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Crown (2018-10-23)
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Political economy


Work and Its Future in a Time of Radical Change

by Shell, Ellen Ruppel

In a brilliant but sobering work of investigative reporting, Ellen Ruppel Shell takes a hard look at the forces that are reshaping the nature of work, overturning the often espoused mythology that retraining workers in software, engineering, and the sciences is the key to job security and career success, and achieving the middle-class dream in the future.

The future of work is not being faced openly. We live in a world where the rewards of employment are concentrated in the hands of the few. Today, the top 10 percent of wage earners in the U.S. bring home 9 times the income of the other 90 percent, and the top .01 percent earn 184 times as much. The economic gap between the few and the many is so vast, Shell says, that we might as well be members of a different species. Moreover, since the 1970s, real wages for most of us have stagnated, and with it our purchasing power. Half of all Americans earn less than $30,000 a year. And the paths to landing those good-paying jobs that secure our financial future are disappearing in the wake of automation and the rise of AI.

In a wide-ranging narrative that takes us from a downsized marketing executive in Massachusetts, to a father of three in Appalachia finding purpose working in a convenience store chain, to an unemployed autoworker retraining in "advanced manufacturing," Shell reveals how work is essential to our flourishing and pyschological well-beingand how so many of the avenues to well-paid and meaningful work will be challenged in the years ahead.

Ellen Ruppel Shell is a professor of journalism at Boston University and a correspondent for The Atlantic. She has written for The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Smithsonian, Slate, the Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, O, and Discover. She is currently a contributor to Scientific American, and to The Washington Post book page. She is the author of Cheap and The Hungry Gene. She lives in the Boston metropolitan area.

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A masterful book about the fundamental role of work in our lives: why it matters, why it's broken, and how we can fix it.

Quote: Adam Grant, New York Times bestselling author

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