End of Jobs

L.W. Nicholson 1995  Published in:  The Northwest Technocrat 2nd quarter 1995, No. 339  

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs, are the rallying cry of those unhappy people who have lost their jobs, to strike is not the answer, except temporarily and for a declining minority. Wherever possible, employers have resorted to an end run and have installed labor-saving machinery. In fact, some corporations have suffered business losses at the same time that improvements in technology appeared. In several cases we know of, the CEO, Chief Executive Officer, of such corporations were given ultimatums – either de-job thousands of people – or be fired yourself.

“The End of Jobs”, an article in FORTUNE magazine by William Bridges, starts by pointing out the declining number of jobs. It then points out the type of “work” people will be doing in the future. However, it doesn’t point out that the increased efficiency resulting from the new type of work methods, plus the continuing increase in efficiency of technology, equals an even more rapid decline in the total work (the man hours) that will be needed as a basis for distribution. So, therefore, purchasing power can no longer be distributed sufficiently. The need is for the distribution of purchasing power to be a reward for citizenship rather than as a reward for man hours of work, whether that work is done as in the past or as it will be done in the future. These points are not discussed in this article.

We have excerpted a few lines from the article in FORTUNE magazine that describes well a phenomenon that is now taking place that has ramifications that are not seen, even by the people who study and write about what they are looking at.

The modern world is on the verge of another huge leap in creativity and productivity, but the job is not going to be a part of tomorrow’s economic reality. There still is, and will always be, enormous amounts of work to do, but it is not going to be contained in the familiar envelopes we call jobs. In fact many organizations are today well along the path toward being `de-jobbed.’

“The job is a social artifact, though it is so deeply embedded in our consciousness that most of us have forgotten its artificiality or the fact that most societies since the beginning of time have done just fine without jobs. The job is an idea that emerged early in the 19th century to package the work that needed doing in the growing factories and bureaucracies of the industrializing nations. Before people had jobs, they worked just as hard but on shifting clusters of tasks, in a variety of locations, on a schedule set by the sun and the weather and the needs of the day. The modern job was a startling new idea — and to many, an unpleasant and perhaps socially dangerous one. Critics claimed it was an unnatural and even inhuman way to work. They believed most people wouldn’t be able to live with its demands. It is ironic that what started out as a controversial concept ended up becoming the ultimate orthodoxy — and that we’re hooked on jobs.

“Now the world of work is changing again: The conditions that created jobs 200 years ago — mass production and large organization — are disappearing. Technology enables us to automate the production line, where all those job holders used to do their repetitive tasks. Instead of long production runs where the same thing has to be done again and again, we are increasingly customizing production. Big firms, where most of the good jobs used to be, are unbundling activities and farming them out to little firms, which have created or taken over profitable niches. Public services are starting to be privatized, and government bureaucracy, the ultimate bastion of job security, is being thinned. With the disappearance of the conditions that created jobs, we are losing the need to package work in that way. No wonder jobs are disappearing.

“The reason U.S. production has increased more than 40 times that of the pretechnological age is not because humans worked 40 times as fast, or 40 times as hard, or 40 times as many hours. The simple fact is, we do produce over 40 times as much per capita as we did some 200 years ago. Humans work much less; they work shorter hours and certainly not as hard as before. These conditions are so obvious that they can’t be disputed. To some it has been obvious for over half a century that it was technology that made the difference. This technological change has occurred in a comparatively short time and at an accelerating rate. Knowing these things it should then be obvious that the ability to produce would out-pace the ability to consume or the ability to maintain prices, or both. And that sooner or later a new method of distribution would be required, one which could operate with far more efficiency. These events antiquate the whole system of trade and commerce on this Continent. We have now reached the point at which these trends can no longer be denied. An entirely new social method is required. The fact is, a major social change is due, if not past due, and we had better prepare for it. An alternative method of distribution must be made and Technocracy’s technological Social Design is the only one available.

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