Strangely rabid, right-wing interpretation at the end of this article by SteveAntler. But an interesting idea.

The claim is that there is a new class war starting. Between the economic sectors representing Products and Services. These are economic classes in the sense that their economic characteristics are different, their class interests are different and they show occasional flashes of class consciousness as the main American political parties manoeuvre themselves towards representing each group (Democrats == Services, Republicans == Products)

The division is mainly due to the different speeds of efficiency gains in the two sectors. In the Products sector, efficiency is growing rapidly with automation and other techniques. In the service sector it's pegged to people and their time.

Thoughts

Information Economy : A Choice of Two Strategies

How does this play out relative to TheNextEconomyOfIdeas. That article advocates that people who produce information products have essentially got their production costs independent of number of consumers. So they must live by trading services who's cost does follow number of consumers. Guess Antler thinks they should use an IntellectualProperty model instead. Maybe this is the key : an advanced InformationEconomy like US, Japan or bits of Europe is going to be forced into a dilemma : choose a "product" strategy or a "service" strategy.

Left And Right Wing

A (possibly) ironic thing about the article is that he suggests products vs. services is the defining class struggle for the next age, but still argues that this is a term to be embraced by "right-wing" analysis. Will the left-right distinction survive meaningfully in a product-service class war? Conversely, if left and right survive as useful categories, how important is the product-service distinction really?

He assumes that service == left, product == right. Does this necessarily hold?

Maybe it's because product == interests of the consumer == capitalist == right. Whereas

Service == labour == left.

But are capitalists aligned with consumers this way? What about capitalists ripping off consumers with shoddy products and misinforming consumers through advertising? Isn't there a customer focused CraftEthic within the services?

His move in a conservative anti-government direction is based on an equation of service with redistribution vs. product with production. This is less inspired than the original suggestion. There's plenty of services which are productive. (Custom software for example) And plenty of activity he probably wants to put on the "product" side which is nothing but redistribution (banking, stock-markets, retail)

Race to the Bottom?

Is this improvement in products only due to a RaceToTheBottom, and screwing more out of workers in the product sector?

Distinction through Speed?

Although there are two groups what seems to define them is the rate at which they are becoming efficient. Compared with capital and labour which according to traditional left thinking are locked in a zero-sum game for wealth, these two groups seem to have far less cause for antagonism.

(May even be complementary. See also WorldsWithinWheels)

Debate

The dichotomy seems rather superficial considering the cliche about how many employees of so-called "product" companies never touch the product, but provide internal services. –BillSeitz

: One of the reasons this resonates with me, I think, is because it ties in with other discussions we used to have in my old job, about whether we should think of ourselves as a product company or service company. The choice definitely had implications for our marketing message and branding, our goals for our codebase, the way we wanted to interact with the open source community etc. What the Antler article made me realize was that this pull in different directions scaled up to the level of a country; and could be the basis of a political division. After that, it was obvious that a lot of the questions of the moment, of intellectual property, file-sharing and internet freedom, the role of open source etc. can all be fitted into the framework.

:So I agree that the product sector is crawling with service providers. And if you take Rifkin's TheAgeOfAccess seriously, everything is evolving towards a service model, so the distinction might dissolve. But I still find something compelling in this. – PhilJones

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