Visions of the Future of Employment: A Critical Overview

10 Pages Posted: 6 Jul 2013

See all articles by Colin Williams

Colin Williams

University of Sheffield - School of Management

Date Written: 2008



This paper provides a critical overview of the diverse visions of the future of employment. Approach:

To do this, a conceptual framework is presented for understanding the common narrative structure which underpins a multitude of contrasting visions on how employment will be organized in the future.


To show how the diverse stories about the future of employment adopt a similar storyline, this paper reveals how most visions firstly squeeze all forms of employment into one side or other of some dualism, secondly, order the two sides into a temporal and/or normative sequence in which one side is seen as universally replacing and/or more progressive than the other and third and finally, represent this one-dimensional linear trajectory by concocting some label to represent their vision, which usually involves using some –ism, -ation or post-something-or-other. Research implications:

The result is that visions of the future of employment are shown to be grounded in some binary hierarchy (e.g., from Fordism to post-Fordism, bureaucracy to post-bureaucracy), all of which over-simplify lived practice. To offer a way forward that transcends these one-dimensional and linear stories, this paper argues for a more kaleidoscopic understanding that recognises the heterogeneous and multiple directions of employment and opens up the future to new possibilities.


This paper highlights how a common storyline underpins a diverse array of competing visions of the future of employment.

Keywords: employment, economic development, Fordism, post-Fordism, bureaucracy, post-Bureaucracy

JEL Classification: A14, J2, P1

Suggested Citation

Williams, Colin, Visions of the Future of Employment: A Critical Overview (2008). Foresight, Vol. 10, No. 5, pp. 24 – 33, 2008, Available at SSRN: or

Colin Williams (Contact Author)

University of Sheffield - School of Management ( email )

15 Conduit Road
Sheffield, S10 1FL
United Kingdom

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