• The Future of Work: Neither Utopias nor Dystopias but New Fields of Accumulation and Struggle

  • Ursula Huws | 21 Feb 17 | Posted under: Contemporary Capitalism , Labour , Information Society
  • It is fanciful to presume that there are many Marxists who believe in an afterlife, so it is perhaps perverse to imagine Karl Marx sitting somewhere on a heavenly cloud, looking down at the world and contemplating the current state of the left. Nevertheless, if we suspend disbelief and give way to this fantasy, it is difficult not to imagine him giving out an exasperated sigh of frustration and disbelief at the collective amnesia that seems to make it impossible to learn from history.

    What he would see, from his fluffy white throne, much as he predicted, is the juggernaut of capitalism recovering from yet another of its recurrent crises, mightier than ever, leaving in its wake a trail of environmental and human devastation exponentially larger than the previous time. As after the crises of 1973 and the early 1990s, the crisis of 2007-8 unleashed a massive wave of destruction. Untold millions were wiped off the value of assets, both material and immaterial; production facilities were closed down; and hundreds of thousands of workers paid the cost: through the loss or downgrading of their jobs, the depreciation of their savings, and the penal effects of the government austerity policies legitimised by the crisis.

    Now that the dust is starting to settle, it is clear that capitalism is still alive and kicking. It has restructured itself, found new sites of accumulation and new markets, regained the upper hand over labour in sectors where organised workers were relatively strong and found new ways to subjugate both the working population and the reserve army. As is always the case, of course, it has not achieved this unconditionally. Each capitalist innovation requires workers to bring it into being and each process of restructuring launches new dialectics, from which spring new contradictions. But even the most ardent optimist must recognise that at this moment in history the workers of the world are far from united, and no revolution seems imminent.

    How can this be? What is it that gives capitalism this amazing ability to defy the apparent logic of the falling rate of return on profit and the saturation of global markets and reinvent itself in this phoenix-like way?

    I will argue in this article, as I have done on several occasions in the past since the 1970s, that capitalism survives at least in part by bringing new areas of life within its scope. But before examining this in detail, it is useful to examine some of the arguments that blinker thinking about the future of work, on the left as in the academic mainstream and in popular culture, rendering such developments so hard to discern as aspects of economic development.

    The future of work: terminological obfuscation, Utopias and Dystopias

    One obvious source of confusion is the obfuscating discourse about technology that tends to arise with each twist of the boom-and-bust cycle. New developments, by definition, do not come with a ready-made vocabulary to describe them. Neither will they be captured in official statistics, which are based on established categories. So the field is open for anyone – academic, journalist, consultant, politician, or corporate representative, from motives of curiosity, puzzlement, self-promotion or genuine worry – to invent new coinages and, in the absence of solid empirical evidence, make grandiose claims about the way that life will be transformed in the future as a result of the changes these catchphrases purport to describe.

    In the 1970s and early 1980s, the discourse was about ‘informatics’, ‘telematics’, ‘information superhighways’, an ‘information society’, or simply ‘new technology’. By the 1990s, these had been superseded by terms like the ‘knowledge-based economy’, ‘weightless economy’, ‘digital economy’, or just ‘new economy’. After the bursting of the dot-com bubble at the turn of the Millennium, these terms went out of fashion, only to be replaced, in the current era, by ‘platform economy’, ‘gig economy’, ‘sharing economy’, ‘network economy’, and the like.

    Each time, it has been claimed by some commentators that a new industrial revolution is underway (whether this is the second, third or fourth depends on the commentator’s world view) and that the traditional laws of economics no longer apply and must be reinvented for a new era. Each time, an unspoken assumption is made that this particular kind of progress is both inevitable and desirable and will bring with it a range of putative social and cultural benefits that, following a kind of cost-benefit analysis, are seen as outweighing any unpleasant side-effects of change.

    For some, especially those Marxists who were brought up to believe that science and progress were synonymous, each development brings us closer to a new post-capitalist world of leisure and bounty for all, in which labour can become creative and autonomous. Technology will release boundless increases in productivity, enabling us to meet our needs without back­breaking toil and releasing free time which can be shared equally throughout the population.

    Counterbalancing such Utopian scenarios are more negative ones, rooted in the realities of the impacts of automation on specific industries and jobs. Technologies are not simply adopted because they are there, but because they fulfil some particular function that is useful for their adopters. Under a capitalist system, especially one that is emerging from crisis, companies are seeking to restore profitability, and one of the most obvious ways to do this is to apply automation in areas where labour costs have historically been high, in order to increase productivity not to generate leisure but to restore profitability. Large companies that can afford to do so will thus typically use the latest technologies to target capital-intensive areas where workers are well paid, which is where the greatest savings are anticipated. Because good wages do not fall from the sky but are the results of past struggles, these are also likely to be the areas where workers are well organised and seen by capitalists as troublesome. Just as weavers were among those in the front line in the eighteenth century, so were printers and auto workers in the 1970s.

    These organised groups of skilled, reasonably well-paid workers, highly visible in the labour movement, are likely to be found in large concentrations, reflecting past spatial patterns of capitalist development: the weavers in those parts of Northern Britain where the first industrial revolution started; the auto workers clustered in cities like Detroit, Coventry and São Paulo, areas where the impact of their vanishing jobs is all too visible. Workers are also consumers, and analysts look at the decline of these cities and try to measure the economic loss. Then they look at the map of labour across the rest of the developed world (defined as it is by existing occupations in existing sectors) and (making assumptions based on the capabilities of the technologies they know about) extrapolate some more. Looms don’t buy clothes, they point out, and robots don’t buy cars. Automation will lead to a downward spiral of overproduction. Mass unemployment is upon us and with it will come a crisis for capitalist enterprises that have no consumers to purchase their products. Capitalism will implode, starved for lack of the market expansion it relies on to feed its insatiable appetite for growth.

    We are currently in the midst of just such debates. On one side are Utopian discourses about how the ‘sharing economy’ or ‘peer-to-peer networking’1 can bring a ‘world without work’2 in which services and goods (some self­manufactured on 3D printers) can be exchanged between individuals in cybernetically regulated decentralised markets on the basis of need. On the other are dire warnings from think-tank-based economists3 that large-scale unemployment is round the corner.

    These apparently polarised views in fact rest on similar misunderstandings. Both forecasts tend to be based on a somewhat blinkered vision, in which the known landscape of labour is assumed to be constant, with changes taking place only within its currently visible borders. As in the Utopian visions of André Gorz4 and Ivan Illich5 in the 1970s and 1980s, the labour that is envisaged by the techno-optimists as being available for sharing in the post-capitalist world is the labour that is currently paid, and visible in the statistics. Typically, the total number of hours worked across a national economy is taken as a basis for calculation, added up and then divided by the working-age population to give a reduced working week that is assumed to be all that is needed for everybody’s needs to be met. There is little or no mention of the unpaid reproductive labour that underpins this paid work. As I have written elsewhere6 ‘While Adam blogs, we must ask, who is cleaning the toilet?’ Both human needs and the existing division of labour are assumed to be frozen in time.

    A similar zero-sum-game logic underlies several features of the calculations of job losses that will result from automation. ‘Jobs’ are often assumed to be fixed and finite in number. Little account is taken of the restructuring that takes place up and down the value chain with each elaboration of the technical division of labour which, while causing job losses in some sites may create others elsewhere: for example, the mining of the raw materials, the manufacture of components and assembly of all those robots, drones and 3D printers that are going to make workers redundant; their design and testing and maintenance; the supply chain management and customer service; the logistics labour that will shunt them from factory to container ship to train to warehouse to customer. Not to mention the labour involved in maintaining and servicing the broader information infrastructure that supports and enables global value chains to function: the satellites, fibre optic cables, electrical power lines; the innumerable sockets, adaptors, chargers, screens, keyboards, smartphones, headsets, routers, batteries, and other paraphernalia, becoming detritus almost as quickly as they are purchased, requiring constant replacement. Then there is that labour, so often forgotten, of keeping it all clean.

    I speak now only of the physical labour related to existing manufacturing industries and the tools currently being introduced to transform them, but even here it quickly becomes apparent that dynamic processes are in play. New jobs are created as old ones are deskilled or destroyed but the new ones are not necessarily in the same places as the old ones, nor do they necessarily require similar skills. Restructuring may involve outsourcing work from one company or sector to another, or relocating it from one region or country to another, or both. These upheavals also change the spatial organisation of work, with new patterns of agglomeration and dispersal; new centripetal and centrifugal dynamics. While there is a tendency for capital-intensive functions requiring highly skilled people to be concentrated in specific locations, perhaps near centres of research and development, and for routine service functions to be dispersed, there is nothing inevitable about these patterns. The more that work is standardised and routinised, the easier it is for workers to be substituted for each other. Modularised tasks can be combined and recombined in multiple ways, rearranged like lego bricks into whatever configuration suits the employer best, in a wide spatial and contractual variety.

    New sites of capital accumulation

    Brutal though they may be in their impacts, such restructuring of existing industries may do little more than sustain past profit levels, by reducing the cost of labour and increasing the rate of exploitation. For capitalism to surge forward, it also needs new fields of accumulation. It needs to create new kinds of commodities from which it can make a profit. It could be said that it needs to engage in an ongoing process of what was originally translated into English by Marxists as ‘primitive accumulation’, a process of expropriation that David Harvey has rechristened ‘accumulation by dispossession’7 in what might be seen as a paraphrase of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon’s famous anarchist slogan ‘property is theft’8, with the noun made verb.

    The commodification of ‘nature’

    This concept is certainly appropriate for describing some of the many forms of accumulation of natural resources currently taking place across the globe and becoming the basis for new industries (and new employment). These include, at a scale visible from space, the seizure of land and the colonisation of ocean beds for resource extraction, plantation agriculture, or fish or cattle farming. Less visibly, but just as invidiously, they include the appropriation and manipulation and privatisation of the genetic ingredients of life to form new pharmaceuticals, patented seeds, and other bio products.

    The commodification of public services

    The concept of accumulation by dispossession is also useful for understanding another huge new site of accumulation for capital in the world today: the privatisation and commodification of public property or commons. In this process, publicly owned goods are seized and sold outright, and public services (having been rendered suitable for the purpose through standardisation) are put out for tender so they can be milked for profit by private companies. The first part of this process can be seen as the founding project of neoliberalism which, beginning in the 1980s started the sale of public assets, ranging from energy to transport infrastructure, from telecommunications networks to housing. This was given an enormous boost after 1989, when the vast national assets of formerly state capitalist or socialist economies were handed over to kleptocratic oligarchies. The second, which is growing exponentially, involves the outsourcing to private companies of services whose formal ownership remains public, or vested in the murky hands of public-private partnerships or other bodies whose complex constitutions shield them from direct scrutiny or accountability.9

    Some of the largest and fastest-growing corporations in the world today can attribute much of their growth to this source. They include former national incumbents, such as EDF, Telefonica, and DHL and companies that have grown fat on supplying outsourced services to governments, such as G4H, Serco, and Siemens Business Services, as well as accounting and consultancy firms that oil the wheels, such as Capgemini or Accenture.

    The extent to which this process creates new jobs is moot, but it is abundantly clear that it transforms the character of existing jobs, putting the workers directly under the control of capitalist organisations, subjecting them to capitalist discipline and precarising employment relations. Although they may at first – at least in Europe – be constrained by the terms of TUPE, the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations, 1981, or the resistance of the existing workforce, as time goes by transnational outsourcing companies are increasingly able to take advantage of the existence of a global reserve army of labour. For services that have to be carried out locally (such as cleaning, care work, security services, or driving) they can recruit migrant workers. For those that can be carried out remotely (such as IT services, call centres or processing tax returns) they can use global sourcing practices to get the work carried out in developing economies where labour is cheaper.

    The commodification of private services

    Public services are by no means the only new field of accumulation being seized on by capitalists right now. Private services represent another huge opportunity. Perhaps because they have so often in the past been carried out mainly by people working as domestic servants or petty traders, services such as domestic cleaning, gardening, childcare, and household maintenance have been somewhat neglected in the past by economists, and socialists have often assumed that they are dying out, along with other pre-capitalist forms of employment, although feminists have drawn attention to the ways in which women have been able to enter the workforce on more or less equal terms with men in developed economies only because low-paid migrant women have been available to carry out their reproductive work.10

    Now, thanks to online platforms such as Handy, Uber, and Helpling, such labour can be captured by capitalists to bring it within the direct orbit of capitalism, with companies typically taking a 20-25% cut from each transaction. Meanwhile, tasks are standardised and workers disciplined by means of tools that individual customers would be hesitant to use directly. The experience for the service workers drawn into this new labour market is analogous to that of other workers sucked for the first time into direct capitalist relationships in the past. In some respects the autonomous window­cleaner going from door to door with a ladder is not unlike a pre-capitalist craft worker hawking his products directly to the final customer. The online platform that engages that window-cleaner’s services in the twenty-first century has many features in common with the factory-owner who decided in the eighteenth century to centralise production in one place in order to control it better. The work is formalised and disciplined but – until the workers manage to organise to mitigate this – remains highly precarious. For those who previously provided such services independently, there is a clear loss of autonomy, but for newcomers to the labour market new opportunities are opened up to obtain work without the slow effort of building a personal reputation (perhaps rooted in networks of friends and family). The desperate migrant can come to the online platform now, just as earlier generations came from the reserve army to the plantation or the factory gate, to seek an entry point into the capitalist labour market11 to trade time and labour for subsistence.

    There are other similarities too between new forms of capitalist organisation, like online platforms, and their earlier predecessors. Just as in the early days of the first industrial revolution it was common for workers to be expected to provide their own tools and, sometimes, pay for the space in which they worked, capitalists in the new ‘platform economy’ also avoid tying their money up in depreciating assets, often expecting workers to invest in their own means of production: Uber drivers, for example, are expected to provide their own cars, sometimes even being obliged to take out a loan from the company to purchase one of a suitable standard; workers carrying out digitised tasks online for platforms like Upwork or Amazon Mechanical Turk are expected to provide their own laptops.

    The commodification of art and culture

    The formalisation of the informal economy carried out with the help of online platforms, must, then, be added to the commodification of public services and the commodification of natural resources as a means whereby capital finds new sites of accumulation. But these are not the only means by which capitalism extends its scope into areas of life that were previously beyond its reach. Its tentacles also stretch into personal life, including the body itself (in the form, for example, of cosmetic surgery or performance­enhancing drugs) and into sociality, art and culture.

    Sometimes this is done by the time-honoured method of simple theft – of people’s ideas, music, art, or cultural heritage – which are copied, patented, or copyrighted, much like the DNA of plants, and used to form the basis of new, replicable commodities. Sometimes, rather like public services or informal service work, artistic activities that in the past existed outside, or on the fringes of, capitalist social relations are brought more firmly within them, in the process changing the nature of artistic labour. In the twenty-first century it is increasingly difficult to participate in any form of creative activity without engaging directly or indirectly with multinational corporations.

    In its most apparently arms-length form this can be seen in the corporate patronage which is seemingly necessary to put on any opera, ballet, concert, or major art exhibition in most of the world’s cities. But often it is more direct. There has been a massive concentration of capital in what were in the twentieth century a series of separate industries producing films, recorded music, games, television, newspapers, and books which have merged into giant global conglomerates. Walt Disney, Time Warner, Reed Elsevier, Thomson Reuters, Sony, and Comcast are among the world’s largest companies, with interests that cross these and other fields. The value chains that produce their products are as elaborate as those in other production industries with, for example, animation carried out in Vietnam, copy­editing in India, digital special effects in Argentina, or post-production in Canada. Many paid workers are likely to be employed by subcontractors, for the duration of a single project, working long hours under precarious conditions. Others will be working without payment as interns, supposedly gaining work experience. Other creative workers are self-employed. If they still craft physical objects then they are likely to be driven increasingly to online marketplaces, such as Etsy, to sell them, in competition with millions of others from around the globe. Alternatively they may seek corporate patrons or turn to crowdfunding platforms to try to raise the money for particular projects, requiring them to specify in advance what it is they want to make, and ‘pitch’ the idea, a process they will also have to go through if they want to apply for one of the increasingly rare public grants available to artists.

    Many writers, musicians, and other creative workers have traditionally earned, not a wage, but an income from royalties, based on the number of sales of their books, records or DVDs, or ‘residuals’ based on the number of times films or videos to which they have contributed are shown. Traditionally, this has meant a commonality of interest between the artist and the publisher or producer. Once the percentage distribution has been agreed, then both parties have an interest in selling as many copies as possible, at the highest possible price. In the digital era this common interest has broken down. Power has shifted from the companies that produce individual artistic products (such as vertically integrated book publishers or record companies) to those that distribute them. Corporations like Amazon and Apple that distribute electronic books and digitised music also sell the hardware to access them (the Kindle, the iPad etc.) and therefore have an interest in making as much content as possible available at the lowest price. This meshes with the expectation that content will be freely available to download from the Internet to put strong downward pressure on prices. The result is that, apart from a small minority of big stars, creative workers struggle to make a subsistence income from their work. Many, indeed, produce without pay, hoping that the videos they upload to the Internet, the ebooks they self-publish, or the blogs they write will generate a small income from advertising, or occasional requests to perform in person or ghost-write for others. Apart from the large distributors, a host of smaller companies make a rent from their activities (for example internet service providers, software producers, blog hosting companies) but the creative workers themselves are increasingly driven, like the self-employed cleaners, drivers, and gardeners and other service workers, into the arms of the online platforms, where they have to bid, against global competition, to carry out standardised ‘taskified’ creative tasks, be it designing a logo, translating a manuscript, retouching a photograph, or producing copy for a website.

    What about the academy? Does this not still provide a space for independent intellectual and cultural activity? Can creative workers not survive by teaching? Alas, the modern university is not immune to the tendencies affecting the rest of the economy. Indeed it can be seen as playing a critically important role in nurturing the expansion of capitalism. Its research is often the cutting edge of this expansion, scouting out new aspects of the natural and social world that are capable of becoming the basis of new commodities, with many departments little more than public-subsidised R&D departments for global corporations. Its teaching is on the one hand expropriated, used for content for commodified courses and, on the other, like so many other activities, intensified, routinised, and standardised, managed by performance indicators (sometimes set by student ratings).

    In short, the spaces in which independent artists and intellectuals can survive economically are shrinking dramatically. Creative workers must increasingly choose between becoming links in the value chains of global corporations (with all the ethical, creative, and intellectual compromises this implies) and penury.

    The commodification of human sociality

    As we move into less tangible areas of human sociality, perhaps, the metaphor of ‘accumulation by dispossession’ is less apt. It is clear that the development of social media has generated yet another huge new area of accumulation out of forms of – often apparently trivial – human activity that were previously outside the market, ranging from remembering the birthdays of relatives to finding a date. Surely, some will argue, this is not so much an example of capitalism snatching and grabbing elements of personal lives as of people voluntarily offering them up for exploitation in return for the use values they produce. Although some online companies are directly producing commodities, or contributing to their development, others make most of their income from various forms of rentier activities,12 with their business models depending variously on selling advertising, reselling their users’ data, or taking a percentage cut from each transaction carried out on their platforms.

    Whether or not we regard this as ‘dispossession’, it is clear that a great deal of accumulation is taking place and, with it, a large amount of employment is created. The highly visible direct employment of staff at the headquarters of companies like Google and Facebook is just the tip of the iceberg here. Tens of thousands of other jobs are created under the radar of public visibility, carrying out the hidden housework of the Internet, much of this labour devoted to tasks generally believed to be carried out by algorithms, the ‘artificial artificial intelligence’ offered to their corporate customers by platforms like Amazon Mechanical Turk (named after an eighteenth century chess-playing machine that purported to be intelligent but was in fact operated by a hidden human player). Human labour of this type is employed for a wide range of tasks including moderating content (deciding which images of child abuse, beheadings, bestiality, or other horrors should be taken down from the Internet), manually adjusting Google ratings, tagging photographs, clicking ‘like’ on political or corporate websites, or matching workers with potential clients. There is also human labour involved in designing and updating websites, editing video clips, moderating online chatrooms and games and a myriad other online tasks. Those who forecast, in the 1990s, that the Internet would be a net displacer of labour from other sectors could hardly have been more wrong.


    It can be concluded that concerns that the overall quantity of employment around the globe will fall, or that capitalism will collapse, as a result of the latest convulsions of restructuring, are misplaced. However, this does not mean that there will not be dramatic reductions in employment in particular areas. As in the past, it seems likely that the main impacts of these will fall on skilled, organised workers who have formerly managed to negotiate decent wages and working conditions. The new jobs created are much more likely to be precarious, low-paid, and located in parts of the world without strong traditions of labour organising. The impacts, in other words, are much more strongly qualitative than quantitative.

    This raises a sharp lesson for the labour movements of the developed world: a resurfacing in a particularly accentuated form of what might be termed the problem of the reserve army of labour. This problem, posed simply, is that the existence of a reserve army pits worker against worker: the organised insiders can only defend their relatively privileged working conditions, for which they have fought long and hard, by insisting that no new workers are admitted to the group on conditions that undercut these negotiated conditions. In practice, this often means excluding outsiders altogether. The outsiders, meanwhile, are forced by desperation to seek whatever employment they can find on whatever terms are on offer.

    When Marx and Engels were writing, the reserve army was largely a local one. Capitalists seeking cheaper labour for their factories looked to incomers from the surrounding countryside, or the unemployed living in the slums of their cities, although they did also make use of the labour of women and children to undercut men’s wages and of immigrant labour when it was available. In the colonies it was, of course, a different story, with slave, coolie, and plantation labour supplying the imperial heartlands with cheap goods and raw materials.

    Nevertheless, in the mid-twentieth century, in most developed countries it was possible to resolve this contradiction (albeit imperfectly) at a national level, by creating welfare states that generalised decent basic standards across the entire population, making possible a degree of solidarity between insiders and outsiders. Recognising that trade unions and social democratic parties represented the interests of the whole working class, and with a level of social protection that protected them from absolute destitution, workers who were unemployed or in precarious jobs were, on the whole, able to resist directly undercutting their more fortunate counterparts in well-organised workplaces, or could be prevented from doing so. Although, of course, things were far from perfect, and many, especially women and immigrant workers, found themselves positioned in inferior positions in the labour market, some social cohesion could be sustained.

    Since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, which can be regarded as the symbolic inauguration of whole-world globalisation, such cosy national compromises have started to unravel. There is now a global reserve army of labour that can be accessed in two ways: by sending work abroad, or by importing migrant workers to carry it out. Each wave of restructuring shakes out more of the ‘insiders’ and enables capitalists to draw more freely on the labour of this growing reservoir.

    To regard the members of this reserve army as part of a permanent ‘precariat’ is in my view a mistake. All the evidence suggests that, once locked into capitalist labour relations, workers begin to resist, to combine, to organise and to make and win demands that lead to greater security, higher earnings and other improvements in their situation. Unorganised workers are part of an organised workforce in the making (even though this may make them, a couple of generations down the line, the targets for new waves of deskilling and undercutting).

    Nevertheless, the current wave of restructuring, in combination with austerity problems, is creating a serious crisis of solidarity in the working class in the short term, one whose effects are already all-too visible in the rise in xenophobia evidenced in recent election results in Austria and France and in the Brexit referendum in the UK, which can be read in part as a cry of despair from redundant formerly organised industrial workers who feel abandoned and betrayed by the social democratic parties in which they placed their trust in the past, their anger redirected by right-wing populist parties and the toxic mass media not at the global corporations that are their real enemies but at the desperate members of the reserve army who are their fellow victims but whose immediate interests have been opposed to theirs, objectively speaking, by the ways in which capitalist labour markets operate.

    The challenge confronting the left in Europe right now is to reconstruct that solidarity and build a manifesto of hope that can unite the past and present insiders with the outsiders in the labour market. This can only be done if trade unions look beyond representing the interests of their current members to the broader interests of the entire population. What should these demands be? They will of course have to be worked out in detail in dialogue with political parties of the left and representatives of the affected communities but should almost certainly include increased investment in health, social care, education, and housing; raised minimum wages (expressed in a formula that allows it to be applied to workers paid by the task as well as weekly or hourly paid workers); a universal basic income (or at least reform of the social protection system to ensure that nobody is ever so destitute as to be forced into whatever work is available); reductions in working hours; paid leave; and support for worker cooperatives. Such demands may be difficult to sell to the membership (who, understandably, see the purpose of trade unions as representing their paid-up members), but unless they can be achieved there is a real risk of seeing all past gains destroyed in a mass outbreak of xenophobic rage. In an era of globalisation we need international solidarity along the length of global value chains; but we also need local solidarity, on each spot on the planet that constitutes a unit of government.


    1. See for instance Michel Bauwens (2006) ‘The Political Economy of Peer Production’, Ctheory.Net.

    2. See for example Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams, Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work, London: Verso, 2015, and Paul Mason, PostCapitalism: A Guide to Our Future, London: Penguin, 2015.

    3. See for example the reports from the Oxford Martin Programme on the Impacts of Future Technology by Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne, The Future of Employment: How Susceptible are Jobs to Computerisation?, 2013, and from the European Bruegel Thinktank, The computerisation of European jobs, 2014.

    4. André Gorz, Paths to Paradise: On the Liberation from Work, London: Pluto Press, 1985 and Farewell to the Working Class, London: Pluto Press, 1982.

    5. Ivan Illich, Tools for Conviviality, London: Marion Boyars, 1973 and Gender, New York: Pantheon Books, 1982.

    6. Ursula Huws ‘When Adam blogs: cultural work and the gender division of labour in Utopia’, The Sociological Review, Volume 63 (2015), Issue Supplement, pp. 157-173.

    7. David Harvey, ‘The “New” Imperialism: Accumulation by Dispossession’, Socialist Register 40 (2004), pp. 63-87.

    8. Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, What is Property? Or, an Inquiry into the Principle of Right and of Government, 1840, Donald R. Kelley and Robin G. Smith (eds), Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994.

    9. I have written at greater length about these processes in Ursula Huws ‘The new gold rush: the new multinationals and the commodification of public sector work’, Work Organisation, Labour and Globalisation Volume 2 No 2 (2008), pp. 1-8, and ‘Crisis as Capitalist Opportunity: New Accumulation Through Public Service Commodification’, Socialist Register, 2012, pp. 80-107.

    10. See for example Barbara Ehrenreich and Arlie Russel Hochschild, Global Woman: Nannies, Maids and Sex Workers in the New Economy, New York: Henry Holt, 2004, and Brigitte Young, ‘The “Mistress” and the “Maid” in the Globalized Economy’, Socialist Register, Vol 37 (2001), pp. 315-327.

    11. I have discussed platform labour more fully in several research reports and articles. See for instance Ursula Huws, The Future of Work: Crowdsourcing, Report to the EU-OSHA, 2015 and Ursula Huws, ‘Logged labour: a new paradigm of work organisation?’, Work Organisation, Labour and Globalisation, Vol 10, No 1 (2016).

    12. I have discussed this at greater length in Ursula Huws, ‘The Underpinnings of Class in the Digital Age: Living, Labour and Value’, Socialist Register Vol 50 (2014), pp. 80-107. 

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