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Chapter 2

SOC341H5 Chapter Notes - Chapter 2: Tertiary Sector Of The Economy, Secondary Sector Of The Economy, Social Inequality

by Maya

Department
Sociology
Course Code
SOC341H5
Professor
Mark Easton
Chapter
2

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READINGS:
1) Vallas- Contemporary theories pg. 25-34
Contemporary perspectives on work and society
There are three distinct generations of thinking in the post WW2 sociology of work with
each emerging in response to the major events of its time
o The theory of industrial society (created by Durkheim and the functionalist
tradition and which was created during the cold war)
o A resurgence of industrial conflict in the advanced capitalist world, was a theory
of the labour process that rested on assumptions from Marx and Weber
o A theory of post industrialist society that saw the workplace as giving rise to new
organizational forms that were dramatically different from previously established
institutions with massive effects of the economic structures that surround us now
and in the decades to come
The theory of industrial society
After WW2 there was a period of restoration and order and prosperity
Workers got a voice in the terms and conditions of their labour
The worker movement grew after ww2 but decreased in the 1950’s which became a time
of stability and labour peace
Kerr et al. wrote an important book industrial theory
o Authors argued that Marx misunderstood the fact that endemic conflict was not an
enduring characteristic of modern society but it is a temporary condition that
accompanied the transition from traditional to industrial society
Once societies successfully adopt industrial systems, large scale protest
and industrial conflict tend to decline
o Although there were obvious variations among different societies, there was a
single logic of industrialism that all modern societies would need to adopt
(convergence thesis)
Despite local customs and traditions societies still need to hire skilled
workers that are hired for their abilities rather than their kinship or other
affiliations
o Also argued that workers were a less influential force that previously assumed
The strategies of the elite are far more important
Blauner’s book was also quite influential in developing industrial theory
He looked at how does the advance of industrial technology affect the meaning of work
o Blauner distinguished 4 stage in the development of industrial society
Craft
Machine tending
Assembly line
Automated work processes
He argued that the prior to the onset of industrialization where work was organized as a
craft, levels of alienation tended to be low
As work grew increasingly machine paced, alienation rised and reached its peak in
assembly line conditions
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Once work evolved and became fully automated, alienation declined to the preindustrial
craft like levels
This trend occurred because machines would do the most routine chorse which would
free workers from machine paced work and giving them a sense of control over their own
movements
Blaun agrees with Kerr that the transition to industrialism was difficult but once it was
established, industrial society tended to achieve a state of equilibrium, with alientation
and industrial conflict declining and allowing social peace to occur
Once societies had industrialized, their members tended to adopt very similar conceptions
of occupational prestige, regardless of previous cultural differences
Industrial system everywhere generates similar forms of hierarchy reflecting the
emphasis on education, achievement and merit
However others argue that the presumptive peace and stability that industrial society
achieved were not as benign as they seemed
Industrial corporations had simply established powerful systems of domination that
confined unrest among both office and manual workers within manageable bounds
Whyte argued that large firms can generate affluence but actually require employees to
engage in conformity that becomes ingrained into their system
The labour process approach and the study of social inequality
During the 1960’s there was a growing rate of worker discontent that emerged and
provoked significant concern on the part of corporate and gov’t leaders
There were many causes to this discontent
o Rapidly growing economy (gave workers more leverage on the job that allowed
them to raise more criticisms that they could not voice previously)
o The spread of rank and file movements among union members in the mining,
steel, trucking, etc. industries who mobilized efforts to ensure that their union
structures represented the member’s concern
o declining legitimacy of authority which left corporate elites more vulnerable to
dissent and critique
This strain was caused because although the workers are equipped with modern thinking
and skills, there is a radical disjunction between the workplace as an institution and the
culturally based expectations that workers increasingly brought with them to the job
Labour process theorists began to formulate more critical analyses based on the notions
of domination and subordination which have continued to receive substantial attention
and debate
Braverman argued that modern societies required ever higher levels of worker skill and
education
He also argued that corpoartations were continuing a long, historical tendency that sought
to break down skilled work in ever smaller and more simplified parts
This deskilling had spread across different forms of jobs (office work, manual and
professional work)
There are two reasons for these trends
o Economic: by replacing skilled workers with labour that requires little training,
employers can reduce labour costs and achieve higher rates of productivity
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o Organizational control: by using unskilled labour managers could less rely on
subordinate workers since workers were not able to exercise control over their
work
Braverman suggested that there was a historical degradation of labour in which more jobs
were cheapened emptied of their former skill and increasingly controlled from above
But critics of Braverman also suggested that he had neglected the ability of workers to
challenge or resist the managerial thrust for control
By emphasizing a uni-linear growth in managerial control, Braverman has distorted the
complexities that have historically developed with in the contemporary capitalist firm
Due to these critiques new theories were created
Edward concluded that 3 types of managerial control systems had developed over time
o Simple: early corporations, companies relied on either the entrepreneur or his
surrogate who used the force of personal supervision to control and discipline
employees
As firms grew such personal forms of control became susceptible to
managerial abuse and produced rising levels of resentment and discontent
o Technical : enforcing the method and pace of work shed its reliance on particular
individuals and came to be built into the machinery itself
But it increased interdependency of plants located in different parts of the
country, strategic work stoppages could stop the system
o Bureaucratic: managerial control came to be built into the social structure of the
firm
By offering employees stable job security, decent pay and job ladders that
provide for upward mobility, bureaucratic control invites workers to
identify more with the firm rather than their social class
This allows for worker compliance
Labour process theory has led to many developments
o Studies that look at how team systems have transformed the exercise of
managerial authority
Some say it can extend corporate control over employees working lives
Others say workers awareness and ability shape the way that team systems
are deployed
o Increased research on the rise of non-standard employment (temp jobs that have
no job security and few benefits)
Reduces employer responsibilities over their workers
Creates disparities amongst workers in a company
The labour process school has grown
o First only looked at the conflictual relation between management and workers
o Now also looks at many other sources of conflict and division within the firm,
especially differences due to race, gender, etc.
Dual systems theory of inequality at work; these theorists argue that under industrial
capitalism there are two systems of inequality
o Class
o Sex/ gender divisions
These two forms of inequality has exluded women from the work force and favoured men
A number of labour process theorists within this field also argue
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