The Future of Work and Politics
Chapter 10: From ‘stupid’ to ‘self-actualizing’ workers
The rise of the individual employment contract meant employers had to hire people, rather than coerce them, or pay others to procure them (while giving jobs to their favourites or those who paid them the biggest bribes). Perhaps the most common way to do this was to let it be known by word of mouth, or advertisement, that workers were needed and then hire the first ones who applied. The employer made no effort to differentiate one worker from another and all that separated the workers who got the jobs from the rest was that they applied when a vacancy was available. This is best described as ‘matching’ workers who wanted jobs with employers who wanted employees (Fevre 1992). It is usually imagined to occur when labour is plentiful and employers have no need of workers with specialist skills. It might apply, for example, to any discussion of recruitment in The Wealth of Nations, where Smith assumed that, as the division of labour increased, there would be less and less need to recruit workers who were skilled. Since it was only experience on the job that made some workers more efficient than others, employers might as well treat labour supply as undifferentiated. They could choose who to take on with a toss of a coin and whoever they hired would be able to pick up almost any job that was on offer in a matter of days (Smith 2005).
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