Friday, March 29, 2013

Charles Hugh-Smith — The Knowledge Economy's Two Classes of Workers

Setting aside that our economy is by and large organized to benefit a State-financial Elite and the technocrat Caste that serves them, let's consider the two classes of worker in what Peter Drucker labeled the Knowledge Economy in his 1993 book Post-Capitalist Society.
At the risk of simplifying Drucker's nuanced account, here is a precis:

The Marxist class division of labor vs. capitalist/management no longer adequately describes the new economy, as knowledge workers own "the means of production" which is first and foremost knowledge. Corporations and government offer an organization within which workers can apply their knowledge (i.e. the means of production in a knowledge economy).

Since the new economy is no longer characterized by capital vs. labor, it is a post-capitalist economy.
Knowledge workers are a minority of the workforce; the majority are service workers, either skilled or low-skilled.

Economist Robert B. Reich divides the workforce into similar categories: "symbolic analysts" (knowledge workers) and two classes of service workers: "routine producers" and "in-person servers."
Of Two Minds
The Knowledge Economy's Two Classes of Workers
Charles Hugh-Smith

Just as the Industrial Era replaced the Agricultural Era and was different from it, so too, the Digital Era is replacing the Industrial Era and bringing about another profound transformation of work and management.


Dan Kervick said...

I don't see why the Marxist analysis doesn't still work perfectly well, as far as the knowledge economy goes. Marx said labor was a factor of production, and used the term "means" to refer to other factors of production such as tools and resources. But of course the laborer has all sorts of skills and capacities that determine what kinds of labor that particular laborer is able to perform.

marris said...

"But of course the laborer has all sorts of skills and capacities that determine what kinds of labor that particular laborer is able to perform."

That's why.

And knowledge is not scarce in the way that capital goods are scarce. If I learn a fact from you, then you don't lose the fact. If I take control of a factory from you, then you lose control over it.

I think overall, this puts the knowledge have-nots in a less defensible position. They too could go to the library (or attend class or do their homework) to attain knowledge. It's easier to fault them for not doing so.

[Of course, there are other considerations which rely on scarce resources: teachers, nutrition, a safe home environment, etc. But there's also laziness, a lack of grit, high time preference, etc]

Dan Kervick said...

I agree that the knowledge have-nots are in a weak position, Marris. But it's no different than the way in which the muscle have-nots or the physical health have-nots are in a weak position in an economy built around physical forms of labor.

WillORNG said...

It still boils down to the divide between those who have/inherit enough wealth/capital/land to live off, but also get better education, grow up in better networks and distribute unequally/disproportionately large income rewards to themselves and the rest of us who have to work to pay for water, food, shelter, clothing.

That puts the many in a much weaker position than the few.