Le roi Ludd est encore mort

CAMBRIDGE – Depuis l’aube de l’ère industrielle, on a toujours craint que l’évolution technologique n’entraine un chômage de masse. Une situation inenvisageable selon les économistes néoclassiques, qui prévoyaient que les individus finiraient par retrouver un emploi, même au prix d’une longue période d’ajustement douloureux. Cette prévision s’est globalement avérée exacte.

Deux cents ans d’innovation époustouflante depuis l’aube de l’ère industrielle ont permis une amélioration des niveaux de vie pour les gens ordinaires dans une grande partie du monde, sans que la courbe du chômage ne s’envole. Oui, il y a eu de nombreux problèmes, notamment l’émergence de profondes inégalités et des guerres de plus en plus terribles. Mais en moyenne cependant, les hommes vivent plus longtemps, de manière plus saine, et travaillent un nombre d’heures nettement inférieur dans une majeure partie du monde.

Mais on ne peut nier l’accélération que connait l’évolution technologique, qui crée potentiellement des écarts plus profonds et plus importants. Dans un célèbre article de 1983, le grand économiste Wassily Leontief s’inquiétait de ce que le rythme si rapide de l’évolution technologique moderne ne rende de nombreux travailleurs, incapables de s’ajuster, tout simplement obsolètes, comme ce fut le cas pour les chevaux après l’apparition de l’automobile. Des milliers de travailleurs sont-ils donc, tels les chevaux, destinés à l’abattoir ?

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