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“Computers in the Wild”: Guilds and Next-Generation Unionism in the Information Revolution

  • Chris Benner

Extract

One of the aspects of the information revolution that has had negative implications for many workers is the erosion of the workplace as a basis for long-term security and collective solidarity. The dramatic pace of technological change, complex restructuring of firms, and continual competitive pressures for rapid innovation that are a central component of the information economy are contributing to fundamental transformations in work and employment. As part of this transformation, the trend towards the centralization of production in large enterprises that was the dominant feature of the industrial era is being superseded by production organized around smaller workplaces connected together in complex, constantly shifting networks operating at multiple spatial scales, from the local to the global. For many workers, one result is greater insecurity, as they increasingly have to update their skills, change jobs and even change careers more frequently. Some analysts have gone so far as to characterize the typical information age worker as a “free-floating individual, connected on-line to a variety of task-performing organizations, ever-competing for resources and personal support, and assuming limited responsibilities towards limited people for a limited time”.

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Thanks are due to Steve Sawyer and the editors of this volume for extremely useful comments and suggestions on earlier drafts of this paper.

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