Work in the Fast Lane

Flexibility, Divisions of Labor, and Inequality in High-Tech Industries

By Glenna Colclough & Charles M. Tolbert II

Subjects: Management, Sociology
Series: SUNY series, The New Inequalities
Paperback : 9780791407844, 160 pages, January 1992
Hardcover : 9780791407837, 160 pages, January 1992

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Table of contents

List of Figures

List of Tables


1. Introduction

2. The Nature and Organization of High-Tech Industries and Firms

3. Employment in High-Tech Industries: Technical and Social Divisions of Labor

4. High-Tech Industrial Development and the Spatial Division of Labor

5. Earnings and Inequality in High-Tech Industries: National, Regional, and Local Patterns

6. High Technology: Fast Lane to the Future or the Past?




Arguing that a new form of industrial organization is generating new patterns of inequality, the authors explore the relationship between growth in the high-tech sector and trends in inequality. While considering the promise of high-tech industries in light of the realities of high-tech work, the authors report considerable unevenness in the high-tech sector. Some high-tech industries fulfill optimistic expectations, but others are in decline. In some high-tech industries, work is organized in ways that generate inequality along gender, racial, and ethnic lines.

The authors link these contrasts to different strategies of flexible production. Building upon the distinction between static flexibility, in which harsh measures are taken to control costs, and dynamic flexibility, in which production processes are constantly adapted to market conditions, they conclude that the most innovative and successful high-tech industries are those employing dynamic flexibility. Expansion of dynamically flexible production strategies is essential if high-tech industries are to fulfill their promise.

Glenna Colclough is Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Alabama, Huntsville. Charles M. Tolbert II is Associate Professor and Chair in the Department of Sociology at Florida State University, Tallahassee.