Re: What can we contribute?

Ruby Rohrlich (rohrlich@GWIS2.CIRC.GWU.EDU)
Tue, 9 Jan 1996 20:02:35 -0500

When I say I am a Luddite, I mean that perhaps technology should not in
the first place be permitted to develop
in a totally unrestricted fashion, creating social/economic/political
havoc. Perhaps those who are creating this kind of technology should
also be concerned with the social consequences. Ruby

On Tue, 9 Jan 1996, John McCreery wrote:

> Ruby Rohrlich writes,
> >>
> John: Did you read Jeremy Rifkin in MOTHER JONES? His pessimism seems
> well founded, and makes me remember that I'm basically a Luddite. But I
> suppose that's not what you meant when you asked how anthropologists can
> contribute.<<
> Actually, I just finished my first reading of _The End of Work_. One of
> the things I like about Rifkin is that he isn't a Luddite. He argues
> instead for accepting the new technology but devising institutions that
> will spread its benefits more equitably. He notes that historically
> advances in technology have put people out of work, so that, for example,
> farmers are now only 3% of the workforce in the U.S.A. If the "Third
> Industrial Revolution" based on computers did, in fact, promise to create
> as many jobs as it displaces, this would be no problem. But the dream
> of turning the tens of millions of workers who have sold their labor to
> do routine jobs in factories and offices into creative "knowledge workers,"
> is a pipedream. What, then, can be done?
> A lesson from the past is that previous industrial revolutions have
> always resulted in a shorter work week, thus spreading the benefits of
> productivity to larger numbers of workers. But workers have always had
> to fight for their share, and now the globalization of business, the
> increasing weakness of labor organizations, and the sheer replaceability of
> workers by automated machines puts us in a terribly weak position.
> Is there no hope at all? One possibility is to promote a combination of
> shadow wages (a.k.a. tax credits) and social wages (direct subsidies) to
> promote the expansion of the Third Sector of community organizations that
> are neither governmental nor market-driven but offer those who work in
> them the social rewards of altruistic behavior. What is required, then,
> is nothing less than a cultural revolution which rejects the perception
> and celebration of behavior in purely political (power-driven) or economic
> (market-driven) terms.
> It's an interesting proposition about which anthropologists should, I would
> hope, have a good deal to say.
> John McCreery