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The New Ruthless Economy: Work and Power in the Digital Age
     

The New Ruthless Economy: Work and Power in the Digital Age

by Simon Head
 

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"In the great boom of the 1990's, top management's compensation soared, but the wages of most Americans barely grew at all. This wages stagnation has baffled experts, but in The New Ruthless Economy, Simon Head points to information technology as the prime cause of this growing wage disparity. Many economists, technologists and business consultants have predicted

Overview

"In the great boom of the 1990's, top management's compensation soared, but the wages of most Americans barely grew at all. This wages stagnation has baffled experts, but in The New Ruthless Economy, 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, fenced them in with elaborate rules, and set up digital monitoring to make sure that the rules are obeyed. This is true even in such high-skill professions as medicine, where decision-making software in the hands of HMO's decides the length of a patient's stay in hospital and determines the treatments patients will or will not receive. In lower-skill jobs, such as in the call center industry, workers are subject to the indignity of scripting software that lays out the exact conversation, line by line, which agents must follow when speaking with customers. Head argues that these computer systems devalue a worker's experience and skill, and subject employees to a degree of supervision which is excessive and demeaning. The harsh and often unstable work regime of reengineering also undermines the security of employees and so weakens their bargaining power in the workplace. Drawing upon ten years of research visiting work places across America, ranging from medical offices to machine tool plants, Head offers dramatic insight intothe impact of information technology on the quality of working life in the United States."

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

"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."—Los Angeles Times Book Review

"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

"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

"Provocative and thoughtful."—Library Journal

"Acute and clearly presented."—New York Review of Books

"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

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780198037163
Publisher:
Oxford University Press
Publication date:
11/06/2003
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Sales rank:
730,981
File size:
337 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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