"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Monday, April 10, 2017

A Gig Economy Is A Rigged Economy

A hundred years ago U. S. corporate elites were embarked upon a new "scientific efficiency" movement that would use discriminatory tests and mass schooling to sift, sort, and deliver white workers into rote factory and office jobs that were engineered to maximize profits, deskill employees, and, thus, to serve up to the vast industrial efficiency engine a never-ending supply of human energy.  Despite the efforts of the economic elites, workers fought tooth and nail during the ensuing decades for dignity, wages, and bargaining rights.

By the 1970s, however, a new generation of efficiency zealots had come up with a new plan to quash a rising middle class that posed a threat to the exploitative practices that had built the fortunes of American elites.  Where automation could not be used to replace factory workers, the factories, themselves, would be taken apart and shipped to the Far East where American goods would be made and shipped back to the U. S.  Organized labor would be forced into wage concessions, millions of jobs would be lost, and income inequality would soar.

Now fifty years after the beginning of the great foreign migration of U. S. company jobs and the crushing of the American middle class, the new high priests of the church of "scientific management" are located in Silicon Valley, and they have devised another scheme to eliminate the remaining full-time jobs that still have benefits and retirement plans of any kind.  It's called the Gig Economy, whereby those outside the protection of corporate offices and corporate government offices are expected to spend their lives beating the bushes for one "gig" or another to pay the rent and to buy the kids some shoes.  As for as company benefits or retirement benefits?  Who needs retirement benefits when no one doing any these uber-esque jobs of the corporate dystopian future is ever expected to retire but, rather, just die somewhere between gigs, hopefully.

And, of course, what would such a creepy futuristic dystopia be without an education plan to prop up the master narrative?  And so we have the "gig" equivalent of the education establishment now being touted by Silicon Valley slickologists employed by Gates, Zuckerberg, Dell, etc., whereby children and young adults do not educationally prepare for careers but are expected to spend a lifetime paying to acquire "digital badges" that guarantee that persons holding them have been deemed proficient by passing a computerized test after being instructed by a digital "smart tutor," which never forgets, by the way, learner strengths and their weaknesses.

Teachers and professors?  Who needs them, now that we have learning algorithms and all the data they need to guide future learning.  And that data, too, are the kind that the Uberites' HR offices need to judge "gig" worker fitness for the tasks that must be efficiently completed in order to sustain productivity and grow profitability.

It is interesting to see that the New York Times is finally starting to perk up about the threat of the Gig Economy and its fallout.  Sadly, the Times seems to think that unionizing the Uber-sters of the world might provide some relief against a system that has to be entirely demolished before it grows any more roots and tentacles.  Organizing Uber-sters is as dubious a solution as suggesting that the starving academic sharecroppers we know as adjunct faculty should unionize.  What could they ever demand that would alter the dehumanization that defines their jobs?  Is there any dignity that can result from an entirely exploitative relationship?  Is slavery negotiable?


  1. Charter teachers as well. Are you on Twitter Jim Horn?

  2. Wow. Just...wow... That certainly puts it all into stark relief. Scary. Seems like the only thing to be done is to form cooperatives. We need democratic socialism.