Presentation on theme: "1 Technology, Industry, Work Is capitalism changing to a new economy? Is it useful to interpret recent political economic changes as a shift towards post-"— Presentation transcript:
1 Technology, Industry, Work Is capitalism changing to a new economy? Is it useful to interpret recent political economic changes as a shift towards post- Fordism? Does speculation impede the quest for a more productive economy?
2 Towards a new economy? Popular interpretations centre on the role of technology in the development of a new economy. Few doubt that new technologies are affecting many, if not most, aspects of economic and social life. Scholars have heralded the arrival of an informational economy, while terms like network society and knowledge economy have gained currency.
3 From Fordism to post-Forism Fordism is the label applied to the phase of capitalism economic development based on mass production for mass markets. Henry Ford, the American car maker, is generally regarded as its pioneer. He introduced the use of the endless-chain conveyor-belt into car production, facilitating a detailed division of labour and enormous increase in labour productivity.
5 Redistributing work in a technologically advanced society? Some fundamental questions about the distribution of job arise. A striking 20:80 ratio is posited by Martin and Schumann as the most likely outcome, a situation in which only a minority of the population will benefit from the hi- tech/advanced-human-capital growth path, while the majority will be marginalised. Companies like Volkswagen, Hewlett-Packard, and Digital Equipment have successfully implemented shorter-working-hours policies to prevent dramatic numbers of job losses.
6 Possibilities include (1) taking the benefits of productivity improvements as shorter hours rather than higher wages; (2) changing working-time arrangements– e.g., to a four-day week; and (3) allowing workers to take long periods of leave without pay, with income spread over working and non-working periods. Governments can provide taxation incentives to encourage such redistribution of working time.
7 Productivity or Speculation? Productive investment, as Keynes emphasised, adds to the aggregate demand for goods and services in the short run and to the capacity of the economy to supply more in the long run. Speculation, on the other hand, adds nothing to the wealth of society: it is a zero sum game in which the winners make gains at the expense of the losers. Worse, to the extent that speculation diverts resources from more directly productive purposes, it is a negative-sum game for society as a whole.
8 Final thoughts Technology does not directly determine the way in which economic production is organised, still less how its fruits are distributed. Its effects are mediated by the exercise of economic power. The interaction of these technological and political economic forces can be regarded as shaping the social structure of accumulation. This is the specific institutional environment within which the capitalist accumulation process is organised. It reflects the nature of business organisations, the financial institutions and credit system, the character of class relationships, and the pattern of state involvement in the economy.