In the Society of Control, we have given up a few things that marked the closing decades of the Society of Discipline. Among these is the dominance of disciplinary enclosures. That dominance led to the University as we know it today. Training for skills that allowed graduates to meet the needs of national industrial capitalism no longer fits a world where global corporate capitalism is the norm.
I am very happy to see Paul Krugman finally grasping this.
During the time that Boomers were in college and thru the first wave of Gen Xers, we were completing a cycle that had begun in the late 19th century. High Schools and then Colleges were trying to meet the need for ever increasing skills among the population at large. First higher education sought to train owners of factories. Then managers for factories. Finally, workers in factories.
But with movement away from the factories of national industrial capitalism into the unceasing work of encoding the Book of Life, the last vestiges of mercantilism give way and there is no need for skilled managers & workers. The owners have almost entirely evolved into financiers & venture capitalists. If they cannot get their labor from machines, they will go to another country.
And as this trend continues into research fields, we will begin to see–as David Sirota has already pointed out–what is the matter is not a dearth of skilled workers.
Since the folks who want to succeed care to do so in the huge profit margins of finance rather than the more narrow paths of fabrication, they might want to stop training themselves to be skilled workers and take up the innovative thinking that is concentrated in the creative sector–that is, the arts & the humanities. They may want to embrace what really drives innovation and give up being trained for the routine tasks of employed functionaries.
As an Existential con-artist, this is what I find myself doing even as I continue to do what is necessary to keep a roof over my head. We must evolve along with how we see things happening, adjust our being to meet the situation without becoming a victim, and be ready for the opportunities that present themselves.
There is success to be had not only in learning from our personal failures but even from the on-going failures of how most “decision makers” are dropping the ball.
So the story has totally shifted; if you want to understand what’s happening to income distribution in the 21st century economy, you need to stop talking so much about skills, and start talking much more about profits and who owns the capital. Mea culpa: I myself didn’t grasp this until recently. But it’s really crucial.