Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

Getting your just deserts

Posted by Charles II on September 30, 2012

Found on Huffington Post, this graph explains why work feels like a treadmill: it is.

We’re doing things more and more efficiently (meaning there’s less demand for labor), and all the credit for that since 1978 has gone to capital. Well, sure, capital is part of productivity, building plant and buying equipment. But people have increased their education and contributed on their own to working smarter. And I’m not just talking about Sam Walton and his (admittedly brilliant if sociopathic) improvement of the supply chain. Every dime of labor’s contribution to productivity has been sucked up by financialization. Life not only isn’t likely to get better. It hasn’t been getting better for over a generation.

2 Responses to “Getting your just deserts”

  1. MEC said

    I persist in my suspicion that the “increase in productivity” isn’t really an increase in productivity, at least not by the definition I learned in college: amount of work produced per worker per unit of time. It’s an increase in the amount of work squeezed out workers by making workers work longer hours. For many salaried workers, particularly in the computer industry, the 40-hour workweek is a dim and distant memory. Instead of hiring enough people to do the work, companies make their workforce do lots of unpaid overtime, and give the executives bonuses for cutting costs.

    • Charles II said

      Yes, part of these productivity gains represent the return of corvee labor. Which makes it all the more outrageous. But productivity has tripled. I would guess that unpaid work represents less than one quarter of the gains.

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