I entered the legal workforce in 1961. I write “legal” because in New York State at that time one could not legally be an employee before age 16. (I’d been mowing lawns, but that operated under the legal radar.) When I got my first gas-pumping job, I was introduced to NYS labor law and its various protections. The ones I recall were a minimum wage, a limit on how many hours I could work (since I was a minor), and (had I not been a minor) a requirement for one 24-hour period off out of each week. There were probably others as well.
What I’m getting at is that there doesn’t need to be a new operating system–there needs to be a legal framework that sets minimal standards for employer behavior and employee protection, along with a legal environment that permits workers to organize to deal with matters that government is not well-suited to addressing. In the current environment, employers set (and set aside) work schedules to suit themselves, limit or expand hours, or dump permanent employees altogether and outsource to temp agencies whose contractor status short-circuits the need for benefits or job security. The “gig economy” is just a romantic-bullshit rebranding of underemployment and the joys of day labor.
I don’t agree with the arricle’s general thrust, either, but on this point I believe that the author is referring to the relatively recent rise of wage labor as the primary labor form. Prior to the industrial revolution, the overwhelming majority of people earned their keep through agricultural labor, and wages for more specialized work were generally not calculated to the hour as they are now. There were some precedents but they never covered the globe as the current system does now.
Additionally, while old trade networks and production methods may have been prolific in their day, their scale is dwarfed by orders of magnitude by today’s economy.
I am not taking issue with the origin of wage labour, which in part depends on how we define ‘wage’ and ‘labour’ as @dragonfrog said such things were mentioned in the Bible–so not all that new. And I am in no doubt that there is a wide range of definitions in circulation among historians.
My issue is with the assertion that trade was small and localised [quote=“pesco, post:1, topic:70472”]
Before wage labour, we produced, traded, and invented things, but it was mostly localized and on a small scale.
That is just a statement out of thin air with no basis in history. And when intellectuals perpetuate the idea that somehow the world use to be oh so small and provincial while now suddenly people and goods are in motion, it annoys me endlessly.
The gig-economy is overblown. Tech reporters and blogs always imagine it is the wave of the future because getting hired and paid for a single isolated task where you work when you want/need to and then face a period of uncertainty of the next gig is precisely how they work. It is a form of excited naval gazing. “Yeah, this kind of sucks… but it is the next big thing! I’m sure of it! I’m ahead of the curve!”
Most jobs have institutional knowledge: who has the keys for which closet has the mop and bucket, which cover sheet to put on the TPS reports, where the crash cart is located in the ICU, which accounts you bill shipping from so and so too. It is why there are so many jobs that won’t hire you if you tell them that in 6 months you will be moving to start graduate school.
All of American law and case history and IRS regulations say unequivocally that Uber drivers are employees. Uber says they are not. It’s a “debate” the way climate science is a “debate.”
And this one particularly makes me mad, because back when I did taxes, I had clients whose bosses robbed them in the same way. Instead of a refund, they got a tax bill. The SSA has a form you can fill out to request an investigation, and they never ever used it.
But this new operating system for coordinating human activities and creating new kinds of value could also be riddled with catastrophic bugs, pushing large swaths of the population to labor at subsistence levels, with no benefits and little predictability over their earning streams.
From what I understand, these are features of capitalism, not bugs.
I think that may need to be more than just rephrased. Who are you regulating and who are they organizing to deal with? If you sell something on ebay, that doesn’t make you a retail worker employee where someone at ebay is your boss.
If you make a living off of a combination of selling stuff on multiple online marketplaces, running errands, doing tasks for people, getting fees through patreon-like sites and kickstarter-like sites and donations elsewhere, selling your music on bandcamp, renting out your spare room, and sometimes driving people around, who is this employer that you want to regulate and organize and deal with?
Daaksyde: You have just described “self-employment” and “freelancing,” both of which I spent the last half of my working life doing. Though the second paragraph has also been called “scuffling.” Or, more often, “hand to mouth.” (We oldsters were quite capable of analyzing the world of work and providing descriptive terms long before hipsters decided to rebrand the world via a bunch of half-thought-out IT metaphors.)
I wasn’t assuming that, except for in the broadest sense that employment is something people can critique and change in deliberate ways. Most of the criticism I get is that this is not the case, regardless of the specifics.