Smart Machines and Service Work

Automation in an Age of Stagnation

Jason E. Smith

Smart Machines and Service Work

Jason E. Smith

Distributed for Reaktion Books

192 pages | 5 1/4 x 8 1/4
Cloth $20.00 ISBN: 9781789143188 Published December 2020 For sale in North and South America only
In recent decades digital devices have reshaped daily life, while tech companies’ stock prices have thrust them to the forefront of the business world. In this rapid, global development, the promise of a new machine age has been accompanied by worries about accelerated joblessness thanks to new forms of automation. Jason E. Smith looks behind the techno-hype to lay out the realities of a period of economic slowdown and expanding debt: low growth rates and an increase of labor-intensive jobs at the bottom of the service sector. He shows how increasing inequality and poor working conditions have led to new forms of workers’ struggles. Ours is less an age of automation, Smith contends, than one in which stagnation is intertwined with class conflict.
Review Quotes
Tony Smith | Brooklyn Rail
"One of the very best books on the social consequences of technological change I have read, far more insightful than the technology books that get so much attention in the mainstream press."
Morning Star
"In his book Smart Machines and Service Work, Smith offers a reality check to the effects of automation in an age of stagnated production and wages. . . . Workers usurped from administrative as well as industrial roles have recomposed themselves on behalf of service industries as a massively expanded, desiccated and low-paid servant class, the new 'precariat.' . . . Smith dials up his Marx to probe several fascinating and troubling effects of this current dynamic."
Socialist Standard
"One thing that has puzzled academic economists is why, given the spread in recent years of IT, AI, and automation generally, productivity has hardly gone up. In Smart Machines and Service Work: Automation in an Age of Stagnation, Smith offers an explanation which also challenges those like Paul Mason who see a society of abundance and leisure as in the process of gradually evolving."
Fred Moseley, professor of economics, Mount Holyoke College, author of "Money and Totality"
"A novel and persuasive explanation of why the technological advances of the computer age have been accompanied by a significant slowdown in productivity growth, with an increasing proportion of the labor force in low productivity—and low paid—service industries. This well-written book should be of interest to everyone who wants to understand—and end—the 'near depression' of the US economy."
Tony Smith, professor of philosophy, Iowa State University, author of "Technology and Capital in the Age of Lean Production"
"The technological advances of the last four decades have brought only insignificant productivity gains. This 'productivity paradox' remains an abiding mystery in mainstream economics. Smith removes the mystery, explaining how rates of investment, economic growth, and real wage increases have been abysmally low not despite capitalism's technological dynamism, but because of it. This important book should be read by anyone interested in the social consequences of technological change today."
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