Toward a Theory of Value and Distribution for the Post-Robotic Age

Authors: Gary Dymski*, University of Leeds, Arpita Bhattacharjee, University of Leeds, Andrew Brown, University of Leeds
Topics: Economic Geography, Social Theory, Urban and Regional Planning
Keywords: Value, distribution, robotics, finance, political economy, cities
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Gallier B, Sheraton, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Nearly four decades after the dawn of the neoliberal era, the accumulated effects of globalized production, the reduced capacity and willingness of government to support social expenditures, and the deregulation of finance have brought about a crisis in the social relations of production. Voter revolts, excessive indebtedness, and insecure employment undercut low-moderate income households, while the excessive returns available to those who control capital only worsen stagnation.

Infrastructure investment – new schools, new transport – is proposed as an answer; but how can this be sustainably financed, given the continuing incursion of robots and artificial intelligence into the supply chains underlying ever more goods and services production processes. That this ongoing technological shift - fueled by asymmetries in the global distribution of income and corporate power, and turbocharged by the impasse of the neoliberal era – will disrupt growth and distribution in myriad ways is clear. How these disruptions will play out involves complexities yet to be identified. In short, the immanent arrival of the post-robotic age makes it crucial to explore new understandings of economic value and distribution.

This paper will explore several different approaches rethinking value and distribution: one extending the logic of Sraffian reproduction schemas, another building on the implications of social-choice theory, and a third developing ideas rooted in feminist economics’ studies of paid and unpaid work, time-use, and holistic approaches to social reproduction. The feasibility and policy relevance of rethinking value will be illustrated using an example from infrastructure economics in the UK.

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