Industry 4.0: revolution or hype? Reassessing recent technological trends and their impact on labour

  • Armanda CetruloEmail author
  • Alessandro Nuvolari


The aim of this paper is to reassess the current view of technological trends adopting a historical perspective. In our interpretation, the historical record provides some suggestive evidence for a more sceptical view of the notion of an emerging “fourth” industrial revolution. Indeed, even at an impressionistic glance, the recent developments in AI, communication and robotics that are marked as the core of the fourth industrial revolution, appear as a rather natural prolongation of the ICT macro-trajectories described in this paper. At the same time, to study the relation between technology and labour, we focus on the plant level as the most useful unit of analysis to consider the complex interaction between management systems, labour process and technological innovations. In this sense, we examine two Internet of Things’ technologies in order to underline the persistence of a fundamental trait of the capitalist mode of production, namely the exertion of control over workers. Consistently, we expect a continuity between newly emerging management practices and previous management systems, especially referring to the ones adopted during the ICT revolution.


Industry 4.0 ICT revolution Management system Control 

JEL Classification

O30 O14 L23 



The authors acknowledge support from European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 822781 GROWINPRO—Growth Welfare Innovation Productivity.


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Copyright information

© Associazione Amici di Economia e Politica Industriale 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.EMbeDS and Institute of EconomicsScuola Superiore Sant’AnnaPisaItaly

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