The New Ruthless Economy: Work and Power in the Digital Age [NOOK Book]

Overview

In the great boom of the 1990s, top management's compensation soared, but the wages of most Americans barely grew. Here, Simon Head points to information technology as the prime cause of this growing wage disparity. Many economists, technologists, and business consultants have predicted that IT would liberate the work force, bringing self-managed work teams and decentralized decision making. Head argues that the opposite has happened. Reengineering, a prime example of how business processes have been ...
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The New Ruthless Economy: Work and Power in the Digital Age

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Overview

In the great boom of the 1990s, top management's compensation soared, but the wages of most Americans barely grew. Here, Simon Head points to information technology as the prime cause of this growing wage disparity. Many economists, technologists, and business consultants have predicted that IT would liberate the work force, bringing self-managed work teams and decentralized decision making. Head argues that the opposite has happened. Reengineering, a prime example of how business processes have been computerized, has instead simplified the work of middle and lower level employees and fenced them in with elaborate rules. Drawing upon ten years of research visiting work places across America, ranging from medical offices to machine tool plants, Head offers dramatic insight into the impact of information technology on the quality of working life in the United States.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Head, a former correspondent for the Financial Times and the New Statesman, here argues that the age of information technology and the "new economy" has not liberated workers from their daily tasks but instead forces them to work under more rules to perform their increasingly simple jobs. The author begins by reviewing Fredrick Taylor's work with scientific management and the assembly line. He then describes how modern-day automobile plants such as Nissan micromanage their employees' work flow down to regulating the time it takes to pick up a screw and install it. Head goes on to profile other areas, such as customer service and call centers where the employee's every move and word is scripted and all decision-making capability has devolved to computers and CRM software. The medical industry and HMOs fare no better as Head considers the concept of managerial medicine and how it affects doctors and patients. The author concludes by saying that the rate of a worker's real compensation (wages plus benefits) has fallen far below the rate of productivity in the past decade. Drawing on a decade of research, this provocative and thoughtful book is recommended for all academic libraries.-Stacey Marien, American Univ., Washington, DC Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher

"A welcome caution against believing all the claptrap we have heard about 'empowered' workplaces."--The New Leader

"As this hard-hitting book shows, most American companies have used information technology not to liberate workers from drudgery but to further their regimentation.... A sobering view of the new workplace."--Harvard Business Review

"If you're interested in the U.S. economy, you must read this book. It is full of fresh insights, meticulous reporting, and historical resonance. Simon Head shows us why the new economy is less new than we thought. Investors and policy makers will find reading this well-written analysis a memorable experience."--Bill Bradley

"This extraordinary book puts together the culture of modern capitalism with numbers and hard facts. Simon Head has written a disturbing and brilliant analysis of what ails the modern economy."--Richard Sennett, London School of Economics

"Head's acute and clearly presented book shows how innovations in software are making work more onerous and closely controlled. In each chapter, Head takes the reader to actual work sites employing 'technologies that are essentially human-proof,' i.e., in which personal choice is practically eliminated.... Head provides detailed and disturbing glimpses of how, to take only three examples, digital programs can be applied to assembling automobiles, running telephone centers, and managing medical care, with the result that wages decline and work becomes more tightly controlled."--Andrew Hacker, New York Review of Books

"A provocative call for the rehumanization of business and society, revolting against the impact of reengineering and massive information technology systems. Journalist Simon Head rationally gathers the evidence and presents the case against mass production."--Booklist

"Simon Head rightly criticizes the glib gurus who promote the mechanization of medical care. He appreciates that health care is full of inefficiencies, but that the quirky complexities of illness demand that each individual must always remain our central focus."--Jerome P. Kassirer, M.D., Editor in Chief Emeritus, New England Journal of Medicine

"Provocative and thoughtful."--Library Journal

"Simon Head's important book is sure to provoke a heated debate on the methods of modern enterprise. Can humans be programmed like machines? Head demolishes many of our illusions about information technology and argues powerfully that everyone loses when corporations try to use technology to conquer human nature."--Philip K. Howard, author of The Death of Common Sense: How Law Is Suffocating America and Chairman of Common Good

"Head is similarly tough on another New Economy conceit that underpins advocates' libertarian politics: the notion that high technology is democratizing the American workplace by flattening corporate hierarchies and boosting the knowledge content of jobs. Head's argument takes off from the simple but powerful observation that conditions in many tech-heavy workplaces look a lot more like those on the factory assembly lines of the 19th and early 20th centuries than like the sunny 21st century think tanks of the New Economy. Head asserts that corporate America's ambition to use technology to expand factory floor-like conditions extends well beyond the computer software mills and telephone call centers to the highest reaches of white-collar employment, including health care."--Los Angeles Times Book Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780198037163
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 11/6/2003
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 1,071,114
  • File size: 321 KB

Meet the Author

Simon Head is Director of the Project on Technology and the Workplace at the Century Foundation. He has been a correspondent for the Financial Times and the New Statesman, and his writings have also appeared in The New York Review of Books. He lives in New York City.

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Table of Contents

1 A new economy? 1
2 The roots of mass production 17
3 The past alive : automobiles 38
4 The rise of the reengineers 60
5 The customer relations factory 80
6 On the digital assembly line 100
7 The scientific management of life - and death : part 1 117
8 The scientific management of life - and death : part 2 136
9 Foucault's tower 153
10 The economics of unfairness 170
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