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SO4013 Work & Industry Week 3 Labour Process Theory.

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Presentation on theme: "SO4013 Work & Industry Week 3 Labour Process Theory."— Presentation transcript:

1 SO4013 Work & Industry Week 3 Labour Process Theory

2 Harry Braverman Labor & Monopoly Capital; the degradation of work in the 20th century (1974) Labor & Monopoly Capital; the degradation of work in the 20th century (1974) Active Marxist (Trotskyite) Active Marxist (Trotskyite) Problem of the persistence of a non- revolutionary working class in advanced capitalist societies Problem of the persistence of a non- revolutionary working class in advanced capitalist societies

3 Marx – Labour Theory of Value 1. (economic) Value is created by labour alone – dead labour 2. Labour, in capitalists societies, is a commodity bought by labour to produce profit profit is the value produced by labour that is retained by capital. That is, profit = withheld value 4. However, capital must ensure the reproduction of labour (subsistence) before it takes profit. That is, profit= surplus value 5. Therefore, the central problem for capital is how to get labour to engage in effort for which it is not rewarded

4 Labour Process Marx distinguished between the labourers work (labour) and his capacity to work (labour power). In capitalism, the employer buys labour power and not labour Marx distinguished between the labourers work (labour) and his capacity to work (labour power). In capitalism, the employer buys labour power and not labour Source: Abercrombie et al Penguin Dictionary of Sociology Source: Abercrombie et al Penguin Dictionary of Sociology The labour process is the means through which capitalists convert labour power (potential) into labour performed (actual effort) in order to maximise surplus value. The labour process is the means through which capitalists convert labour power (potential) into labour performed (actual effort) in order to maximise surplus value. Source: Me Source: Me

5 Two Phases of Capitalism Competitive Capitalism The early period of capitalism (also typical of conditions in new product markets) in which numerous producers compete against each other, typically through price reduction. Monopoly Capitalism The later period of capitalism (also typical of mature product markets) in which markets are dominated by one or a few major producers. Competition is replaced by strategies to maintain demand for the product. Cartels (or trusts) may form: a collusive association of independent enterprises formed to monopolise production and distribution of a product or service

6 The Development of Monopoly Capitalism Vertical Integration As weaker producers fail their market share is taken up by survivors. As these become larger so they extend their activities by incorporating all phases of the production process into the organisation, from the extraction of raw materials to the sale of the eventual products.

7 Extraction of surplus value under Competitive Capitalism 1. Adam Smith (1776) Division of Labour The process through whereby productive tasks become separated and more specialised 2. Charles Babbage (1832) Labour Cheapening Distributing work so that it is performed by the cheapest labour available

8 Extraction of surplus value under Monopoly Capitalism 1. Frederick Taylor (1898) Scientific Management Rational strategies including e.g. time & motion study, through which control is exercised over labour by separating the planning and organisation of work (mental labour) from the performance (physical execution) of work. 2. Henry Ford (1913) Mass Production The large-scale production of goods and services through standardised design and standardised production methods.

9 The Labour Market under Competitive Capitalism 1. Task specialisation and labour cheapening produces a separation between a labour aristocracy of high skilled, high priced workers and a larger group of semi- and unskilled workers 2. The role of trade unions in protecting privileged and powerful labour 3. Bravermans tendency to underplay this development

10 The Labour Market under Monopoly Capitalism 1. A new group of employees is established, managers, (indirect producers) who represent the interests of capital by controlling and instructing labour (direct producers) 2. Direct producers become largely performers of routine activities degraded/deskilled 3. Direct producers lose their power to control the labour process because they are stripped of knowledge of how production is organised. Re Foucault on the relationship between knowledge and power

11 Mass Production and Labour Mass production typically creates labour that is: a) Low skilled b) Disposable c) Closely supervised d) Fragmented Consequently labour becomes homogenised. That is, uniform in its lack of power over the labour process

12 Extension of the degradation of labour (de-skilling) According to Braverman although the degradation of labour began in manufacturing industry its techniques have been extended to service, white-collar and professional work re e.g. the computerisation of skilled, knowledge-based work in these sectors e.g. CAD (Computer Aided Design)

13 Criticisms of Labour Process Theory Empirical 1. The theory is out of date 2. It is based on poor, selective history, leading to a romantic view of past skilled labour 3. Skilled work has not declined 4. The working class has not been homogenised

14 Criticisms of Labour Process Theory Theoretical 1. Labour Process Theory confuses class (employees/employers) and status (workers/managers) 2. Labour Process Theory fails to distinguish between the degradation (de-skilling) of work and of workers


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