Fear and Hope in an Age of Mass Automation: Debating the Future of Work

12 Pages Posted: 13 Mar 2018

See all articles by David A. Spencer

David A. Spencer

University of Leeds - Leeds University Business School (LUBS); Leeds University Business School (LUBS) - Division of Economics

Date Written: March 2018

Abstract

Alternative perspectives from economics and political economy now agree that work is set to disappear through the impact of mass automation. Some worry about the negative effects on unemployment and inequality, while others see the opportunity to extend free time. This paper confronts and criticises these perspectives. It addresses previous visions of an automated (‘workless’) future presented by Marx and Keynes and shows the enduring barriers to working less in capitalist society. It then questions whether work will be reduced by technological progress; rather, it argues that work will likely persist, despite and indeed because of the wider use of new technology. The threat to workers from technology is seen to come more from the erosion in the quality of work than from the loss of work. The paper argues that a better future for work and workers ultimately depends on broader changes in ownership.

Keywords: automation, technological progress, work, work time, the quality of work, political economy, capitalism, postā€capitalism

Suggested Citation

Spencer, David A., Fear and Hope in an Age of Mass Automation: Debating the Future of Work (March 2018). New Technology, Work and Employment, Vol. 33, Issue 1, pp. 1-12, 2018. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3139077 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/ntwe.12105

David A. Spencer (Contact Author)

University of Leeds - Leeds University Business School (LUBS) ( email )

Leeds LS2 9JT
United Kingdom

Leeds University Business School (LUBS) - Division of Economics ( email )

Leeds LS2 9JT
United Kingdom

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