Cities and Regions in the 21st Century
Chapter 7: Symbolic analysts and the service underclass
I have argued that the emergence of the new economy in American cities over the last three or four decades is bringing in its train a radically new division of labor and, as a consequence, a significant recomposition of urban society. I have already made reference to this recomposition in Chapter 3, where the bipartite division of the labor force in advanced capitalist societies was briefly discussed. In the present chapter, I shall deal further and at length with this matter using detailed data available from official American sources. One side of this changing division of labor is captured in the work of scholars like Reich (1992) and Florida (2002) who write about the recent rise of an upper fraction of the labor force marked by high levels of education, formal qualifications, and distinctive cognitive– cultural skills. Another side is reflected in the large body of research that has been published in recent years by urban geographers, labor sociologists, feminist scholars, and others on the chronic degradation of work that is observable at the lower end of labor markets in advanced capitalist societies (see, for example, Appelbaum and Schmitt 2009; McDowell 2009; Peck and Theodore 2001). This degradation is evident in both manufacturing and service sectors, but is most especially manifest in the recent proliferation of a service underclass in large cities (DeFilippis et al. 2009), and the relative expansion of low-wage service work is all the more emphatic in view of the rapidly falling levels of manufacturing employment in the same cities.
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