Advertisement

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

  • Armanda CetruloEmail author
  • Alessandro Nuvolari
Article
  • 16 Downloads

Abstract

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.

Keywords

Industry 4.0 ICT revolution Management system Control 

JEL Classification

O30 O14 L23 

Notes

Acknowledgements

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

References

  1. Adler, P. (1995). ‘Democratic Taylorism’: The Toyota production system at NUMMI. In Babson S. (Ed.) Lean work: Empowerment and exploitation in the global auto industry (pp. 207–219). Wayne State University Press, Detroit.Google Scholar
  2. Aglietta, M. (2000). A theory of capitalist regulation: The US experience. New York: Verso Books.Google Scholar
  3. Allen, R. (2017). Lesson from history for the future of work. Nature, 550, 321–324.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Arntz, M., Gregory, T., & Zierahn, U. (2016). The risk of automation for jobs in OECD countries: A comparative analysis. OECD social, employment and migration working papers, No. 189. Paris: OECD Publishing.Google Scholar
  5. Baccaro, L., & Howell, C. (2017). Trajectories of neoliberal transformation: European industrial relations since the 1970s. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bessen, J. (2015). Learning by doing. The real connection between innovation, wages and wealth. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Bonazzi, G. (2007). Storia del pensiero organizzativo. Milan: FrancoAngeli.Google Scholar
  8. Braverman, H. (1974). Labor and monopoly capital. New York: Monthly Review Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Brynjolfsson, E., & McAfee, A. (2014). The second machine age. New York: W. Norton.Google Scholar
  10. Burawoy, M. (1982). Manufacturing consent: Changes in the labor process under monopoly capitalism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Ciocchetti, C. A. (2011). The eavesdropping employer: a twenty-first century framework for employee monitoring. American Business Law Journal, 48(2), 285–369.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cirillo, V., Rinaldini, M., Staccioli, J., & Virgillito, M. E. (2018). Workers’ awareness context in Italian 4.0 factories. GLO Discussion Paper, No. 240.Google Scholar
  13. Clark, G. (2007). A farewell to alms. Princeton: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Coriat, B. (1991). Penser à l’envers. Paris: Ch. Bourgois.Google Scholar
  15. Da Xu, L., He, W., & Li, S. (2014). Internet of things in industries: A survey. IEEE Transactions on Industrial Informatics, 10(4), 2233–2243.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. De Stefano, V. (2015). The rise of the just-in-time workforce: On-demand work, crowdwork, and labor protection in the gig-economy. Comparative Labor Law and Policy Journal, 37, 471.Google Scholar
  17. Dosi, G. (1982). Technological paradigms and technological trajectories: a suggested interpretation of the determinants and directions of technical change. Research Policy, 11(3), 147–162.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Dosi, G., & Virgillito, M. E. (2019). Whither the evolution of the contemporary social fabric? new technologies and old socio-economic trends. Technical report. GLO Discussion Paper. Google Scholar
  19. Edwards, R. (1982). Contested terrain: The transformation of the workplace in the twentieth century. Science and Society, 46(2), 237–240.Google Scholar
  20. Fitbit. (2019). The impact of diabetes on the workplace. https://2nwchq3a3ags2kj7bq20e3qv-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/Impact-Diabetes-Workplace-WP-1.pdf. Accessed 9 Aug 2019.
  21. Florida, R., & Kenney, M. (1991). Transplanted organizations: The transfer of Japanese industrial organization to the us. American Sociological Review, 56(3), 381–398.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Freeman, C., & Louca, F. (2001). As time goes by: From the industrial revolutions to the information revolution. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Freeman, C., & Soete, L. (1990). Fast structural change and slow productivity change: some paradoxes in the economics of information technology. Structural change and economic dynamics, 1, 225–242.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Frey, C. B., & Osborne, M. (2013). The future of employment. Working Paper Oxford Martin School. http://sep4u.gr/wpcontent/uploads/The_Future_of_Employment_ox_2013.pdf. Accessed 9 Aug 2019.
  25. Frey, C. B., & Osborne, M. A. (2017). The future of employment: how susceptible are jobs to computerisation? Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 114, 254–280.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Gaddi, M. (2018). Industria 4.0 e il lavoro. Una ricerca nelle fabbriche del Veneto. Milano: Edizioni Punto Rosso.Google Scholar
  27. Gordon, R. (2016). The rise and fall of American growth. Princeton: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Harrison, B. (1997). Lean and mean: The changing landscape of corporate power in the age of flexibility. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  29. Kern, H., & Schumann, M. (1987). Limits of the division of labour, new production and employment concepts in West German industry. Economic and Industrial Democracy, 8(2), 151–170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Knights, D., & Willmott, H. (1990). Labour process theory. London: MacMillan Press Ltd.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kumar, P., Reinitz, H., Simunovic, J., Sandeep, K., & Franzon, P. (2009). Overview of rfid technology and its applications in the food industry. Journal of Food Science, 74(8), R101–R106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Lutz, B. (1992). The contradictions of post-tayloristic rationalization and the uncertain future of industrial work. Technology and Work in German Industry (pp. 26–45). London: Routledge and Keagan.Google Scholar
  33. Manske, F. (1990). The end of taylorism or its transformation? From spot control to systemic control of the production process. International Journal of Political Economy, 20(4), 61–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Marglin, S. A. (1974). What do bosses do? The origins and functions of hierarchy in capitalist production. Review of radical political economics, 6(2), 60–112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Martinelli, A., Mina, A., & Moggi, M. (2019). The enabling technologies of industry 4.0: Examining the seeds of the fourth industrial revolution (No. 2019/09). Laboratory of Economics and Management (LEM), Sant’ Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa, Italy. Google Scholar
  36. Marx, K. (1976). Capital (Vol. 1). Harmondsworth: Penguin.Google Scholar
  37. Moore, P., Piwek, L., & Roper, I. (2018). The quantified workplace: A study in self-tracking, agility and change management. Self-tracking (pp. 93–110). Cham: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  38. Moore, P., & Robinson, A. (2016). The quantified self: What counts in the neoliberal workplace. New Media & Society, 18(11), 2774–2792.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Musso, S. (2013). Labor in the third industrial revolution: A tentative synthesis. In G. Dosi & L. Galambos (Eds.), The third industrial revolution in global business. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  40. Noble, D. F. (1978). Social choice in machine design: The case of automatically controlled machine tools, and a challenge for labor. Politics & Society, 8(3-4), 313–347.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Noble, D. (2017). Forces of production: A social history of industrial automation. Abington: Routledge.Google Scholar
  42. Nuvolari, A. (2019). Understanding successive industrial revolutions: a “development block” approach. Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions, 32, 33–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. OECD. (1994). The OECD jobs study: Facts, analysis and strategies. Paris: OECD Publications.Google Scholar
  44. OECD. (2019). OECD employment outlook 2019. Paris: OECD Publications.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Ohno, T. (1988). Toyota production system: Beyond large-scale production. Boca Raton: CRC Press.Google Scholar
  46. Pagnattaro, M. A. (2008). Getting under your skin – literally: RFID in the employment context. Journal of Law, Technology & Policy, 2, 237–257.Google Scholar
  47. Pardi, T. (2018). “Industry 4.0: hypes, stakes, history and possible consequences for workers in the automotive sector, presentation at the conference “A new industrial revolution? Labour, technology and the automotive industry”, 31 May 2018, Pisa.Google Scholar
  48. Piva, M., & Vivarelli, M. (2018). Innovation, jobs, skills and tasks: a multifaceted relationship. Giornale di diritto del lavoro e di relazioni industriali. Google Scholar
  49. Pollard, S. (1963). Factory discipline in the industrial revolution. Economic History Review, 16(2), 254–271.Google Scholar
  50. Schatsky, D. & Kumar, N. (2018). Workforce superpowers: Wearables are augmenting employees’ abilities. Deloitte Insights. https://www2.deloitte.com/insights/us/en/focus/signals-for-strategists/wearable-devices-in-the-workplace.html. Accessed 9 Aug 2019.
  51. Schwab, K. (2016). The fourth industrial revolution. Geneve: World Economic Forum.Google Scholar
  52. Seneviratne, S., Hu, Y., Nguyen, T., Lan, G., Khalifa, S., Thilakarathna, K., et al. (2017). A survey of wearable devices and challenges. IEEE Communications Surveys & Tutorials, 19(4), 2573–2620.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Streeck, W., & Thelen, K. A. (2005). Beyond continuity: Institutional change in advanced political economies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  54. Summers, L. (2014). US Economic prospects: secular stagnation, hysteresis, and the zero-lower bound. Business Economics, 49, 65–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Womack, J. P., Womack, J. P., Jones, D. T., & Roos, D. (1990). Machine that changed the world. New York: Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
  56. Zollo, M., & Winter, S. G. (2002). Deliberate learning and the evolution of dynamic capabilities. Organization Science, 13(3), 339–351.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Associazione Amici di Economia e Politica Industriale 2019

Authors and Affiliations

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

Personalised recommendations