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SOCA02H3 (310)
Chapter 13

SOCA02 Chapter 13.docx

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Sheldon Ungar

Chapter 13 – Work and the Economy  The Promise and history of work o Computerization began in the early 1980s o Picture differences before and after computerization;  Smiles  frowns  Mobility  immobility  Sociability  isolation  Freedom  regimentation  Economic sectors and revolutions o Economy: social institution that organizes the production, distribution, and exchange of goods and services o 3 sectors:  Primary (agricultural) – farming, fishing, logging and mining  Secondary (manufacturing) – raw materials are turned into finished goods; manufacturing takes place  Tertiary (service) – services are bought and sold (nurses, teachers, lawyers, hairdressers, computer programmers, etc.) o Each sector rose through a revolution  The Agricultural Revolution – ~10 000 years ago. People began to herd cattle and grow plants through simple hand tools  ~5000 years ago farmers invented the plow and attached to large animals  Productivity (amount produced for every hour worked) soared  The Industrial Revolution – international exploration, trade, and commerce helped stimulate the growth of markets from the 15 century on  Markets – social relations regulating the exchange of goods and services. Prices are established by how plentiful goods and services are (supply) and how much they are wanted (demand)  The Post-industrial Revolution – as productivity increased, service- sector jobs become numerous. Computer accelerated this shift in the last third of the 20 century. Now, more than ¾ of the labour force is employed in the service sector  The Division and Hierarchy of Labour o Agricultural, Industrial and Post-industrial Revolutions increased the division of labour  Work tasks became more specialized o Pre-agarian societies – 4 main jobs: hunting, gathering, raising children, tending to the tribe’s spiritual needs  “Good” versus “bad” jobs o Bad jobs – don’t pay much, require the performance of routine tasks under close supervision, require little formal education  Working conditions are unpleasant, sometimes dangerous  Can be fired easily, receive little benefits  “dead-end” jobs o Good jobs – offer secure employment, opportunities for promotion\  The Deskilling Thesis o Harry Braverman – owners (capitalists) organize work to maximize profits o Increased division of labour has 3 consequences:  Employers can replace workers with machinery  Replace skilled workers with cheaper, unskilled workers  Employers can control workers more directly o Future of work requires a deskilling trend  breaking work down into simple routines o 1910, Henry Ford introduced the assembly line  Fordism – describes mass-production, assembly-line work o Frederick W. Taylor – scientific management  system for improving productivity  Trained to eliminate unnecessary actions and improve efficiency o Criticism of deskilling thesis: factory workers represent only a small proportion of the labour force o Computerization of the office in the 1980s involved increased supervision of deskilled work  Part-Time Work o Part-time workers make up about two-thirds of the people working at or below minimum wage o Fastest-growing category of part-time workers are involuntary part-timers  want to work more hours but can’t o Downside of part-time work: economic issues, maintaining dignity, stigmatization o E.g. McDonalds worker, “temp” job  A Critique of the Deskilling Thesis o Deskilling is happening mainly in jobs that are characteristic of the “old” economy (assembly-line manufacturing) rather than the “new” economy (biotechnology and informatics) o Though most of the growing sector is associated with the growth of “dead-end” jobs, more of it is associated with an enlargement of skilled employment o Skilled jobs: require high levels of conceptual autonomy and complexity o If deskilling is to take place, then some members of the labour force must invent, design, advertise, market, install, repair and maintain complex machines o Computers magnify pay differences among skill levels o Introduction of computers tends to enlarge the number and quality of good jobs and reduce the number of bad jobs  The Social Relations of Work o Industrial Revolution began an era of work requiring brute force and obedience to authority o After the Industrial Revolution, a managerial revolution took place – involved the separation of conception and execution o Silicon Valley – top executives earn millions of dollars a year, while workers in the electronic factories earn less than 60% of the Valley’s average wage, work long hours, exposed to toxic substances and suffer industrial illness  Labour Market Segmentation o 1820-1890 = period of initial proletarianization in North America  A large industrial working class replaced craft workers in small workshops th o End of 19 century – start of WWII = period of labour homogenization  Extensive mechanization and deskilling took place during this stage o 3 phase of labour market = labour market segmentation – large business organizations emerged. Good jobs with security and high wages are concentrated in large firms o Segmented labour market:  Primary labour market – made of highly skilled, well-educated workers. Employed in large corporations with high levels of capital investment, have secure work, high earnings, good benefits, etc.  Secondary labour market – large number of women and members of ethnic minority groups (immigrants). Are unskilled, lack higher education, work in small firms with low wages. These firms are often subcontracted by large corporations o Proponents of labour market segmentation offer fresh insights into 2 important issues: argue that people find work in different ways and social barriers make it difficult for people to move from one labour market to the other  Worker resistance and management response o Workers resist imposition of task specialization and mechanization by going on strike, change jobs, skip work, sabotage production lines, etc. o 1930s – human relations school of management  advocated less authoritarian leadership on the shop floor, encouraged careful selection and training of personnel, greater attention to human needs and employee job satisfaction o Biggest concessions to labour were in countries with the most powerful trade union movements  Sweden – unionization rate of more than 70%  Other extreme  U.S. - <12% of the non-agriculture work force is in a union o Canada – no centralized, nationwide bargaining among unions, businesses and governments o Two main types of decision-making innovations in the factories of the rich industrialized countries since the early 1970s:  1. Reforms that give workers more authority on the shop floor - include those advanced by the quality of work life movement.  Quality circles involve small groups of workers aiming to improve quality of goods produced and communication between workers  2. Reforms that allow workers to help formulate overall business strategy – give workers more authority than do quality circles
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