The continuing encroachment by technology upon human exertion in this nation and throughout other modern societies is consigning ever greater numbers of our citizens to a posture of economic irrelevance. In the unrelenting quest to automate and mechanize virtually all manufacturing activity and thus achieve unprecedented levels of efficiency and cost reductions and from a corporate perspective most importantly an increase in productivity, as the result of unprecedented combinations of technology/employee collaboration.
The incremental profits obtained from these procedures are allocated not to those employees in these commercial enterprises who are responsible for these increased profits, but rather to the senior executives of these corporations, augmented dividends to shareholders, and to the enhanced value which the equity in these companies reflect.
Inherent in this absurdity is to attain an objective that at some golden moment in the not too distant future completely eliminates the requirement of employees participation in these manufacturing processes. For when that state of technological supremacy has been realized then will the optimization of profits be both complete and insurmountable.
The ramifications of this “accomplishment” will be to swell the populations of the unemployed, further concentrate the accumulations of wealth and political influence among those who are presently so disproportionately the recipients of these material and governmental forms of largesse, and given the disappearance of sources of revenue by those who are terminated, shall reduce the capacity of our citizens to purchase consumer products or engage in any economic transactions other than those which literally sustain their very existences. From these realities homelessness shall rise dramatically, crime will markedly increase, marriages will succumb to the pressures of poverty, alcohol and drug dependency will escalate, and the ferocious competition for employment in any capacity shall become ever more fervid.
Moreover, public systems of law enforcement, education, social services, and recreation and arts and cultural programs shall all become the proportional casualties of ever reduced funding and the massive increase in those client populations which require these services to remain viable.
In the final analysis, these burgeoning forces and trends shall further exacerbate in a national context what Mayor De Blasio characterized in his successful recent bid to become the Chief Executive of our nation’s premier municipality, New York, “A tale of two countries ever more estranged and ever more unequal.” In a country that presently reflects an unemployment rate that is in excess of 15%, where more than 50 million citizens receive food stamps to supplement their inadequate nutritional budgets, and where vast areas of both rural and urban environments lie deserted and fallow, because major corporations have relocated to domestic or overseas locales which have proffered obscenely generous tax forgiveness incentives, and other substantial financial inducements in order to attract these companies to these areas and provide the employment opportunities their manufacturing activities require.
It is as a result of this unceasing quest to take up commercial residence in those localities that embody “right to work” laws, and are thus inhospitable to union activity, and prevailing wage levels that are almost always below that which exists in other union friendly environments, and of course the lengthy periods of immunity from state taxes and other traditional costs of business which these entities absorb in more enlightened and progressive politically sovereign jurisdictions, that are cumulatively responsible for the unceasing expansion of the universe of those who are involuntarily consigned to idleness, with all that flows from that state in terms of self-loathing, retreats into alcoholic dependency to anesthetize the anguish which their economic status reflects and in the most tragic eventualities, when their suffering is insupportable will bring their lives to a close.
The sole and exclusive concern of those who control and direct the activities of these companies is the pursuit of the maximization of profit, irrespective of the implications and consequences to their employees, the environment, and the frequently traumatic repercussions and havoc to the larger communities and regions which their departure creates.
To wish to reduce the drudgery and danger of manufacturing procedures that are unhealthful or mind-numbing or produce casualties of body and spirit is a laudable and noble objective. However, the question becomes subsequent to their elimination from the workplace how does our society allocate to these individuals that which is equitable and allows then to engage in both our economy and the crucially necessary psychological engagement in labor that is indispensable to their self-worth? We may very well be entering into an era where the 40 hour work week is an antiquated concept which is no longer necessary. In order to ensure the involvement of those who are currently unengaged, a 25 hour period of involvement in the economy may be sufficient to both sustain our economic levels of productivity for most individuals. If the minimum wage were elevated to $15 per hour a family of two wage-earners could provide a middle-class existence for their children and themselves for a work week of this duration.
Moreover, there is presently an enormous and urgent need to repair and modernize our nation’s infrastructure, surely this is work that is both crucial and rewarding, and many of those who currently sit idle would be ecstatic at the prospect of being involved in these efforts from both a sense of meaningfully contributing to our country’s viability and the relatively substantial wages which those with these skills and craft aptitudes are compensated.
Finally, a 25 hour work week would allow our citizens to reduce the current levels of stress and anxiety which plague so many of us as employees, parents, siblings, friends, and other important roles we assume in the current work schedules which often extend to 50 hours or beyond. Additional “volitional” time would enable us to enrich our lives our families and our communities and most crucially would permit us in postures of exploration, contemplation, and analysis, to examine our lives and our society and formulate those models of social justice that we wish the American culture to incorporate and gravitate toward and the strategic and tactical political processes that must be created and employed to attain these substantive improvements in the quality of our individual lives as well as those of us who collectively comprise this nation.
The epic struggle in which we are engaged is in some quintessential regard the imperative requirement to reduce the political influence of these corporate behemoths and increase those burgeoning voices and efficacy of our fellow citizens and the thousands of organizations that currently exist to transform America into an ever more coherent, persuasive, and formidable, force of moral persuasion that will ultimately achieve the humanizing objectives which are possible when the juggernaut of technology is subordinated to its appropriate posture of democritization both in the United States and beyond our borders in other industrial societies.
One thought on “TECHNOLOGY’S ULTIMATE DESTINATION IN AN AMERICAN AND GLOBAL CONTEXT”
The idea of a 25 hour week is interesting. I will have to give that more thought to see if I agree that this would be a beneficial thing – or perhaps a further manifestation of Vonnegut’s “Player Piano” world of employment for only the very few.
I would suggest that a more important but slower improvement would come from adopting skilled trade/technical training for the majority of young people along the lines of the German model of trade education and apprenticeship.
The days of well paying unskilled jobs are gone. Never again will the guy that sweeps the floor of an auto plant make $25/hour (in 1973 dollars!). The nation has a critical need for technically skilled workers who can measure with precision, create mass produced “custom” goods, or reprogram a milling machine to switch tasks. Such “middle class” jobs still exist but are going unfilled because the labor pool is made up of highly skilled or no skill workers.
The economy is in deep trouble because Toffler and the “Third Wave” or even Daniel Bell were wrong – they failed to notice that when the US moved out of an agriculture based economy it was only the labor that was moved out – the means of production were still here but serviced by fewer higher skilled workers. They celebrated the US moving out of a manufacturing economy and into a service/knowledge economy but failed to understand that not only did labor move out of this sector but the means of production left as well.
We can no longer hope that production will increase sufficiently to employ the masses. Only if increasing numbers of technically skilled workers increase production (and demand through their consumption) will there be a hope of employment levels that are structurally sound.