Harvard Educational Review
  1. The Jobless Future

    Sci-Tech and the Dogma of Work

    By Stanley Aronowitz and William DiFazio

    Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1994. 392 pp. $24.95; $17.95 (paper).

    The Jobless Future is an ominous title for a volume that reveals the larger social and economic forces that have come to exploit science and technology to further separate workers from employers. Coauthors Stanley Aronowitz and William DiFazio, however, do not merely issue a warning; they extend their book with a detailed discussion of "alternatives to the long wave of the job culture as the substitution for the good life" (p. 10). In this discussion, they bring up topics often taboo in the current neoconservative political climate such as "regulating capital" (p. 349) and "a guaranteed income" (p. 353). Aronowitz and DiFazio are not suggesting massive social "welfare" within the current derogatory capitalistic interpretation. They go beyond limited and dehumanizing job culture concepts that define existence only in terms of current or past employment to propose social changes based on "justice" in which human pursuits of "pleasure" will be shared by all, rather than only those who can afford it. In this thoroughly researched and very readable volume, Aronowitz and DiFazio take the reader from present popular constructions of the relationships between science, technology, and work to their picture of a more socially just economic existence.

    In Part One, "Technoscience and Joblessness," The Jobless Future offers a discussion of the dynamic relationship between work and technology within a capitalist system. Aronowitz and DiFazio open with a historical review of this relationship, and then move to a discussion of the current impact technology has had and will continue to have on skilled labor in the first three chapters. They continue with two detailed examples in "The Computerized Engineer and Architect," which looks at the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and "The Professionalized Scientist," which focuses on high-level molecular biology research. The authors meld historical research with ethnography and interviews in a highly engaging story of several individuals currently practicing in these jobs.

    In Part Two, "Contours of a New World," Aronowitz and DiFazio discuss in clear and straightforward terms the relationships between the class structure in the U.S. socioeconomic context and the forces of technoscience. This section is laid out in three chapters: "Contradiction of the Knowledge Class," "Unions and the Future of Professional Work," and "A Taxonomy of Teacher Work." In "Contradiction," they address the role of intellectuals and intellectualism in the United States and how these interpretations reflect U.S. socioeconomic ideology. Aronowitz and DiFazio discuss historical development of these roles and juxtapose them with current trends. In "Unions," Aronowitz and DiFazio provide some history about the role of unions and discuss how this role is linked to the class system in the United States. In "Taxonomy," they analyze their present situations as professors and offer themselves as subjects of inquiry within their constructions of social relations.

    In Part Three, "Beyond the Catastrophe," Aronowitz and DiFazio turn to popular culture as a self-reflection of U.S. class structure. In their chapter "The Cultural Construction of Class," they analyze three nationally released feature films. The authors produce an insightful argument that interweaves issues of gender, race, and ethnicity into their discussion of class relations. In "Capital Investment and Job Reduction," the authors connect unemployment and joblessness to the current U.S. capitalistic economic and social framework. In the final chapter, "The Jobless Future?" Aronowitz and DiFazio propose an alternative view to the relationships between work and the individual. They begin this chapter by analyzing the dominant ideological perception that joblessness is the fault of those that are jobless:

    Even when one-third of the U.S. labor force was officially unemployed throughout the 1930s, and many workers were put on short-time schedules, they still blamed themselves for their joblessness; the conventional wisdom, shaken for more than a decade but not displaced, was that there was "always" plenty of work for those who wanted it. (p. 329)

    From here, Aronowitz and DiFazio shape an alternative vision of work and its relationship to human identity and civil society. They conclude with an idealistic vision informed by the realities of modernity and technology. The authors also discuss an alternative vision, which we are currently moving towards, that is replete with the dehumanization of all who are employed by those who employ.

    In The Jobless Future, Aronowitz and DiFazio counter the myopic view most commonly expressed by politicians and the popular press that concentrates on large statistics such as unemployment percentages and ignores the underlying relationships between workers and employers. They uncover and analyze the forces that create the social conditions that we as individuals must deal with in our lives, but often do not understand and feel powerless to change. In their roles as educators through authorship, Aronowitz and DiFazio opened my eyes and my mind to a more conscious view of the social and economic currents the run through my life as I progress in my career pursuits. All the while, they bring to bear the relationships between class, gender, race, and ethnicity in their analysis of these forces.

    Throughout this entire volume, I consistently found connections between the issues in The Jobless Future and my position as a teacher. Aronowitz and DiFazio discussed issues I realized my students should know as they begin to navigate their way through their educational experiences, such as the interrelationships between race, gender, ethnicity, and social class that will likely play a role in their future job prospects. They also discuss the impact that technology and capitalism are having on the job market. In "The Professionalized Scientist," Aronowitz and DiFazio's honest portrayal of high-level research in molecular biology and how capital investment in scientific research shapes this research's focus reflects the impact that a capitalist social framework has had on a type of work that was once at least partially insulated from these forces. As an undergraduate and graduate student in condensed matter and nuclear physics, I have had some experience with high-level scientific research. The authors' portrayal of scientific research has helped me to become more conscious of the trends I had seen developing during my years as a student. The authors' frame of reference and analytical framework has helped me develop a better understanding of science in a capitalistic society, which I wish I had had when I was teaching high school physics in order to answer my students' question, "Why is this stuff important?" For teachers who believe that teaching is more than content and schedules, and who wish to develop stronger connections between subject matter and their students' aspirations for the future, The Jobless Future is an essential read. For educators interested in how education is linked to jobs from a point of view outside of the current hegemonic socioeconomic frame of reference found in the popular press, Aronowitz and DiFazio propose an alternative framework for understanding our positions as educators in relation to work.

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    Book Notes

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    Edited by Jacqueline Jordan Irvine and Michèle Foster

    The Jobless Future
    By Stanley Aronowitz and William DiFazio

    Learning as a Way of Being
    By Peter B. Vaill

    The Other Angels
    By Patricia L. Walsh

    Reversing Underachievement Among Gifted Black Students
    By Donna Y. Ford

    The Timetables of Women's History
    By Karen Greenspan

    Migrancy, Culture, Identity
    By Iain Chambers

    Pushing Boundaries
    By Olga A. Vasquez, Lucinda Pease-Alvarez, and Sheila M. Shannon

    Focus Group Interviews in Education and Psychology
    By Sharon Vaughn, Jeanne Shay, and Jane Sinagub

    The New Second Generation
    Edited by Alejandro Portes