The Internet, Organizational Change, and Labor: The Challenge of Virtualization

The Internet, Organizational Change, and Labor: The Challenge of Virtualization

The Internet, Organizational Change, and Labor: The Challenge of Virtualization

The Internet, Organizational Change, and Labor: The Challenge of Virtualization

Synopsis

The Internet has contributed to the organization and mobilization of workers facing multinational corporations. The focus of this work is the impact of the Internet on human resources and the balance of power between labor and management.

Excerpt

The Internet and allied information technologies are reshaping the workplace in myriad ways. While this reality is widely acknowledged, hyperbolic rhetoric clouds public understanding. Some talk loosely of revolutionary change and a new era of high tech entrepreneurialism. Many observers display an uncritical optimism about markets and new technology. They see the Internet as further perfection of a triumphant capitalism, cutting costs, and building profits. They wax enthusiastic about the speed of data on broadband and the leaps in processor power and are as yet unchastened by the losses on NASDAQ.

The exaggerated good news is frequently promulgated in the American business school, where neoclassical and technological orthodoxy typically reign. In the late 1990s, the Dean of a prominent Washington, DC business school praised the “dot-com” as the inspiration for all school activities. Students registered in droves for Managing Information System (MIS) courses. While student interest has topped out, many business school faculty remain cheerleaders for e-commerce, seldom inquiring as to the treatment of stakeholders. E-businesses are ordinarily viewed from the vantage point of managers alone. Only in a minority of schools is MIS reconsidered from the perspective of labor and other social movements. UK Informations System scholar Steve Walker is one of those who argue the need for a “social movement informatics” (Walker 2002).

In the chapters to follow, we will describe important dynamics in the Internet-driven workplace. We cannot present a complete picture, but we will draw inferences from cases through the application of an institutionalist lens, by which we mean an analysis sensitive to underlying power relationships in the operation of markets.

We do not accept the rigid assumptions of neoclassical economics. The real world is not characterized by perfect competition, actors do not have perfect information, and labor does not have perfect mobility. The effects of the Internet cannot be understood if self-adjusting markets are assumed. We are very much influenced by the pragmatist philosophy of

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