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  Michael Piore


Professor Michael J. Piore, a Labor Economist and a Professor of Economics at MIT. Educated at Harvard University, he has written extensively on various aspects of industrial relations and employment and training. In contrast with the dominant approach in economics, which tends to treat economic activity as analytically separate from social life, Prof. Piore's work is distinguished by its concern with the way in which economic activity is embedded in institutional and social structures, and in turn with the impact of those structures on economic activity and public policy interventions.

Prof. Piore is working with Prof. Lester on the Design Project. This research is broadly concerned with the problem of business organization in conditions characterized by ambiguity, by which we mean circumstances in which even the possible range of outcomes cannot be precisely specified in advance. It focuses in particular on the problem of organizing design and the development of new products and processes, where the need to deal with ambiguity is manifest in a particularly insistent way.

Prof. Piore's most recent work has focused on the changing institutional structures of industrial economies and the shift from mass production to "flexible specialization." He has been particularly interested in the increasingly important and changing role of small business and of agglomerations of small firms in the same industry. He has also been studying the decentralization of power and authority in large corporate organizations to enhance their flexibility.

Prof. Piore is one of the originators of the dual labor market hypothesis, the notion that low wage workers are confined to a separate labor market and that their unemployment, wage rates, and the like must be understood in terms of the structure of that market and the function which it plays in the economy. Early work explored this hypothesis and also the idea of the "internal" labor market.

Published works includes the recently published Beyond Individualism, (Harvard University Press, 1995); The Second Industrial Divide (with Charles Sabel); Dualism and Discontinuity in Industrial Society (with Suzanne Berger); Birds of Passage: Migrant Labor and Industrial Societies; Unemployment and Inflation: Institutionalist and Structuralist Views (editor); and Internal Labor Markets and Manpower Adjustment (with Peter Doeringer).

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