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“Elites” in technology… June 14, 2011

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy.
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A genuinely strange realityBYTES column in the Sunday Business Post a week or so back by Adrian Weckler recently which engages with the concept of technology and elites. He argues the following:

There’s an old joke where an aspirational mother appeals for help, shouting: ‘‘Help! My son, the barrister, is drowning!” The joke wouldn’t work if you substituted the words ‘IT engineer’ or ‘Java programmer’ for ‘barrister’. IT, computers, science, engineering and industrial design do not meet the requirements of snob mothers and fathers of Ireland.

This is despite their relatively high earning potential compared to jobs in the ‘professions’. In Ireland, studying medicine, law or architecture is more ‘respectable’ and an indication of ‘the right sort of person’ than jobs that entail fiddling about with nuts, bolts, transformers or code.

This, more than any other factor, is why the future of Irish technology will depend on multinationals handing us diagram schematics and telling us where to insert the diodes.

It’s not that there is someone or something holding us back from succeeding; we don’t actually want our best and brightest to enter those career paths.

And he continues:

Conclusion? In an era of unprecedented technological growth and industrial activity in Ireland, parents and students opted for the paths that their forbears chose: nontechnical pursuits.

Facebook? Google? Microsoft? Intel? HP? Apple? IBM? 15 per cent of Ireland’s GDP?

Oh dear no: that’s for those technical college people, isn’t it? The people who put in your broadband and such? I mean, you can’t use the phrases ‘in relation to’ and ‘in accordance with’ as part of our daily lingo in those jobs now, can you?

And it’s not just snobs who relegate technology related careers to second tier status. Culturally, Irish businessmen and merchants also show little love for science.

Let me start with two observations. He’s definitely correct in that we need to have the best and the brightest engage with science and technology. But… Weckler’s argument seems rooted firstly in misconceptions as to what represents the best and the brightest and secondly how that should be achieved. And in both instances his arguments lead down a path towards an highly contentious conclusion.

What’s fascinating are the assumptions built into it. Why, if he doesn’t believe that it is necessary to have the bright and the best – categorised implicitly by him as essentially middle class students who otherwise are going into ‘medicine, law or architecture’ – does he spend the best part of five paragraphs or so bemoaning the fact that some perceive technology jobs as ‘for those technical college people… the people who put in your broadband…’.

But if that is fascinating what is perhaps telling is that he doesn’t parse those assumptions. Are people who are attracted due to their socio-economic background to high prestige work [as he hopes technology jobs will become] necessarily the best people to do what would seem to be jobs which require significant mathematical and scientific abilities, and perhaps a certain love for the area? It would seem to me to be vastly better to have those jobs filled with those qualified in the latter area.

Moreover note that he’s not arguing that there’s too few coming from the ‘technical college people’. If anything he seems to implicitly argue there are too many and not enough from other groups.

Now if the argument is that there are insufficient students overall going into science and technology, that’s fair enough – I agree. If he is arguing that capital in Ireland is lacking in terms of engagement with science and technology – I agree also. If he wants that sector to increase I’m with him all the way. But to paint it in such avowedly middle and upper middle class terms, as if somehow students drawn from that area are per definition the ‘best and the brightest’ is simply irritating.

But in order to solidify that line of thought he continues:

The problem is compounded, not helped, by our top universities and colleges.

Despite their best efforts, our third level institutions cannot, and will never, compete with top US or British universities when it comes to teaching and producing top-rate technology graduates.

Why? Because we in Ireland reject the concept of elite education.

And there’s more:

‘Elite’ is a very unpopular word in Ireland, but it is elite companies, like Microsoft, Facebook, Google, that end up being courted by Ireland to come here and give our people jobs.

And it’s here he makes a particularly contentious statement.

In the technology sphere, almost all of these elite companies are the product of elite educations. But to have elite colleges, you have to have a system of self funding in place.

And Irish universities are, by and large, not permitted to garner the type of funds that are required to create a top level learning environment.

One contributing cause is that they’re not allowed to charge students fees that reflect the value of their degree. Irish universities do not attract the best students or lecturers.

There’s a fair few assumptions built in to all this.

Let’s start with the namechecking of ‘elite’ companies and their links to elite companies. Microsoft? Ballmer and Gates went to Harvard, but the latter dropped out after a couple of years. Steve Jobs? Reed College Oregan [notable for it’s private…erm… nuclear reactor] which he dropped out of after a year or so. Facebook, well, sure, Mark Zuckerberg most famously went to Harvard too, but you have to ask how many of the actual products and services we see and the individuals related to them are specifically a function of the output of ‘elite’ colleges or more persuasively broader societal structures that many, but not all, those involved came from, those being in the main products of a very specific and not easily transferable – even if one thought it appropriate – middle and upper middle class US milieu.

There’s a great NPR podcast available online entitled Planet Money that deals with matters financial and economic, and some years back they spoke to a journalist, Julia Angwin, who had written about the rise and fall of MySpace. Some here will recall that brief shining moment around 2006/7 when MySpace was the social network, despite it’s clunky graphics, crawling interface and frankly to my eyes near incomprehensible structure. That was before FaceBook came to town. Even now there’s still a niche for MySpace as the site of choice of many music groups and no doubt it will continue to hang on in a sort of digital limbo for quite some time to come. But that’s beside the point. Angwin made a point that still resonates with me:

…the silicon valley thing was a bit of a myth…as I thought about it more I realised you know what Steve Jobs, he’s not like such a great programmer, he’s actually a great marketer, and Bill Gates, he wasn’t the greatest programmer, he was also a great – I’d say a great, marketing strategist. [interjection from interviewer “And Microsoft is famously a copier of others ideas]…Exactly… and in a way what I realised was that I had a false idea about what Silicon Valley was. The myth of Silicon Valley is about technical competence, but the reality is that marketing still makes a huge difference and so I kind of came to the conclusion that all these guys are hucksters who really crossed the line to brilliance.

So perhaps those parents of the ‘best and brightest’ and – let’s gift them agency too since they are adults, those best and brightest themselves have made a pretty rational decision in eschewing the technology route in favour of the marketing/PR or whatever you’re having yourself route, because away from the well paid but not necessarily stellar status of more ordinary technology workers the real money is to be made at the highest levels where technological expertise is important but far from the only factor necessary.

But more of a concern is that as with his ideas about those who enter science or technology courses he seems to elide, or confuse – and one can make ones own determination as to which is the more charitable possibility – the term elite with a very narrow definition of class. He kind of has to because it is very clear that those colleges in the US use income as a key filter on student intake, though this is masked in the form of legacy preferences [where the offspring of alumni are given preferential access to colleges – comprising anywhere from 10 to 30% in some estimates… and while we’re on this topic interesting to read the following proposals last night on RTÉ]. And while they do indeed have scholarship programmes the numbers inducted through them as a percentage of the overall intake are far from a majority.

So, what Weckler is proposing is that the Republic should adopt a system that per definition predicates against those from disadvantaged socio-economic groupings entering third level. And why? In order that we have Microsofts and Googles and Facebooks and… well, insert name as applicable.

That’s quite an assumption as well. Is he seriously arguing that Ireland is going to be the place where elite companies like Facebook, Google and Microsoft are founded and developed? It’s not that it’s impossible. Nokia, after all, is a global company that has grown from a Finland. On the other hand Nokia first started working in electronics an half century ago. But it seems unlikely. Then again he’s also jamming together very different sort of companies together. Microsoft seems to me to be radically different to Facebook. Google might sit somewhere between the two.

It’s also difficult to understand his logic when he argues that without third level fees it will be impossible to create ‘elite’ centres that can compete at global level. Let’s deconstruct that proposition. Even if we take it at face value that elite institutions are what powered Gates et al to their positions of prominence, again we have to be at least a little realistic. As against larger states we will most likely always be at something of a disadvantage. Simple proximity of technological centres in the US means that they will have an easy flow of technologically adept individuals into those areas. Replicating Silicon Valley in Ireland is a big ask. Silicon Valley itself had roots into a military-industrial complex, and more particularly the R&D that that complex provided, that would challenge a major power, let alone a rather small peripheral open economy, to emulate. And let’s not get starry eyed about all this. Weckler may not have heard but the US economy, and the British one too, for all their ‘elite’ approaches aren’t exactly shining examples of economic health despite their resource base in both capital and labour.

Even lower level entrepreneurial activity is difficult to achieve and it’s also telling to me that he doesn’t actually tease out the various aspects of what he means by technology. Software? Hardware? And the various areas that each and both flow into – communications, networks, devices, applications, commercial, consumer, industrial and so on.

That said Ireland as a gateway into the EU should be able to direct graduates (and indeed non-graduates) into those areas. And here’s the remarkable thing. It appears to be doing reasonably well on that score. Those technical school boys and girls have done okay – to adopt his own language.

But why does he implicitly shackle university fees to the idea that this state can’t support third level centres of excellence. State funding through the third level system should, quite naturally – and in this he is correct in terms of seeking the best possible outcomes, be directed towards this area. There’s no reason at all – and it’s telling that he doesn’t even bother to address it – why the state system funded through general taxation could not divert funding to certain areas, indeed it already has to because some areas will require better equipment, etc. If the state sees a premium in such areas then it should be willing to pay. The investment would be repaid many times over if successful.

But it appears that so entranced is he by the use of the term ‘elite’ that he feels it is pretty much its own justification.

He’s also fairly parsimonious with actual data. The only figures he references are as follows:

Consider this: between 2000 and 2008, the number of maths and science graduates produced by Ireland increased by 1 per cent. One measly per cent.

In the same period, the number of graduates in law, PR, marketing and ‘business’ soared.

Conclusion? In an era of unprecedented technological growth and industrial activity in Ireland, parents and students opted for the paths that their forbears chose: nontechnical pursuits.

That’s not necessarily so. Firstly choice in education is predicated on choices made previously and structures available. How many students in the 1980s and 1990s in second level chose maths and science. Were there sufficient already in stream with the suitable aptitudes to make a difference to courses at third level in the 2000s. Were colleges equipped to engage with the burgeoning technological change? Was there a significant jobs market there for such graduates and so on.

Facebook? Google? Microsoft? Intel? HP? Apple? IBM? 15 per cent of Ireland’s GDP?

15 per cent is not to be sneezed at. But then he also seems to ignore a point that maths and science are difficult areas that are both rigorous and demanding. Given the choice between law, PR, etc and maths and science I suspect I’d take the former – at least in terms of playing to my own strengths, even if I have a lifelong interest in the latter area. And I’d not be surprised if many others felt the same way.

He concludes:

Politically, reintroducing student fees is dynamite. Irish society is far more comfortable with an education system that prioritises inclusion over excellence. In many ways this serves the country well. But when it comes to producing top talent who can create companies and employ people, it is deeply flawed. And it spawns a cycle of adequacy over excellence.

In a piece that is long on assumptions and short on supporting information this is a perfect way to wrap up. What is the actual evidence that inclusion is prioritised over excellence? How are both those terms measured? What metric can he offer us to demonstrate the validity of the statements that follow on from them in the following sentences?

And what’s interesting is that in other reports Weckler is (rightly) assiduous in pointing up, for example, over heated announcements about jobs in technology from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and InnovatioN.

Still, all is not lost. Despite the near dystopian view of the Irish technology industry in the Weckler post above, a mere month ago in the same paper there was a much much rosier picture painted:

Tech multinationals bring well-paid jobs and an opportunity for Irish workers to learn new skills.

They design and make things, we assemble them or provide the accounting services.

As the value comes from them, and not us, we’ll take the jobs, a bit of learning and thank you all very much.

By and large, it has worked tremendously well. Unlike the pyramid scheme that was the construction industry, the IT industry has been a booming one for years. So much so, in fact, that there are serious skills shortages affecting IT firms in Ireland.

Booming for years – eh? Working tremendously well – I see. So much so that there are skill shortages – well, I never!

And the author of this piece of good news? Step forward one A. Weckler writing in the…er… realityBYTES column.

But that was then, four or so weeks ago, and this is now. Back then he was writing about why unions aren’t part of the tech industry because everything was superfine, but right now he’s trying to justify fees at third level so those ‘best and brightest’ middle and upper middle class students can join an industry that’s been ‘booming’ for years and so everything is superbad.

So that’s the rapid change we hear so much about in technology. Nice.

Comments»

1. LeftAtTheCross - June 14, 2011

Excellent post.

“we don’t actually want our best and brightest to enter those career paths.”

That’s certainly debatable. As you suggest, best and brightest, even when defined in the terms adopted by the article, aren’t by any means equivalent. On the brightest, there’s also an aptitude aspect. The brightest in one area of intellectual work, say law for example just to continue the professions argument, simply may not have their brains wired up in a way which suits say electronics or biotechnology or whatever.

It’s true that the “best and brightest” lost interest in sciance and technology during the property bubble years. I qualify that by observing that the interest in third-level electronics degree courses, for example, plummeted in terms of CAO entry points which were driven by reducing demand. I heard anecdotally that UCD had at one stage more staff in their electronics dept than they had undergrad students. As I have mentioned before, my other half is a second-level maths and physics teacher. Her experience was also that her students with a clear aptitude for science and technology at that early stage of their development were simply not even considering continuing in that direction at third-level. Industry bodies have made some, albeit limited and self-interested, efforts at encouraging kids to consider careers in science and high-tech, but given the societal narrative at play it really has been too little and too late. Compare for example to the glorification of engineering industry in the Soviet bloc, the symbolic inclusion of the capliers on the flag of the DDR, the understanding that wealth is created through production and innovation. The property bubble instead celebrated get rich quick individualism, Boston rather than Berlin. Hard to overcome that type of propaganda in terms of shaping the career expectations of kids at the formative stage of their lives.

Another consideration is that in the 80s the “best and brightest” did actually pursue careers in science and technology. It was the golden age of semiconductors and telecommunications for example, and like all capitalist bubbles it quickly ran out of profit opportunities in the late 90s when the famous internet bubble collapsed. So in many ways it’s now a mature industry, not devoid of profit opportunities, but not the fertile land it was a decade or more ago.

On the links between upper middle class elite education and the building of successful tech companies, there is a link which is overlooked in the analysis above. What is missing is an acknowledgement of the non-tech aspects, of the business as usual aspects, of starting and building a tech company. The usual model is for a few of the best and brightest to invest their sweat equity in a garage or incubator unit for a year or two, building a prototype technology demonstrator, proving the concept, while at the same time searching for early investors and business mentors to get involved and grow the venture through their cash and contacts. This latter group, and establishing contacts with them through the established business networks which specialise in this type of high risk and high return venture capitalism, operate very much on a personal reputation basis and a who you know basis. So the elite education kicks in at this level, it opens doors, largely not to idiots who are spoofing their way in, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to have an introductory call made on your behalf by an old friend or colleague. It is this business as usual aspect of venture capitalst engagement that is not explicitly spoken of in relation to the “smart economy”. The entire business model cycle is based on an exit for the venture capitalists at an early but optimally profitable stage, often after many 10s of millions have been invested in creating a first product, with inflated projections of sales and technology roadmap value, and hence business value, which are then cashed in via a public share offering or trade sale. It’s a ponzi scheme and everyone involved knows it, but it doesn’t fit the “smart economy” mantra. Capitalism on steroids, no long term vision, just more get rich quick.

It’s a huge subject that you’ve posted on here. You’ve raised many and very valid points about the industry, stuff which needs discussion, stuff which could feed into long-term policy formation on the international Left, whether that’s in terms of the education sector which feeds and supports industry, or the nature of industries themselves. I can’t do the subject any justice in a quick reply this morning but I hope other engage with what you have posted above.

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WorldbyStorm - June 14, 2011

That’s a great summation, and granted we’re at danger of sounding like a mutual admiration society. 🙂 but I want to stress that in two specific senses I agree with Weckler, firstly that science and technology are not afforded a societal status they should be, secondly that we should hugely encourage them. Where I deviate from him is in his analysis of best and… And on his proscription for third level. I’m strongly pro tech and science. I subscribe to Scientific American and buy as many issues of New Scientist as I can afford, but “elitism” in class terms isn’t the way to go and doesn’t make much sense.

BTW I strongly agree with you about how there is a functional cachet to Ivy League attendance in terms of opening doors to networks and finance.

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2. irishelectionliterature - June 14, 2011

am busy so just a brief reply ….
Have been working in the sector since having a career change in the mid 90s , when I did a FAS course in programming. Its fairly plain that there is a skills shortage here. My own company has had to hire abroad as there are not enough Irish people with the required skillsets.
On my own team about half would be foreign, Polish , Chinese, American and one from Cork. Incidentaly the team I work with in the US is from all over the world with well over half being non Americans, so its not unique to here.
As the industry has evolved here much of whats done is more complex. So where 10 years ago you might hire a person because they would fit in and seemed intelligent enough (the likes of myself 🙂 ), now they might need a masters (not me).

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EWI - June 14, 2011

The problem is – and this goes right through the engineering profession as well – that professional excellence is seen as a mug’s game. It’s all about a rat race to get the right ticks in boxes to get yourself into management (“anyone earning less than €50,000 is a loser”, as I recall being told by the radio some years ago).

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WorldbyStorm - June 14, 2011

I was thinking a bit about IELB’s point about the skills shortage. Ironically friends of mine who were architects saw a similar dynamic in that area of industry/commerce until very recently where there was a huge dependence upon non-Irish over the past five years or longer. I’m not sure that means much one way or another, but it’s like IELB says, things change.

Re your point EWI, it’s not just professional, it’s also about societal approval. Doing socially useful work on somewhat lower wages isn’t where a lot of people seem to be at.

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3. WorldbyStorm - June 14, 2011

Absolutely, and I’m not trying to suggest we don’t need more, indeed thats explicitly what I agree with Weckler on.

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LeftAtTheCross - June 14, 2011

Just to pick up on that supply/demand issue in terms of tech skills, I would be surious to know (I don’t have any feel for it) how the balance would resolve itself say in the situation where the corporation tax incentive for tech FDI was removed. If state policy was indeed to move towards let’s call it a “genuine” model of science & technology industry, one not based on money laundering and the various research, development, and support activities which are synergistically wrapped around the core financial activities of the FDI firms, would we then have sufficient homegrown skills to support the staffing needs of the indigenous tech sector. I’m not for a second arguing that FDI should simplistically be discouraged wholesale, it has served and continues to serve a purpose in terms of building an industrial base in this sector as in others where the native capitalist class have largely shied away from engaging. I’m simply questioning the long-term trajectory of the tech sector in this state, and avoiding a knee jerk “we need more” reaction in the face of articles such as the one WBS has analysed above. We may indeed need more kids entering the industry, and I would argue that we probably do, even if not in terms of numbers then certainly in terms of aptitude and ability, but that allied to that argument is a bigger one about the big picture of industrial development in this state, and the ideological basis for that in terms of FDI and sustainability and a host of other concerns beyond those touched by the SBP article above.

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WorldbyStorm - June 14, 2011

That’s a fascinating question. Supply/demand really do need to be parsed out. One thing that strikes me is that tech is different to, or perhaps it might be better to say it’s a distinctive element in the industrial/commercial mix.

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4. MIchael Carley - June 14, 2011

I think a couple of things are being missed here. The first is that students are chasing the hot careers, which for a while seemed to be in business, generally speaking. When I studied engineering (graduated 1992), it was seen as a good degree that would get you a decent job, especially if you emigrated. Now, it is often sold as a way of getting into finance, consulting, or banking, rather than necessarily into engineering proper.

Secondly, after decades of hearing that we don’t need to make anything and we’ll all live by holding the door for each other, what are students expected to respect?

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LeftAtTheCross - June 14, 2011

“students are chasing the hot careers, which for a while seemed to be in business, generally speaking.”

Certainly true, but whether one can separate the students’ aspirations (at the tender age of filling out their CAO forms) from the societal narrative is debatable. Not denying free will or anything, but the background music is fairly loud and persuasive in terms of defining what comprises a “hot career”, whether that’s channelled through parents or career teachers or peer pressure etc. The end result is the same of course, as you have described it. Unfortunately, even with the financial collapse reducing the attractiveness of the finance / banking professions, I don’t expect a quick return to engineering as a desirable career. I say unfortunately because part of the long term economic roadmap should, I believe, involve a return to localism to some extent, a reversal of globalisation, not necessarily in terms of building the socialism within one country model vis a vis absolute regional self-sufficiency, but certainly a turn in the direction of local small scale manufacturing as a foundation for sustainable and resilient local economies. Part of the picture at any rate. And for that to occur, there will be a necessity for productive work to be valued more highly by society. And as engineers are responsible for keeping the wheels of industry rolling, well we’ll be needing more of them (us) as well, and less lawyers, less bankers, less of the traditional bourgeois professions.

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MIchael Carley - June 14, 2011

I think that’s largely true, although I wonder what has been the effect of `technology’ (beeping, flashing gadgets and the social network fad du jour) coming to be a field dominated by arts graduates in journalism and the blathersphere. When students think of `technology’ now, I think they largely think of it in the way it is presented in a `technology’ column in newspapers.

Matthew Crawford’s Shop Class as Soulcraft has a different vision of what engagement with technology might mean, which I would largely agree with.

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LeftAtTheCross - June 15, 2011

The website for that book carries as the first review comment one from Francis Fukuyama “Shop Class as Soulcraft is a beautiful little book about human excellence and the way it is undervalued in contemporary America.” Hmm…Apart from that, I have issues with the glorification of individualist work thing, whether it’s the Dragon’s Den variety or the tree-hugging motor-cycle mechanic variety. Having been self-employed myself, and subject to the tyranny of the marketplace directly, I’m under no illusions that substituting market discipline on workers directly is any better that the traditional hierarchical organisation of work for profit, and in many situations it is worse in terms of job security, sick pay, PRSI entitlements and various other workplace gains that have accrued to workers over the decades. None of which touches on the engagement with technology aspect of your comment whatsoever of course.

Your point about the mass media presentation of technology is very valid of course, and feeds into the consumerist worldview, technology as distraction and entertainment. We don’t get the same type of coverage of windfarms, electrical interconnectors, wave turbines etc., just to mention some aspects of the electrical power generation industry. Typically these technologies only receive attention when they impact on the individuals’ property rights in situations where the NIMBY lobby come out of the woodwork to object to such technology infrastructure being located near their homes. At the bottom of which is often a fear of resulting market devaluation of their property.

How to change people’s perceptions of technology? Hands-on experience to counteract the mass media gloss, work brigades for teenagers building large technology infrastructure projects 🙂 [All very Keynesian also]

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5. EWI - June 14, 2011

as I thought about it more I realised you know what Steve Jobs, he’s not like such a great programmer, he’s actually a great marketer, and Bill Gates, he wasn’t the greatest programmer, he was also a great – I’d say a great, marketing strategist.

See, this is Angwin not getting it. Apple and Microsoft both get reduced to “Marketing”. Thirty years of technological evolution, innovation and competition – based on the very best talent that engineering, computer science and design have apply – and this is what she sees as the reasons for their success?

And Weckler’s techno-utopianism (techno-libertarianism, really) is just embarressing for a grown man.

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WorldbyStorm - June 15, 2011

I see entirely why you make that reading of the quote and I probably should have givenore context but I think her point was not to diss the innovation or tech but to point to the dangers in the ‘great man’ or woman narrative in tech companies which focusses on their supposed tech prowess when in reality it is built on much broader foundations of many working in the companies…and that PR plays a significant role. Though just thinking my old Mac 6200 was no great shakes and nor were various iterations of Windows I worked with either! 😉

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6. EamonnCork - June 15, 2011

In Ireland today the mother would be far more likely to shout, ‘help, my son who earns in excess of 100,000 euro a year is drowning.’ I don’t think Weckler’s idea that technology jobs are seen as infra dig corresponds to reality. What command respect now are jobs which command a large salary. The jobs which are regarded with most contempt by the ‘right sort of person’ are those in the humanities, lecturing, teaching et al. The aspirational middle classes can always fantasise that their son or daughter in IT will one day become Gates or Jobs, they probably won’t get the same kick out of imagining him/her as the new Declan Kiberd.

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7. Michael Carley - June 15, 2011

@LATC You could try my review:

http://vulpeslibris.wordpress.com/2010/06/07/i-am-living-as-i-please-shop-class-as-soulcraft-by-matthew-crawford/

It was through Crawford that I read Harry Braverman. Politically, I can’t quite place Crawford and I would be wary of taking Fukuyama’s word for anything.

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LeftAtTheCross - June 16, 2011

Michael, I googled Crawford as I wasn’t aware of him before and he pops up as editor of a neo-con science and technology journal “The New Atlantis”. Hope that helps place him!

He may be a classic motorbike mechanic part-time, but he’s also a research fellow at the Uni of Virginia. A hobby tradesman. Nice safety net to have and not one available to most of his market competition.

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Michael Carley - June 16, 2011

He is a Contributing Editor of The New Atlantis rather than the editor. As for its alleged neo-liberalism (I’m not convinced, based on a quick browse of the articles), so what? He might have something useful to say and certainly his engagement with Marxist ideas on work in Shop Class as Soulcraft is interesting. It might be worth reading some of what he actually says:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/24/magazine/24labor-t.html

As for being a `hobby tradesman’, firstly, he has certainly made his living as a tradesman (non-hobby) in the past, and, secondly, he has made his living repairing motorcycles.

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LeftAtTheCross - June 16, 2011

Michael, I hadn’t come across Braverman before, thanks for the pointer, his “Labor and Monopoly Capital: The Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century” looks very interesting:

http://www.faculty.rsu.edu/users/f/felwell/www/Theorists/Braverman/BravermanBook.htm#Major

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Michael Carley - June 16, 2011

I bought it on the strength of Crawford’s mention of it. It was written in the 70s when the prophets of the day were talking about how we would all be in skilled jobs using computers. Braverman called it bullshit then and he was right. It is interesting to see just how accurately he diagnosed the trends in the labour market at the time and how well he predicted how work would be deskilled, including in clerical jobs.

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8. Colleges and third level and school league tables… « The Cedar Lounge Revolution - November 22, 2011

[…] seven universities, bring that ‘all third-level colleges’ don’t. In a way it reminds me of a piece in the Sunday Business Post some time back by Adrian Weckler which I took some exception to but which had a grain of truth to […]

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