SOAN 2040 Chapter Notes - Chapter 1: Digging Stick, Wage Labour, Embeddedness

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Edgell chapter 1- the transformation of work
- The current conception of work is a modern social construction, the product of specific historical
conditions that are typically denoted by the term “industrial capitalism”
o Industrial= work is a productive activity involving machines powered by inanimate
energy sources that is undertaken outside the home in a dedicated building that one has to
travel to each work day
o Capitalism= work involves monetary payment, typically agreed in advance in relation to
time and/or output, and is part of a market system in which productive property is
privately owned with a view to making a profit and that everything has a price, including
- The term „modern society‟ refers to industrial society and although the process of modernization
may start with industrialization, it is one that covers all aspects of social change, not just economic
Work in pre- industrial societies
- Hunting and gathering societies:
o Earliest known human societies were based on hunting and gathering and lasted longer
than any other type of society
Can be estimated to be at least 40,000 years ago to around 10,000 years ago
o Nomadic and small- scale societies, had limited technology; used stones for tools and
weapons, typically did not produce a regular economic surplus or lead to marked
o Everyone participated in productive work; men, women, elders, children, and even
political and religious leaders (on a part- time basis)
o Males: hunting and fishing, females: gathering and food preparation
o Because the development and survival of the group was most important, co-operative vs.
competitive behavior was evident
- Horticultural societies:
o Semi nomadic, and later settled down, based on cultivation of plants and the
domestication of animals
About 10,000 years ago
o Used metals instead of stone for tools and weapons led to the creation of a more
reliable economic surplus increase in size of population differentiation of economic
o Characterized by using a digging stick and hoe for gardening work, and for an increase in
socio- economic specialization (workers and warriors), and a corresponding growth of
inequality associated with the beginnings of a stratification system dominated by male
o The increase in trade and the conquest of people were made possible by technical
innovations (such as metal working), but were found to be a viable economic alternative
to the „conquest of nature‟
o In some horticultural societies, with a stable economic surplus by the majority (which
often included slaves), it allowed a minority to form an hereditary aristocracy of males
who specialized in politics, religion and warfare
- Agrarian societies:
o 5,000 years ago, involved a widespread use of the plough and harnessing of animal
power for agriculture and transport
o Production increased because of the extra help of animal power, population grew, social
classes expanded
Dominant groups specializing in a range of economic activities including the
production, transportation and distribution of everything from foods, spices, to
tools and weapons
Economic growth greater diversity of occupations urban centers, where
money became the preferred medium of exchange, which in turn further
stimulated trade and production and community specialization
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o Home and work were still not separated household still the unit of production and
Jobs were open to both men and women
o Important distinction between a productive class of people who worked for a living and a
non- productive, parasitical leisure class reached its fullest development
In Europe, this class prevailed during the feudal era when its members were „not
only exempted, but by prescriptive custom‟ they were „debarred from all
industrial occupations‟
This degree of social differentiation involved the emergence of work
and leisure as separate spheres of activity for the dominant class,
whereas formerly such activities were embedded in a range of other
institutions, notably kinship, religion and politics
o Leisure class occupations: upper class, male dominated; government, warfare and
religious observances= HIGHEST SOCIAL HONOUR
o Lower class, female dominated productive activities; farming and craft work, which are
considered ignoble according to the standards of the leisure class
o To further enhance the leisure class‟ status they participated in activities that basically
wasted their money, time and resources … because they had so much of these things!
(For example; sports, (especially hunting), esoteric knowledge, collecting art and
antiques and generally consuming the most expensive food, drink, clothes and
- Pre- industrial societies as a whole
o The development of the industrial society tends to enhance rather than impede on the
liberation of women, although many feats had to be won before this could really be a
o Even in the most advanced agrarian societies, education was not universally available but
restricted to the dominant classes in order to prepare its members for political, religious
and military roles, rather than for economically productive ones
o In pre- industrial societies labour was typically unfree to a greater or lesser extent in the
form of slavery, serfdom and bonded service, and persisted with the growth of industrial
capitalism in both Britain and America
o For the dominant class of pre- modern society, productive work was ceremonially
unclean and to be avoided at all costs
o If you had a physical labour job, you did not enjoy the wealth, power, and status of non-
manual work, such as owning land (and people), governing or praying
o In contemporary industrial work, men discouraged themselves from doing work
perceived as “woman‟s work”
o During the transition from pre- industrial societies to industrial capitalism, before wage
labour became the norm for the vast majority, wage work in agriculture was common but
was typically irregular for the majority
In addition to seasonal wage labour, they could obtain a supply of food via the
cultivation of a small parcel of land, make and sell clothes, plus hunting and
Work in industrial capitalist societies
- „Industrial revolution‟ is invariably used to convey the significance of nature of work
- The process of capitalist industrialization started in ENGLAND towards the end of the 18th
century, soon after, America, France and Germany, and subsequently the rest of the world caught
- Capitalism: refers to a profit- oriented system based on the private ownership of production, on an
individual/family or corporate basis, that operates in a competitive market system in which the
owners of capital employ free wage labour on a monetary basis
- Industrialism and capitalism are inextricably linked without giving priority to either and, by
implication, support for a theory of industrial society derived from the theories of Marx and Weber
- The spatial separation of home from work initiated by the creation of specialist work sites
following the introduction of inanimate energy sources to power machine technology
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