was published in 1995. In the middle of that uninterrupted period of prosperity mentioned earlier, Rivkin noted the devastating impact that automation was already exerting on workers, especially blue-collar, retail, and wholesale employees, and he predicted that it would get even worse. He pointed out that even though the unemployment rate had declined that most of the new jobs left people underemployed, working in part-time jobs in which they did not know from one paycheck to the next what their income would be, nor even if they would be employed. Recent Headline: THESE 8 MEN HAVE AS MUCH MONEY AS HALF THE WORLD (3.5 BILLION PEOPLE) Rivkin does offer some solutions to how the U.S. could cope with the situation, but Im not going to discuss them because it would be a waste of time to do so since they would require the bipartisan co-operation of both parties in Congress.

Because of technology allowing corporations to re-engineer, the company is leaner, flatter, more efficient and paying less wages with less labor and middle management needed. They are staying on unemployment, taking low-paying jobs, or working part-time, not being able to maintain their standard of living, having to buy food at the community pantry, getting welfare assistance...all because corporations see labor as a burden to their bottom line and refuse to allow workers to share in their increased productivity in the form of shorter work hours or higher pay. CEOs are paid enormous salaries, shareholders are being taken care of, but who is taking care of the workers who have been downsized, or if they still are working, are being stressed to the maximum by companies who have designed ways to produce more with less people.

Incidentally, it helped me discovered that there was a Wikipedia page on Technological Unemployment, for the first time. One big difference from Ford's work, is that Rifkin's proposed solutions to the challenges of technological unemployment feel much more convincing, are significantly more fleshed out, and there is nuance, with e.g. the welfare-alternative proposals of others like Milton Friedman elaborated alongside the author's. It's good to be prepared for the future though, not survivalist style, but in the sense of having a greater context in which to look at your life and see if what you're doing with it now constitutes an informed choice. Whether you'll look back in 20 years, wishing you'd known what kind of world we'd be living in sooner, used your time better and made significantly different life choices.

This 'third industrial revolution' seems to be powered by the displacement of workers and loss of jobs. The 'second industrial revolution' of the late 19th and early 20th century was powered by fossil fuels such as oil and gas, which replaced workers at an even higher rate. But the 'information age' of the 'third industrial revolution' has so far not really led to massive job creation. The author sees no way to reverse the trend of automation and technology that is leading to job loss and ultimately the 'end of work'.

El tema es que todo lo que dice Rifkin es bastante poco revolucionario (aunque el libro se llame EL FIN DEL TRABAJO no es que se acabe y nos vayamos a librar, nop) pero, al mismo tiempo, ni tan siquiera eso ha podido ponerse en marcha. O sea, Rifkin no es el pesao que te dice "hay que votar" sino algo así como "hay que votar y sindicarse y echar una mano en la PAH" y el primer paso para conseguir hacer todo eso a la vez es, por lo menos, planteárselo.

In the last part of the book he discusses a third factor apart from capitalism and government intervention, a kind of volunteerism the silver lining that will mitigate the effects of unemployment. Sadly in addition to the NGO's he mentions like volunteer fire departments, the Red Cross and others, there are also church-based organizations. I recommend this book as much as a historic artifact as it is an analysis of the end of work.

Rifkin suggests that the rise of the "third sector" (volunteerism and other publicly-spirited work) and wealth redistribution may be able to blunt the harsh surge of technological unemployment.

In the best case, a peaceful change to a frivolous, job-free Utopia succeeds, in which machines produce everything, self-maintain and build what the human heart desires. Von den Maschinenstürmern zu Anfang der industriellen Revolution über die Gewerkschaftsbewegungen bis zum aktuell wohl besten Modell der Sozialpartnerschaft und Kollektivvertragsverhandlungen in den glücklichen Ländern mit ökosozialer Marktwirtschaft. Es besteht die eine Option, wie in Frankreich die Wochenarbeitszeit drastisch immer noch weiter zu reduzieren und damit mehr Arbeitsplätze zu schaffen, bis sich das Verhältnis von Wochenende zu Arbeitszeit umgekehrt hat und damit jedem Menschen ein Anteil des Wohlstand zufallen kann. Da der weltwirtschaftliche Zug momentan mit hochrot glühendem Kessel Richtung ewiges Wachstum fährt und eine sachte Geschwindigkeitsreduktion, Notbremsung oder gar Umkehr ins Reich der Utopien verschoben werden muss, stellt sich die Frage nach Alternativen. Zwar gibt es sowohl die skandinavischen Länder, die mit extrem hohen Steuersätzen auch auf Spitzenverdiener, den mitunter besten Sozialsystemen der Welt und hohen Akademikerquoten eine Alternative zum weltweiten Trend der Gesellschaftsstrukturierung bieten. Im momentan leider eher realistischeren Szenario werden über kurz oder lang nicht nur 7, sondern irgendwann 9, 10, 12 Milliarden Menschen aus einem antiquierten, nicht mehr zeitgemäßen Wirtschafssystem ausgeschlossen.