The risk of status decline posed by automation leads routine workers to maintain a ‘social distance’ between themselves and outsider groups such as the unemployed or immigrants, who are seen as less valuable and deserving.
This increases support for parties offering workfare policies, especially where the threat of status decline is realised in direct economic hardship. However, where economic hardship eases, the link between automation-linked status anxiety and support for workfare weakens.
Therefore, the risk of automation can be understood as not purely a material threat, but one pertaining to status too. These two different kinds of concern influence choices at different times and in different places.
Accordingly, in this article, Zhen Jie Im and Kathrin Komp-Leukkunen propose compensatory policies alone will be insufficient, and policies to shore up status and dignity will also be required. More local, granular analyses of hardship and anxiety are recommended by the authors in order to further drill down into these dynamics.
Politics and perceptions of automation risk