Living and working in the new economy
Living and working in the new economy

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Living and working in the new economy

1 What is the ‘new economy’

10 p.m. Friday evening

Sunil, in India, has just received an email from Claire in Brighton, England, who runs a micro enterprise from her front room, clarifying details of some programming she has just subcontracted.

Tom is at a wine bar celebrating news of a £1 million investment of venture capital in his company.

Stephen has just begun the night shift in a call centre.

Joyce has just left her cleaning job, one of three jobs she currently holds. She is also a part-time office administrator and runs her own small enterprise designing and selling cushions.

These people reflect the varied dimensions of what it has become fashionable to call the ‘new economy’. In emailing Sunil, Claire is using the internet to run an enterprise from her own home. Tom represents one of the successes of the new economy and illustrates how some dot.com companies attract the interest of venture capitalists, financial institutions that invest in new enterprises. Stephen demonstrates how routine jobs underpin the workings of the new economy and Joyce illustrates how workers lower down the employment hierarchy often have to become entrepreneurial and construct their own work patterns in order to survive. The examples also illustrate how jobs are more likely to be in the service sector rather than manufacturing, as likely to be done by women as men and how the working day has lengthened – all characteristics of the new economy.

These are real examples but are they typical? Recently, academics from a range of disciplines and journalists have used the term ‘new economy’, but their understandings of it differ. This course considers some of these different understandings. What is the role of information and communication technologies (ICT) thought to be in the new economy? Section 2.1 suggests that they are a major feature of the economic changes currently taking place but globalisation and the shift from manufacturing to services are also important. Should we welcome the new economy for the opportunities it brings or feel threatened by its disruption of ways of economic and social life to which we are accustomed? Section 3.1 discusses the benefits and problems of the new economy and examines the possibility that the opportunities and threats embodied in the new economy are two sides of the same coin.

This course examines a debate about the new economy; it does not investigate the new economy directly or take it for granted that there ever was such a thing. The important point is that the debate highlights some of the causes and effects of economic change.

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