BY LILY REAVIS ’21
“You’ve helped transform Mount Holyoke and situate it for the next generation,” Dean of Faculty Jon Western said to Eva Paus during his introduction of the presentation of her new book last Thursday.
Paus, who has been a professor of economics at Mount Holyoke since 1987, discussed her new book “Confronting Dystopia: The New Technological Revolution and the Future of Work” at the Odyssey Bookstore on Oct. 9. The event was attended by several community members and Mount Holyoke faculty, particularly those involved in the McCulloch Center for Global Initiatives.
“Confronting Dystopia” is Paus’ fourth published volume. Western introduced the new book, calling it “substantive, sophisticated, complex.”
The book analyzes the implications of the technological revolution on jobs, living and working conditions and income. It distinguishes those conditions between the Global North, made up of wealthy, well-developed countries, and the Global South, which consists of poorer, less-developed countries.
Paus described her new book as having a multi-disciplinary perspective, claiming that globalization is both an economic and political issue. “We are at the point of inflection,” she said, “and the impact will be profound.”
The book is loosely divided into three sections, according to Paus: career creation and destruction, quality of jobs and the impacts of the technological revolution in the Global South. She told the audience that the book is a “call to action” on Thursday, adding, “we need new policies. We need new orders.” She went on to explain that new policies are needed in terms of globalization and job security.
The first focus of “Confronting Dystopia” discusses the impact of technology on jobs. A 2013 study from the University of Oxford stated that 47 percent of jobs could be automated by 2033. “We’re not talking about minor magnitudes here,” Paus said.
One job field that Paus suggested could not be automated is the care sector. In “Confronting Dystopia,” she says that 14 out of 20 care sector jobs are unable to be automatically performed, as they are based on face-to-face interaction. This includes some jobs in daycares, nursing homes and hospitals.
She pointed out that the care sector is currently highly gendered and underpaid and in her new book, she identifies the sector as an area for job creation. The book also discusses the quality of jobs and the growth of the precariat. In economics, the precariat is a class defined by uncertainty and insecurity. Paus suggests that growing levels of unemployment and self-employment are leading to a larger precariat in the world, which leads to further job insecurity and the need to create new jobs.
In the Global South especially, job creation is a major issue. According to Paus, sub-Saharan Africa is the fastest-growing region in the world in terms of population. In order for each person to secure a job, 1.1 billion new jobs would have to be created in the region by 2060.
Paus spoke about several options to solve the problem of unemployment in the Global South, but said that most of them are impractical without government help. “It’s not hard to come up with solutions,” she said. “The answers are political.”
“We need to start thinking about providing people with a livable way of life without depending on jobs,” Paus continued. “Confronting Dystopia” advocates for a global basic income, which would allow individuals a living stipend without a job. Paus added that the link between jobs and economic growth does not exist in the Global South.
During her presentation, Paus encouraged the candidacy of Andrew Yang, a Democrat who is running for president in 2020. His campaign is based on the idea of a Universal Basic Income (UBI), one of the major ideas represented in “Confronting Dystopia.”
She ended the talk by referencing Mark Zuckerberg’s commencement address at Harvard in 2017. During the address, he said, “Let’s face it. There is something wrong with our system when I can leave here and make billions of dollars in 10 years while millions of students can’t afford to pay off their loans, let alone start a business.”
Paus said that it is “critical that we revise the rules for globalization.” She hopes that “Confronting Dystopia” will encourage readers to acknowledge that there is a growing problem regarding security throughout the world, particularly in the Global South.
Paus has published several articles and books on the topic of globalization. Most recently, in 2009, she co-edited “The Rise of China: A Global Transformation?” with Western.
During her time at the College, Paus has founded both the McCulloch Center and the Weissman Center for Leadership. She has served as the McCulloch Center Director for 14 years.