We have now entered a period…when new waves of commodification set in motion in earlier periods are reaching maturity. The new commodities have been generated by drawing into the market even more aspects of life that were previously outside the money economy, or at least that part of it that generates a profit for capitalists. Several such fields of accumulation have now emerged, each with a different method of commodity genesis, forming the basis of new economic sectors and exerting distinctive impacts on daily life, including labor and consumption. They include biology, art and culture, public services, and sociality.
Ursula Huws ties together disparate economic, cultural, and political phenomena of the last few decades to form a provocative narrative about the shape of the global capitalist economy at present. She examines the way that advanced information and communications technology has opened up new fields of capital accumulation: in culture and the arts, in the privatization of public services, and in the commodification of human sociality by way of mobile devices and social networking. These trends are in turn accompanied by the dramatic restructuring of work arrangements, opening the way for new contradictions and new forms of labor solidarity and struggle around the planet.
The combination of technological change and globalization is bringing about fundamental changes in who does what work where, when, and how. This has implications which are profoundly contradictory for the nature of jobs, for the people who carry them out, and hence for the nature of cities
Faced with the difficulty of “placing” a stranger, the most common opening gambit is to ask, “What do you do?” Except perhaps in a few small hunter-gatherer tribes, a person’s occupation is one of the most important delineators of social identity. In many European cultures this is reflected in family names. People called Schmidt, Smith, Herrero, or Lefebvre, for instance, had ancestors who were iron workers. Wainwrights and Wagners are descended from wagon makers, and so on with the Mullers (Millers), Boulangers (Bakers), Guerreros (soldiers), and all the myriad Potters, Butchers, Carters, Coopers, Carpenters, Fishers, Shepherds, and Cooks whose names can be found in any North American phone book
The workplace has been changed in recent decades by the rise of digital technologies. Parts of a single labor process can be moved around the world, with implications not only for individual workplaces or firms, but for the working class as a whole. Computer operators in India process medical transcriptions for doctors in the United States at one-eighth of what U.S. computer operators would earn, and at four times the salary of an Indian schoolteacher.