Future Work Welfare

Assessment 2: Essay

The second assessment is a 2000 word essay focusing on political economy approaches to understanding a major problematic issue in the capitalist economy – What is the future of work? How can we ensure the welfare of all? Weighting – 50%

Learning outcomes: 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5  Assessment deadline: End of the module

Question: What is the future of work? How can we ensure the welfare of all?


This assessment has three areas for you to cover. How you address them is up to you.

1. An outline of the various scenarios concerning the future of work. To think about how work is changing into the future, requires you to think about the dominant image of work now and in the recent past. This initially involves addressing how work is defined, what are its features (i.e. do all people work, is all work paid, is it always productive activity, are more people employed in services than in manufacture, what about the gender division of labour, is a job the most important thing for the welfare of people)? See Lecture 20/21.

2.  The second area is about identifying the leading edges of change into the future. You should focus mainly on the factors in recent times which have changed how work is done and who does it (e.g. new technologies, digital revolution, the gig economy).  These will be mainly technological changes (e.g. the impact of artificial intelligence – AI – on jobs).  But you could consider other impacts on the future of work. You might also consider what are the alternatives to ensure welfare in a world where there is less work? How do we sustain ourselves without paid work? How do we secure an income? See Lecture 21/22

3. A further area to focus on must be an overview of what different schools of political economic thought have to say about ‘work’ and whether what is said can tell us anything about the ‘Future of Work’. In that respect, these are the following possibilities you might cover from the module sessions  –

Classical Political Economy

What did Smith have to say of relevance to issues of Work / Labour?  (see Lecture 6 in particular Slide 4 on the Labour theory of value and slide 9 on the Division of Labour)

Marxist Political Economy

What did Marx and Engels have to say of issues of Work / Labour? – (Reserve Army of Labour – See Lecture 9 Slide 3, 4 and 5)

Also about the Labour Theory of Value (Lecture 8 slides 3,4 and 5) – Production and Reproduction – (Slide 14 to 18) Surplus Value – See Slide 7 and 10 Lecture 8  Exploitation – See Slide 9 Lecture 8

Neo-Classical Political Economy

What did the Neo-Classical thinkers (Marshall etc) have to say about Work / Labour? Labour power – see Slide 7 Lecture 10

Institutional Economics

What did the institutionalists (e.g. Veblen) have to say about Work / Labour? Social Basis of Production – Veblen see slide 6 Lecture 15

Keynesian Political Economy

What did Keynes  have to say about Work / Labour? Labour and unemployment – Slide 6 and 7  Lecture 17. Labour Markets – Slide 7 Lecture 18

Recommended Core Reading for the Essay

Pietrykowski, B (2019) “The Future of Work” in “Work” Cambridge: Polity

Stilwell (2012) Chapter 36 “Technology, Industry and Work” (Key reading – module core text)

Warde, A (1990) “The Future of Work” – Useful on Fordism and Post Fordism (Key reading – copy sent)

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