Computer Technology Workers: A New Elite-Why?

Sheldon Richmond


Why has the computer revolution failed to give more “power” to the worker as predicted by most futurists? Why is there a new power elite of computer professionals? In the early days of implementing computer technology-desktop PCs and Networks-into the corporate world, the leaders of this implementation preached for “open systems”, flat organizations, and the decentralization of responsibility and power. They argued that this was a new “paradigm” and those who resisted the “paradigm-shift” were stuck in the old paradigm and so favoured the status quo either because they feared change or totally misunderstood the new paradigm . However, what has actually happened over the last twenty years or so is that organizations introduced new technocratic hierarchies and locked down computer systems in the corporate environment in order to prevent workers from learning through trial and error how to use computers systems as opposed to being used by computer systems. Why? The answer is quite obvious: computer systems are the means of production in contemporary knowledge economies. Hence, those who know how to control computer systems thereby gain control of the means of production. In order to prevent workers from actually understanding computers and so gaining control of the means of production, they are prevented from “tampering” with their computers at work, and their jobs become extensions of computer operations. Furthermore, their minds become part of the techno-system of machine procedures, which inhibit independent, critical and creative thought, let alone the asking of questions.


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