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Chapter 2

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Sociology and Anthropology
SOAN 2040

Chapter 2- Edgell Pgs 28- 47 - For Marx, alienation was both inevitable and universal in capitalist societies, but it could be overcome - Alienation according to Marx: is rooted in structure of industrial capitalism, all means for the development if production transform themselves into means of domination over the producers; BASICALLY SUPRESSES CREATIVITY - 4 distinct manifestations of alienation under industrial capitalism (Marx): o 1) Production alienation: a worker is alienated from the product of his/her labour, which is owned by the employer o 2) Activity alienation: the activity of work itself is alienated because it is involuntary and forced, fails to develop a worker’s creative potential o 3) Species alienation: A result of product and activity alienation, workers become alienated from their essential nature, what makes them human. Estranged labour tears them away from his species in life o 4) Social alienation: workers are alienated from each other - Marx claimed that industrial capitalism suppressed creativity - Industrial capitalism: immorality, deformity, and dulling of the workers and capitalists - Alienation was a political issue, a problem endemic to industrial capitalism that could only be overcome by revolutionary change and the creation of a communist society o For Seeman, he didn’t want to get rid of it, just wanted to make it usable - Seeman’s 5 different meanings of alienation: o 1) Powerlessness, 2) meaninglessness, 3) normlessness, 4) isolation, and 5) self- estrangement - Blauner accepted the Marxian premise that there are powerful alienating tendencies in modern factory technology and industrial organization, but REJECTED the assumption that alienation was inevitable under industrial capitalism on the grounds that the alienating tendencies emphasized by Marx are unevenly distributed among the labour force - According to Blauner, the technology industry determines the nature of the job tasks performed by blue- collar employees and has an important effect on a number of aspects of alienation o Blauner denies that his four types of technology (craft (printing), machine- tending (textiles), assembly line (cars), continuous- process (chemicals)) conform to a unilinear model of industrial evolution, but admits that exceptions, such as instances of regression ‘are very rare’. o Explanation of 4 meanings of alienation (Blauner):  1) powerlessness or lack of freedom and control at work, 2) meaninglessness or lack of understanding and sense of purpose, 3) social isolation or lack of a sense of belonging and an inability to identify with the organization, and 4) self- estrangement or lack of involvement and hence fulfillment at work o Opposites of ^, 1) powerlessness = freedom and control, 2) meaninglessness= understanding and purpose, 3) social isolation= belonging and identity, 4) self- estrangement= involvement and self- expression o The auto- assembly line was deemed to be the most alienated modern work because it is physically demanding but intellectually unchallenging  maximizes powerlessness - Critique of Blauner’s alienation thesis: o Methodological, theoretical/ conceptual, interpretative  Methodological limitations:  Given Blauner’s specific interests, the data was inherently unsuitable. The research evidence was not valid  His study was about job satisfaction, masquerading as one of alienation. Levels of job satisfaction tend to context sensitive  Theoretical/ conceptual limitations:  Because he attempted to link job satisfaction to structural condition, his analysis aspired to a more complete account by including both the subjective and objective features of work  Interpretative limitations:  Distortion of the interpretation of data  About textile workers: Blauner’s study obscured the previously argued link between working conditions and workers’ responses’, and it ignores data which show that women’s work conditions are more demanding - Key points of Blauner’s study are that: (1) it was a test of Marx’s theory that all workers are alienated under industrial capitalism, (2) the data sources included a secondary analysis of attitudinal survey data, some purposefully collected interview data, and comparative industrial statistics, o (3) Four types of technology/ industries were examined – craft technology/ printing industry, and continuous- process technology/ chemicals; o (4) Four dimensions of alienation were distinguished: powerlessness, meaningfulness, social isolation, and self- estrangement o (5) It hypothesized that not all workers were equally alienated and that differences in technology were primarily responsible for the variation  (7) When this pattern of variations in alienation was placed in historical context, it was described as an inverted U- curve o (8) It concluded that increasing alienation was not inevitable due to the liberating influence of advancing technology - The more research is done on the topic, more findings would support his thesis and vice versa. - Blauner’s thesis is known as a “classic study” because it was highly influential in the field of technology and work - Blauner attempted to analyze the causal variables that could explain variations in alienation among the industrial labour force, and the links between the objective and subjective aspects of alienation Chapter 3 Paid work in industrial society and deskilling - It was thought that a major consequence of the rise of industrial capitalism was the destruction of skill because of machines - Pessimists: use a definition of skill which emphasizes the skill content of a job and the amount of task- specific training required to do it, and who argue that would has been deskilled - Optimists: use a definition of skill which focuses on the change from manual dexterity to the exercise of responsibility and the increased educational qualifications required to exercise this new skill and who argue that work has been upskilled - There is a third perspective that says skill polarization is occurring Braverman’s deskilling thesis: - Most powerful version of the pessimistic position - He draws this thesis on Marx’s theory of work in industrial capitalism in that he starts from the proposition that in such a society workers are constrained economically, by the absence of alternatives, to sell their labour power to employers who are similarly constrained to see a profit or go out of business - Braverman’s aim is to examine the manner in which the labour force is dominated and shaped by the accumulation of capital - Taylorism came to dominate managerial ideas about ‘how to best control alienated labour’ - Taylor exemplifies this point well in that he regarded workers as inherently lazy, and soldiering, namely the tendency to work consistently at less than maximum output, as universal. - Braverman summed up Taylor’s systematic or scientific approach to management with reference to three related principles: ‘the first principle is the gathering and development of knowledge of the labour process’, ‘second is the concentration of this knowledge as the exclusive province of management- together with its essential converse, the absence of such knowledge among the work
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