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Labor Process

Alan McKinlay


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Braverman's Labor and Monopoly Capitalism (1974) was a craftsman's roar of indignation against the relentless deskilling of modern work. His starting point was explicitly Marxist: the distinction between labor power and labor. That is, all forms of management are not neutral forms of coordination and mobilization, but necessarily involve the transformation of the potential productivity latent in labor power into actual work and output. Exploitation is not an unfortunate lapse but inherent in the employment relationship in capitalist societies. From the industrial revolution onwards, management had skirted around the stubborn opposition of skilled labor by indirect means, such as the use of ramshackle incentive systems or craft supervisors to navigate between craft norms and managerial demands. Braverman argues that modern management, a management that did not accept craft methods as a given, was inaugurated by F. W. Taylor. Taylorism, for Braverman, consisted of three essential principles. First, that management must accumulate and then codify all the knowledge of tools, tasks, and techniques held by skilled labor. This both redressed the imbalance of working knowledge that was the historic weakness of management and allowed them to experiment systematically with alternative, more efficient production methods. Second, the separation of conception from execution, the first ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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