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After Reading Some Of Richard Sennett

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In the years since the long economic boom of the 1990s came to an end in 2000–2001, by which time I had just retired from my career as a teacher and a forty year working life, there has been an extension of the digital revolution of the 1990s. That revolution seemed, at first, to mark a definitive break with the manufacturing economy that had thrived in the United States since the late-nineteenth century. With the pervasive use of IT, information technology, by banks, insurance companies, hospitals, clinics, even warehouses and retail stores, the era of industrial mass production in the United States faded into the past. Also redundant, so went the argument, were the blue-collar workers who had manned the old assembly lines. With 80 per cent of the American workforce now employed in white-collar service industries, economists assumed that there was no longer any need for a large industrial proletariat with limited skills, passively taking orders from above.


In fact, the findings of the three books under review here, along with much recent research, suggest that methods of production based on top-down standardization and tight control of work are as influential in the digital economy as they were in the industrial economy. Drawing upon the virtually unlimited powers of computers to monitor the activities of employees and their use of information, these methods have simply been readapted for the white-collar workplace.-Ron Price with thanks to Richard Sennett, The Culture of the New Capitalism, Yale UP; John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid, The Social Life of Information, Harvard Business School, and Barbara Ehrenreich, Bait and Switch: The Futile Pursuit of the American Dream, Owl Books,

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