Empowering the Freelance Economy

James Robertson: A Pioneering Voice in Self-Employment and the Future of Work

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Obituary

James Robertson (11 August 1928 – 9 November 2023), a renowned futurist and social commentator, left an indelible mark on the world of self-employment and the broader realm of work. However many freelancers may have never known about his existence until now.

His prescient insights and unwavering advocacy for individual autonomy have reportedly inspired generations of individuals seeking to forge their paths in the ever-evolving economic landscape.

Early Life and Education: Laying the Foundation

Born in 1928, Robertson’s childhood was marked by World War II and its aftermath, experiences that shaped his worldview and instilled a deep appreciation for personal resilience and the power of innovation.

From Civil Servant to Futurist: Embracing the Future of Work

After serving as a British civil servant for several years, Robertson embarked on a new career path as an independent writer and speaker in 1974. This decision marked a turning point, allowing him to fully dedicate himself to exploring the future of work and society.

In 1974 the Sunday Times published an article he wrote under the headline “Can we have a non-profit economy?” This prompted the release later the same year of his short book Profit or People? The New Social Role of Money, an early stakeholder manifesto that became the first of a series of specialist but influential books over the following years in which he outlined his evolving thinking on economic and social alternatives.

The Guardian

Robertson’s work focused on the implications of technological advancements, globalisation, and changing societal norms on the nature of employment. He recognised that traditional employment structures were becoming increasingly obsolete and advocated for a paradigm shift towards self-employment and the gig economy.

Key Contributions to Self-Employment

Robertson’s contributions to the field of self-employment are vast and multifaceted. He was a vocal champion of the self-employed, tirelessly advocating for their rights, recognition, and support. He also played a pivotal role in shaping public discourse on the evolving nature of work, challenging conventional notions of employment and highlighting the potential of self-employment as a viable and fulfilling career path.

His seminal work, “The Sane Alternative,” published in 1980, articulated a vision of a future where individuals could pursue their interests and talents through self-employment, free from the constraints of traditional employment structures. This book became a cornerstone of the self-employment movement, inspiring countless individuals to explore their entrepreneurial aspirations.

Robertson’s Influence on Self-Employment Today

Today, Robertson’s legacy continues to resonate in the realm of self-employment. His insights and advocacy have contributed to the growing acceptance and recognition of self-employment as a legitimate and viable career choice. His work has empowered individuals to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams, fostering a culture of innovation and independence.

Robertson’s impact extends beyond the realm of self-employment, shaping broader discussions about the future of work and the evolving relationship between individuals and the workplace. His work has challenged traditional notions of employment and encouraged a more nuanced understanding of the changing dynamics of the labour market.

A Legacy of Vision and Advocacy

James Robertson’s life and work stand as a testament to his unwavering belief in the potential of individuals to shape their destinies. His contributions to the field of self-employment have been profound, empowering countless individuals to pursue their entrepreneurial passions and contribute to the world in meaningful ways.

As we navigate the ever-changing landscape of work, Robertson’s legacy continues to inspire and guide us, reminding us of the power of individual autonomy and the boundless possibilities that lie within the entrepreneurial spirit.

You can access Patterson’s books and papers on his website.

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