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That is, is the statement that internet access increased individual economic fitness imaginary or real? If I define individual economic fitness as an individual's ability to survive and thrive in a particular economic environment, I think the if clause in the last sentence describes the unreal situation because internet access does not help the economic lives of working Americans improve.

In the 1990s, the story went that access to certain tools — an internet connection and a PC — would enable access to high-wage jobs. Today, it appears that the tools were easier to get than the jobs. Ultimately, we must reckon with the fact that as home internet access has reached a saturation point — though of course gaps still remain — the economic lives of working Americans have either not improved or have worsened. Hourly wages have stagnated since the late 1970s, while productivity has continued to improve (Bivens et al. 2014). Indeed, from 2000 to 2013, the era wherein home internet access reached the saturation point, hourly wages for 30 percent of the workforce actually fell. The story is worse for workers with only a high school degree, but even college graduates have seen anemic wage growth. And while gender-based wage gaps have narrowed over the last forty years, race-based ones have been stubbornly persistent (Bivens et al. 2014; see also Akee, Jones, and Porter 2019; Author and Dorn 2014; Dumenil and Levy 2015; Edelman 2013). This is hardly the picture we’d expect if internet access increased individual economic fitness.

The Promise of Access: Technology, Inequality, and the Political Economy of Hope

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  • No, it's not subjunctive. It's just a conditional construction. Subjunctive clauses have a plain form of the verb, as in "It is vital that I be told immediately".
    – BillJ
    Jun 13, 2022 at 8:41

1 Answer 1

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Yes

The last sentence is short for

This is hardly the picture we would expect if internet access increased individual economic fitness.

The author is pointing to a hypothetical world in which internet usage helped make people richer, and showing that that is not the real world.

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  • But it's not subjunctive. It's just a conditional construction expressing modal remoteness. Subjunctive clauses have a plain form of the verb, as in "It is vital that I be told immediately".
    – BillJ
    Jun 13, 2022 at 8:48

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