Chapter 13: Work and theEconomy
The Promise and History of Work
Salvation or Curse?
Computerization of the office began in the early 1980s
Shoshana Zuboff: visited such offices and asked the office workers to draw pictures displayed
frowns because the office became a mobile and unsociable.
Bill Gates: Goods and services cheaper removing distribution costs of capitalism, more leisure
time, more mobile and more creative.
Economic Sectors And Revolutions
Economy- the institution that organizes the production, distribution and exchange of goods and
o 1. Primary (agricultural): farming, fishing, logging, mining
o 2. Secondary (manufacturing): raw materials are turned into finished goods
o 3. Tertiary (service): services are bought and sold
o 1. Agricultural: 10,000 years ago most were nomadic; herding cattle, growing plants,
settlements. 5000 years ago, invention of the plow productivity – the amount of goods or
services produced for every hour worked.
o 2. Industrial: 15 century exploration, trade, commerce growth of markets – social
relations that regulate the exchange of goods and services. In a market, the prices of goods
and services are established by how plentiful they are (supply) and how much they are
wanted (demand). 1700 was the Industrial Revolution in England to the rest of the world
manufacturing most dominant.
o 3. Postindustrial: productivity service jobs computerization in 20 century
The Division and Hierarchy of Labour
Productivity revolutions increased division of labor – the specialization of work tasks. The
more specialized the work tasks in a society, the greater the division of labor – by creating new
skills, studying longer, breaking complex skills into simpler ones.
“Good” Versus “Bad Jobs
Bad jobs pay little, require routine tasks under close supervision, bad conditions, little education.
Good jobs pay well, not supervised, more creativity, good conditions, secure employment,
promotion, and benefits.
The Deskilling Thesis
Harry Braverman: to maximize profits, owners (capitalists) increased division of labour
o Deskilling – the process by which work tasks are broken into simpler routines requiring
little training to perform. It is accompanied by the use of machinery to replace labor
whenever possible and increase management control over workers.
o Braverman’s Deskilling only applies to industrial labor not service work which is more
important ¾ of Canadian jobs are service jobs
o Zuboff: Braverman’s deskilling applied outside factory computerization supervision Fordism – a method of industrial management based on assembly-line methods of producing
inexpensive, uniform commodities in high volume
Scientific management – developed in the 1910s by Frederick W. Taylor, is a system for improving
productivity. After analyzing the movements of workers as they did their jobs, Taylor trained them
to eliminate unnecessary actions. AKA Taylorism.
Growth of part-time work (doubled with more women working) = concern about erosion of
meaningful jobs because:
o 1. Some part-time jobs are “good”
o 2. Some people want to work part-time and can afford to do so (family, school)
PROBLEM: some people depend on part-time jobs for a living, and most of these are “bad” jobs
o Part-time workers = 2/3 of low wagers
o Fastest growing category of part-timers are involuntary (most want to work more, esp.
women if proper family services are available)
DOWNSIDE: no self-respect w. bad part-time jobs
o Ester Reiter – studied fast food workers in Toronto, mostly teens. They are trained to smile
no matter what blow up!
o Temps and substitutes more likely to endure sexual-harassment
A CritiqueOfThe Deskilling Thesis
Deskilling doesn't focus on the entire occupational structure; only occurs in old economy jobs.
Jobs in the service sector require higher levels of skill than jobs in the goods producing sector
Against deskilling of service sector in comparison to other sectors
Braverman and Zuboff underestimated skilled labor in the economy Deskilling created work.
o Technology killed off jobs but they also created new industries
o Computers magnify pay differences among skill levels; computers enlarge the number and
quality of good jobs and reduce the number of bad jobs but it does not improve the quality.
TheSocial Relations OfWork
Workers are closely supervised in factory settings
More skills required because of the complexity of goods and services we now produce
Clement and Myles: the skill content of the entire labour process has risen but the skills are in
managerial and administrative.
Managerial Revolution: separation of conception and execution
Managers now choose patterns and colors and order supervisors to direct shop floor production.
Managerial class rise has intensified in the postindustrial service revolution
o Knowledge intensive + postindustrial services hire those with managerial skills rather
than companies in goods and distribution
o They play less supervision roles BUT more decision-making power = rise of middle class
Silicon Valley High-paid people BUT low-wage almost sweatshop workers
Emerging sectors in Canada: Environment, Biotechnology, Multimedia, Aerospace
Labour Market Segmentation
David Gordon – Three stages of labour development:
o Initial Proletarianization (1820-1890) – large industrial working class replaced craft
workers in small workshops
o Labour Homogenization (late 1800s -1939) – extensive mechanization and deskilling
o Labour Market Segmentation (1945- ) - the division of the market for labour into distinct
settings. In these settings, work is found in different ways and workers have different characteristics. There is only a slim chance of moving from one setting to another (social
o 2 Characteristics:
Primary Labour Market – comprises mainly highly skilled, well-educated workers.
They are employed in large corporations that enjoy high levels of capital investment.
Employment is secure, earnings are high, and fringe benefits are generous
Secondary Labour Market – contains a disproportionately large number of women
and members of ethnic minorities, particularly recent immigrants. Employees tend
to be unskilled and lack higher education. They work in small firms that have low
levels of capital investment. Employment is insecure, earnings are low, and fringe
benefits are meager.
Worker Resistance and Management Response
Criticism of Braverman’s factory work analysis workers resist
Human Relations School Of Management – emerged in the 1930s as a challenge to Taylor’s
scientific management approach. It advocated less authoritarian leadership on the shop floor,
careful selection and training of personnel and greater attention to human needs and employee
Companies in industrialized countries made concessions to labour for loyal and productive
workers esp. countries with powerful trade union movements such as Sweden 70%, unions in
nationwide umbrella organizations that negotiate directly. NOT US <12%
CANADA 30.4% but no nationwide organization. No concessions because we work more hours
than most industrialized countries + fewer paid vacation days per year.
Industry-level decision making, Canadian workers are behind. 2 main types of decision-making
innovations in rich industrialized countries since 1970s:
1. Reforms that give workers more authority on the shop floor
o Quality of work life – movement originated in Sweden and japan. It involved small groups of
a dozen or so workers and managers collaborating to improve both the quality of goods
produced and communication between workers and managers.
AKA “quality circles” = high productivity gains and worker satisfaction
Few in Canada (automotive and aerospace)
2. Reforms that allow workers to help formulate overall business strategy
o Codetermination – a German system of worker participation that allows workers to help
formulate overall business strategy. German workers’ councils review and influence
management policies on a wide range of issues, including when and where new plants
should be built and how capital should be invested in technological innovation.
More authority for workers than quality circles
Few in Canada (auto industry)
Unions (from 1920s, strong in 1970s) mostly in public sector (70%) rather than private sector
Unions and Professional Organizations
Unions – organizations of workers that seek to defend and promote their members’ interests
Power of unions difference between unionized & nonunionized is 3$ full-time, 7$ part-time
Internal labor markets – social mechanisms for controlling payrates, hiring, and promotions within
corporations while reducing competition between a firm’s workers & external labor supplies
o Training program and specific length of time to serve required for promotion
o Protect seniors from layoffs and intake of workers by "last tired first fi