Thursday, June 23, 2011

The End of Work by Jeremy Rifkin

  • "Redefining opportunities and responsibilities for millions of people in a society absent of mass formal employment is likely to be the single most pressing social issue of the coming century" - intro. xv
  • "We are entering a new phase in world history -- one in which fewer and fewer workers will be needed to produce the goods and services for the global population." - intro. xvi
  • "By directly eliminating human labor from the production process and by creating a reserve army of unemployed workers whose wages could be bid down lower and lower, the capitalists were inadvertently digging their own grave, as there would be fewer and fewer consumers with sufficient purchasing power to buy their products." - 17
  • "As productivity soared in the 1920s and a growing number of workers were handed pink slips, sales dropped off dramatically....The business community hoped that by convincing those still working to buy more and save less, they could empty their warehouses and shelves and keep the American economy going. Their crusade to turn American workers into 'mass' consumers became known as the gospel of consumption." - 18
  • "The metamorphosis of consumption from vice to virtue is one of the most important yet least examined phenomena of the twentieth century." - 19
  • "The key to economic prosperity is the organized creation of dissatisfaction." - 20, Charles Kettering of General Motors
  • "Let us remember that the automatic the precise economic equivalent of slave labor. Any labor which competes with slave labor must accept the economic consequences of slave labor." - 78, Norbert Weiner
  • "The [unions] failed to come to grips with the central dynamic of the automation revolution -- management's single-minded determination to replace workers with machines wherever possible, and, by so doing, reduce labor costs, increase control over production, and improve profit margins." - 86
  • "The productivity gains in agriculture were so swift and effective that by the late 1920s economic instability was no longer fueled by crop failures, but, rather, by overproduction." - 109
  • "Ever since the depression years of the 1930s, price and commodity supports have been used to both artificially prop up the price of farm commodities and pay farmers not to produce in order to curtail production. Again, Say's law, that supply creates is own demand, has proven wrong." - 113
  • "While natural vanilla sells on the world market for about $1200 per pound, Escagenetics says it can sell its genetically engineered version for less than $25 per pound....For the tiny island nations of the Indian Ocean, the indoor farming of vanilla is likely to mean economic catastrophe." - 124
  • "The human price of commercial progress is likely to be staggering. Hundreds of millions of farmers across the globe face the prospect of permanent elimination from the economic process. Their marginalization could lead to social upheaval on a global scale and the reorganization of social and political life along radically new lines in the coming century." - 127
  • "For more than forty years, the service sector has been absorbing the job losses in the manufacturing industries." - 141
  • "While some employees welcome the new freedom that comes with less supervision [by telecommuting], others say they miss the camaraderie and social interaction that comes with face-to-face office operations." - 150
  • "Increasingly, American workers are being forced to settle for dead-end jobs just to survive." - 167
  • "The mounting statistics reveal a workforce in retreat in virtually every sector. Forced to compete with automation on the one hand and a global labor pool on the other, American workers find themselves squeezed ever closer to the margins of economic survival." - 168
  • "Some of the blame for the current plight of American workers can be traced to the emergence of a single global marketplace in the 1970s and 80s." - ?
  • "Across the country U.S. corporations are creating a new two-tier system of employment, composed of a 'core' staff of permanent full-time employees augmented by a peripheral pool of part-time or contingent workers." - 190
  • "Americans, perhaps more than any other people in the world, define themselves in relationship to their work. From early childhood, youngsters are constantly asked what they would like to be when they grow up." - 195
  • "The death of the global labor force is being internalized by millions of workers who experience their own individual deaths, daily, at the hands of profit-driven employers and a disinterested government....With each new indignity, their confidence and self-esteem suffer another blow. They become expendable, then irrelevant, and finally invisible in the new high-tech world of global commerce and trade." - 197
  • "Worldwide, more than a billion jobs will have to be created over the next ten years to provide an income for all the new job entrants in both developing and developed nations. With new information and telecommunication technologies, robotics, and automation fast eliminating jobs in every industry and sector, the likelihood of finding enough work for the hundreds of millions of new job entrants appears slim." - 206-7
  • "We are rapidly approaching a historic crossroad in human history. Global corporations are now capable of producing unprecedented volume of goods and services with ever smaller workforce. The new technologies are bringing us into an era of near workerless production at the very moment in history when population is surging to unprecedented levels. The clash between rising population pressures and falling job opportunities will shape the geopolitics of the emerging high-tech global economy well into the next century." - 207
  • "For a growing number of wealthier Americans, living inside walled communities is a way of 'internalizing their economic position and privilege and excluding others from sharing it." - 212
  • "Rarely, in their public statements, do any of the leaders of the extreme right broach the issue of technology displacement....The growing tide of immigration from east to west in Europe, and from south to north in the Americas, reflects in part the changing dynamics of the global economy and the emergence of a new world order that is forcing millions of workers to move across national borders in search of an ever-dwindling supply of manufacturing and service jobs." - 215
  • "Automation threatens to render possible the reversal of the relation between free time and working time: the possibility of working time becoming marginal and free time becoming full time. The result would be a radical transvaluation of values, and a mode of existence incompatible with traditional culture. Advanced industrial society is in permanent mobilization against this possibility." - 221, Herbert Marcuse
  • "Despite the American workers' just claim to a piece of the productivity pie, the business community has steadfastly held the line against any attempts to shorten the workweek and increase wages to accommodate the rapid gains in productivity." - 228
  • "At the same time that the need for human labor is disappearing, the role of government is undergoing a similar diminution. Today, global companies have begun to eclipse and subsume the power of nations. Transnational enterprises have increasingly usurped the traditional role of the state, and now exercise unparalleled control over global resources, labor pools, and markets." - 236
  • "The very idea of broadening one's loyalties and affiliations beyond the narrow confines of the marketplace and nation-state to include the human species and the planet is revolutionary and portends vast changes in the structuring of society." - 246-7
  • "The very notion that millions of workers displaced by the re-engineering and automation of the agricultural, manufacturing, and service sectors can be retrained to be scientists, engineers, technicians, executives, consultants, teachers, lawyers and the like, and then somehow find the appropriate number of job openings in the very narrow high-tech sector, seems at best a pipe dream, and at worst a delusion." - 288

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