Narratives about Technology-Induced Job Degradations: Then and Now

Prof Robert Shiller is making this whole idea of building narratives in economics as an important thing.

In his new paper, he writes on how people have reacted to technology impacting their work over the years:

Concerns that technological progress degrades job opportunities have been expressed over much of the last two centuries by both professional economists and the general public. These concerns  can be seen in narratives both in scholarly publications and in the news media. Part of the expressed concern about jobs has been about the potential for increased economic inequality. But another part of the concern has been about a perceived decline in job quality in terms of its effects on monotony vs creativity of work, individual sense of identity, power to act independently, and meaning of life.

Public policy should take account of both of these concerns, inequality and job quality.

Superb bit.

Why narratives?

Fears about the effects of labor-saving machines on our jobs, as these machines replace many
tasks, have a long history. The fears are expressed both in professional writings of economists
and in popular stories. We here give a brief history of narratives expressing these fears and
briefly consider the relevance of such narratives for public policy.

The term “narrative” is often used as a synonym for “story,” a sequence of events. But
the word narrative has an important other aspect. A narrative is a telling of a story, that attaches
meaning and significance to it, that often is intended as providing a lesson or a moral. A
narrative can become an interpretation of ongoing events by comparing them with a story. With
economic narratives, the narrative may represent a proto-economic model, understandable by the
most general public.Especially important among narratives are those about our life’s work—our jobs. While
people in jobs of low prestige may not express much delight in telling the story of their life of
work, it is a story they think about and that defines their contribution to loved ones and to
society.

You need likes of Prof Shiller to make narratives important again…

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