Autonomy vs. Insecurity: The (Mis)Fortunes of Mental Labor in a Global Network

David B. Downing

Abstract


Traditional views of mental labor all had something to do with public accountability: the professionalized development of disciplines of knowledge depended on what Steven Brint calls “social trustee professionalism.”  Professionalized mental workers were granted a degree of autonomy with respect to the knowledge they would create, control, and disseminate (not unlike the old artisans’ guilds), and the accompanying privileges presumed a kind of implicit social contract to the extent that the knowledge would enter the public realm as a benefit to the society as a whole.  These idealizations have now been pretty well unmasked since most expert professionals now work primarily for the benefit of private capital, and well out of view of public eyes.

Keywords


intellectual labor and work;

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ISSN 1715-0094  Workplace