The End of Work

The End of Work

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Global unemployment has now reached its highest level since the great depression of the 1930s. Technologies which have brought miraculous improvements in efficiency and productivity have also slashed the numbers employed in manufacturing and agriculture, while the service sector is quite unable to take up the slack. While a tiny elite of "knowledge workers" -scientists, entrepreneurs an consultants - will still be in demand, most jobs are disappearing fast, resulting in the creation of a morose "underclass", caught between apathy and criminal violence. Such, argues the author in this powerful polemic, is our true situation today. We can either bury our heads the sand or urgently rewrite the social contract by expanding the independent (non-profit) third sector, cutting the working week and sharing out the fruits of progress. The choice will determine the future of us more

Product details

  • Paperback | 384 pages
  • 128 x 198 x 21mm | 260g
  • Penguin Books Ltd
  • London, United Kingdom
  • New edition
  • 0140295585
  • 9780140295580

Review Text

A professional alarmist's attention-grabbing, albeit overstated, appraisal of a brave new world in which demand for labor could fall ruinously short of supply. Citing anecdotal evidence from a wealth of secondary sources, Rifkin (Biosphere Politics, 1991) provides worst-case projections of the job-loss havoc that remains to be wreaked by labor-saving advances in agriculture, banking, manufacturing, retailing, transport, and other enterprises that once afforded secure employment. Given the gains routinely achieved in the state of the bioscience, computer, robotics, and allied arts, he insists that there's precious little reason to believe that downsizing American corporations and their foreign counterparts won't continue to do more with less. Unless immediate steps are taken to rectify the situation, the author warns, civil unrest, open conflict between haves and have-nots, or even anarchy could result from what he calls the third industrial revolution. Not too surprisingly, Rifkin offers a lengthy list of suggestions for protecting the global village from the socioeconomic crises that could erupt when and if technology idles new multitudes of erstwhile breadwinners. To illustrate, he urges sharing of productivity gains (e.g., via shorter work weeks) and greater incentives for participation in the voluntary (i.e., non-marketplace) sector, such as time-based tax deductions. The author goes on to propose that government should encourage communitarian activity by substituting so-called social wages (e.g. negative income tax) for welfare. As a practical matter, then, Rifkin is recommending utopian solutions for the dystopian problems that could accrue in the arguable event that current trends persist. (Robert L. Heilbroner provides the book's foreword.) A bleak reckoning of the potential price of progress that will strike many observers as longer on ardor than analysis. (Kirkus Reviews)show more