The New Economy, or the
Emperor’s New Clothes?

Andy Pratt

Home:  Materials:  Links:  Footnotes:


The idea of the new economy is at once both an attractive and problematic one. Without doubt, there have been significant events that have constituted some dramatic economic turbulence in recent years, notably in the 2000-1 period and the formation of the so-called 'dot com bubble'. This 'bubble' is not unique and has a lot in common with previous speculative investment events. It may be that the bubble, and crash afterward, has been bigger or had more widespread fallout than previous events. It is not clear whether this restructuring constitutes another round of market speculation where the mode of speculation is the novelty and not the commodity being speculated on (see Feng, Froud et al. 2001); or, a view more commonly found in the literature, a change in some fundamental values that would indicate a step change for the economy. Second, and related, evidence for the emergence of a ‘new economy’ is commonly indexed to particular technologies: namely, computers and the internet. We should be wary of the technological determinist overtones of much discussion here and point to the gap between what might be a twinkling in the eye of futurologists and what is actually happening. Third, hitched to debate about the 'new economy' are a host of social/economic/political rhetorics about 'new business practices', (de-) regulation (Kelly 1998), and latterly a new work-life balance (Reich 2000). Fourth, and perhaps most crucially, there is the issue of what the ‘new economy’ actually is: a new phase that the whole economy is in; or, a sub-sector of the old economy? Fifth, if it is the latter, how precisely is the new economy to be defined: does it include all of those activities that use computing or internet technologies, is it only those businesses that conduct all of their activities 'on-line', or is it something else altogether? Sixth, and finally, what is the causal process that is embodied in the 'new economy', and 'what changed' to differentiate it from the 'old economy'? Is it a matter of degree, or something new entirely?

Click to view full text (PDF)
Article on
The New Economy, or
             the Emperor’s New Clothes?

click here to return to the Materials and Publications index

Produced and Hosted by the Center for Digital Discourse and Culture     © Center for Digital Discourse and Culture, Virginia Tech. All rights reserved. The physical campus is in Blacksburg, Virginia, U.S.A. For more information, please contact the Center at