A Focus on the Ideas of C. Wright Mills American Sociologist, 1916 – 1962 Wrote The Sociological Imagination, The Power Elite We will use Mills to understand to understand the nature of white collar work in modern society By focusing on white-collar life, Mills believes, we can learn much about American character.
Mills on White Collar Work Increased Bureaucracy Technological Change Need to Market Goods More White Collar Jobs From Industrial to Post-Industrial Society
The Nature of White Collar Work Jobs are broken up into simple functional tasks. Standards are set in terms of pace and output. Tasks are automated (done by machine or computer) whenever possible. Important decisions are centralized and moved up the hierarchy. Managers decide when, where, why, and how.
The Nature of White Collar Work With the automation of the office and the growth in the division of labor, the number of routine jobs is increased. You need more workers to do a lot of simple tasks. Authority and job autonomy become attributes of only the top positions. There is an ever greater distinction made in terms of power, prestige, and income between managers and staff.
The Nature of White Collar Work The white collar worker is discouraged from using his own independent judgment His decision making is in accordance with strict rules handed down by managers He is not allowed to use his intellectual ability, and work becomes a forced activity.
The Nature of White Collar Work: An Example “Old Days” “Now” Client Social Worker Client Social Worker Job Instructor Job Developer Resume Writer
The Effect of White Collar Work on Education Pure knowledge and analytical ability is of less use in white-collar work, because job performance and promotion are based on routinized tasks and following the bureaucratic rules of managers. Because of the need to produce routinized office workers, American education shifted toward a vocational/professional focus. High schools and colleges train students for the large bureaucracies
Power and Authority Three types of power: Physical force - rarely used in democratic societies Authority - power attached to positions in bureaucracies Manipulation – power based on the lack of knowledge of the masses The power of manipulation is founded upon the ever more sophisticated methods of control given us by science (including social science) and technology. The truly efficient organization, in a society dominated by large bureaucracies, is based on the techniques and technologies of manipulation. Modern management rules by manipulation, not authority.
Power, Authority, and their Effects on White Collar Workers White-collar people subject to the manipulations and control of their superiors, lose both freedom of action and creativity on the job. Jobs are emptied of any intrinsic meaning. White collar workers are alienated from their work. Money, in order to build a life outside of work, becomes the only rationale for work itself.
Reading Questions for Ehrenreich, On Which I am Offered a “Job ”, and Downward Mobility 1. In the title of chapter seven, the author puts “Job” in quotes…why does she do that? 2. What two job offers does the author get? 3. The author mentions several jobs that are outside of the corporate world for job-seekers. What are some of these jobs? What do they have in common? 4. The author attends a job fair. What were her experiences? 5. How does the author use the term “survival job”?