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Paolo Donadio » 6.Labour Market in the Information Age

Lesson plan


  1. From postindustrialism to informationalism (Castells 1993)
  2. The role played by ‘new’ knowledge
  3. From manual jobs to the manipulation of symbols
  4. Team working and horizontal networks
  5. Global competition among workers
  6. The IT revolution


In this lesson we will observe the impact of IT revolution on labour market according to one of the most outstanding scholar in this field, Manuel Castells.

We will see that Castells identifies five main features of what he calls ‘informationalism’. Since the 1970s, jobs have been deeply transformed and workers are constantly forced to adapt their skills and abilities to ever-changing working conditions.

By comparing Labour Party modernisation process and Castells’ reflections, we can notice that the most distinctive feature of New Labour political approach is based on a different conception of employment policies and the role played by ‘knowledge’ within modern systems of production.

From postindutrialism to ‘informationalism’

“Thus, although the late 20th century economies are clearly different from the pre-World War II economies, the feature that distinguishes these two types of economies does not seem to be rooted primarily in the source of their productivity growth. The appropriate distinction is not between an industrial and a post-industrial economy, but between two forms of knowledge-based industrial production. What is most distinctive, in historical terms, between the economic structures of the first half and of the second half of the 20th century is the revolution in information technology, and its diffusion in all spheres of social and economic activity, including its contribution in providing the infrastructure for the formation of a global economy. The full development of a system of production on knowledge and information processing could only take place after the blossoming of the information technology revolution, that built up for decades, but became consolidated as a new system of production only around the 1970s (Guile 1987; Forester 1987). Therefore we propose to shift the analytical emphasis from postindustrialism (a relevant question of social forecasting still without an answer at the moment of its formulation) to informationalism, as a techno-social paradigm organized around knowledge–based activities as the source of productivity realized in their economic potential through the new technologies developed by the IT revolution”.

Castells M. & Aoyama Y., Paths Towards The Informational Society: A Comparative Analysis of the Transformation of Employment Structure in the G-7 Countries, 1920-2005.

The role played by ‘new’ knowledge

“The greater the complexity and productivity of an economy, the greater its informational component and the greater the role played by new knowledge (as compared with the mere addition of such production factors as capital or labor) in the growth of productivity”.

(Carnoy, Castells, Cohen, Cardoso 1993. The new Global Economy in the Information Age. Reflections on our Changing World. Pennsylvania State University. pp. 16-17).

From manual jobs to the manipulation of symbols

“An ever-growing role is played by the manipulation of symbols in the organization of production and in the enhancement of productivity”.
(Castells 1993: 15)

Team working and horizontal networks

The “vertically integrated large-scale organisations” of ‘old’ standardised mass production capitalism have given way to “vertical disintegration and horizontal networks between economic units” (Castells 1993: 18).

Global competition among workers

“The new capitalism is global in “real time”. National economies no longer comprise the unit of analysis or strategic frame of reference for companies and workers. For enterprises and workers alike, work is increasingly about playing on the whole world stage. For many individual workers, their competition comes from all over the world. And, of course, many companies are “all over the world and all at once”.

(Lankshear 1997: 172)

The IT revolution

“The context of this change – which reflexively spearheads and responds to it – is the information technologies revolution. The new capitalism is dynamically and inseparably linked to the current technological revolution – especially with the information-communication dimension of this revolution. In addition to informatics, microelectronics and telecommunications, this encompasses scientific discoveries and applications in biotechnology, new materials, lasers, renewable energy, and the like”.
(Castells 1993: 19)

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Progetto "Campus Virtuale" dell'Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II, realizzato con il cofinanziamento dell'Unione europea. Asse V - Società dell'informazione - Obiettivo Operativo 5.1 e-Government ed e-Inclusion

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