These days, workers are expected to be on call 24/7—24 hours per day, seven days per week. Seen in this light, innovations like flexi-time or working from home are in fact strategies to bring new sorts of workers—mostly women—into the job market and to subject them to a new set of (frequently electronic) rules and controls.
Think about it. Fifteen years ago, would you have taken a job if you had to be available every day, respond to messages from your boss late at night, and maintain contact with the office while on vacation? But today just about any job, especially the good ones, exhibit precisely this oppressive 24/7 character. At the same time technology has redefined labor into assembly-line piecework and new gadgets have allowed our less inviting piecework tasks to follow us home, filling family time, distracting our leisure time. Innovative machines bind us more tightly to our jobs while forcing us to work longer hours.
Historian Jackson Lears said in a recent interview, “Whatever the color of your collar, your job may still be ‘proletarian’ to the extent that management controls the pace, process, and output of your work.”
Corporate executives urge a drive toward efficiency—efficiency that can be best defined as low wages. Technology in the workplace holds out the promise of more time, but as we have seen, increased productivity— more output; fewer hours—benefits only the bottom lines of corporate profits wrung from the decreased cost of labor. High-tech machines enable fewer workers to do more while transforming complex artisanal tasks into piecework. Americans love to shop for bargain commodities, of course, but corporations also shop for labor, and modern technology and communication force workers to compete with lower-paid counterparts in Singapore, India, and China. Even here in the United States, an auto assembly job that pays $28 an hour in Michigan will pay half that in South Carolina. The workplace is being transformed by technologies deployed by corporations in the pursuit of efficiencies, increased productivity, and increased profit. “Productivity Hits All-Time High” may be a pleasing headline to the employing class , but Less-in/More-out is scarcely good news for workers.
Automation not only displaces jobs but change the very character of work itself. This may result in the alienated working class taking revolt but, fearful and discontented, they may also well turn toward authoritarian, simple-solution demagogue leaders expousing contempt for democracy and nationalistic xenophobia. This is already happening in the United States where state legislatures are bearing down on workers' rights and immigrants.
Socialists have to counter with a real alternative to wage-slavery. John Ruskin wrote, “In order that people may be happy in their work, three things are needed. They must be fit for it. They must not do too much of it. And they must have a sense of success in it.”
Taken from here