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Nonfiction in Brief

February 14, 1988|ALEX RAKSIN

WHY WORK Motivating the New Generation by Michael Maccoby (Simon & Schuster: $18.95) Science fiction novels and films tend to envision an overcrowded future in which the individual disappears in a sea of faces. Forward-looking business writers, on the other hand, tend to project just the opposite: a service sector economy sensitive to consumer needs in which robots and computers do the menial work, leaving the more creative endeavors to humans. Daniel Bell and other sociologists forwarded this sanguine vision well before Michael Maccoby, of course. "Why Work" is unique, however, because it looks more intimately at the Information Society, using fascinating character profiles to show what kinds of people will thrive in the new workplace. Workers of the '90s will want to be entrepreneurs, not narrow specialists, Maccoby writes. They will resent work that doesn't allow them to improve their skills or maintain their marketability. Maccoby has based most of his conclusions on interviews with 400 professionals, a small sample from which to project the future .

But his arguments make sense. Now that new jobs are evolving at breakneck speed, for instance, it stands to reason that workers will want to keep sharpening skills. Maccoby doesn't always adequately address the implications of his theories. Since workers want to be entrepreneurs, will they rebel against the mega-corporation? Maccoby only says that employees seem reluctant to own a business, offering the example of "one idealistic innovator (who) gave half of his company to the workers . . . (but found that) they complained about too much work." Maccoby's thoughts about individual behavior are insightful, however, though they are more humanistic than futuristic: "Work ties us to a real world that tells us whether or not our ideas and visions make sense. We need to feel needed, and to feel needed, we must be evaluated by others in whatever coinage, tangible or not, culture employs."

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