openEconomy

Knowledge work is more democratic

Industrial policy aimed at promoting knowledge work should be welcomed because of the particular nature of the work: more humane, long-termist, co-operative, democratic and egalitarian
David Kaplan
26 January 2010

New Labour has been prone to charges of a kind of defeatism that results in them pursuing managerial and technocratic policies. Yet these policies have often been necessary to help regenerate the economies of deprived regions and localities, and create the revenue to finance our beloved welfare state.

The new industrial activism being pursued by new Labour, could be seen as something managerial, technocratic and uninspiring from a naive perspective. On the other hand, it could represent the shift from an aggressive short-termist capitalism, towards a fundamentally more humane, long-termist, co-operative, democratic and egalitarian capitalism.

The idea behind industrial activism is to grow the number of jobs in knowledge based industries and services through public and private co-investments in intangibles to unlock  the capital from them. We know enterprises in knowledge based industries are much more likely to be employee owned than in all other sectors of the economy. Management regimes are typically much flatter, and enterprises tend to co-operate and network with each other, and public institutions, in order to pursue long term goals in the areas of R&D, product testing, education and training, infrastructure and export insurance. Employee innovation and consumer co-production are also common place in the knowledge economy.

The knowledge economy is fundamentally more democratic and decentralized than the fordist economy of the past. It is in essence, fundamentally more socialist, in the true meaning of the word.So industrial activism should be welcomed by all those who champion economic democracy, because it will help to bring prosperity and autonomy to society in part by growing the number of employee owned businesses.

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