Summary of The New Division of Labor

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The New Division of Labor book summary


6 Overall

5 Applicability

7 Innovation

7 Style


This excellent short book has implications far beyond its titular subject. Although ostensibly about the effect of computers on labor, it provides a model for thinking in economically rational terms about any kind of innovation that offers lower costs or greater efficiency. In a nutshell, scaremongers tend to exaggerate the threats and underestimate the benefits of such innovations. Some prognosticators, for example, predicted massive unemployment, poverty and social unrest due to employment disruptions stemming from computers. Why? Because computers could do many jobs, especially automated ones, faster and better. Something like the classical economic notion of comparative advantage is at work: computers and people should each do what they are good at. On the other hand, the authors analyze how innovation leaves many low-level, unskilled workers behind, and explain how and why the haves must make reasonable, just provisions for the have-nots. getAbstract believes that any reader who appreciates lucid analysis and clear prose will enjoy this book, and will gain understanding and perspective.

In this summary, you will learn

  • Why the power of computers frightened some of the best minds in the Western world;
  • How their fears came to naught; and
  • What you ought to consider when analyzing the effects of major technological and economic events.

About the Authors

Frank Levy is the Daniel Rose Professor of Urban Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His books include The New Dollars and Dreams: American Incomes and Economic Change. Richard J. Murnane is the Juliana W. and William Foss Thompson Professor of Education and Society at Harvard University and author of Who Will Teach? Policies that Matter. Levy and Murnane co-authored Teaching the New Basic Skills.



In 1964, a committee of concerned scientists sent a memo to the U.S. President Lyndon Johnson. The committee included former and future Nobel laureates, such as Linus Pauling and Gunnar Myrdal. The sages warned of a "cybernation revolution," saying that combining computers with automated...

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