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Chapter 13

Textbook Notes - Chapter 13

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SOCA02-Textbook Work and the EconomyJan-31-2011
Salvation or Curse?
After computerization of offices, office workers became less happy. Smiles changed to frowns.
Three Revolutions
Economy: is the institution that organizes the production, distribution, and exchange of goods
and services. It is divided into three sectors:
Primary sector (agricultural): includes farming, fishing, logging, and mining.
Secondary sector (manufacturing): includes turning raw materials into finished goods;
manufacturing takes place.
Tertiary sector (service): services are bought and sold, including nurses, teachers, lawyers,
hairdressers, and so forth.
3 revolutionary events took place in history, in each revolution, a different sector of the economy
rose to dominance:
The Development of Agriculture
Our ancestors began to grow plants and herd cattle by using simple hand tools. Human
settlements took place. Productivity (the amount of goods or services produced per hour
worked) soared!
The Development of Modern Industry
International exploration, trade, and commerce stimulated the growth of markets (social
relations that regulate the exchange of goods and services. In markets, the price of goods and
services are established by how plentiful they are (supply) and how much they are wanted
(demand) ) from the fifteen century on.
Technology 230 years ago greatly increased the ability of producers to supply markets.
(Industrial Revolution)
The Development of the Service Sector
Service jobs were rare in pre-agricultural few in agricultural societies because everyone had to
do physical work in order to survive.
However, as productivity increase, service jobs soared, went from a quarter of the labor force
being employed in services to 75% in 2000.
This was made possible in the late 20th century by computers. Computers automated a lot of
things and replaced a lot of jobs, forcing people to go into service sectors.
The Social Organization of Work
Division of work increased, it refers to the specialization of work tasks. The more specialized
the work tasks in a society, the greater the division of work.
In pre-agrarian societies there were 4 main jobs: hunting, gathering, raising children and
tending to spiritual needs. Now, there are thousands of different kinds of jobs.
Work relations became more hierarchical, now executives are the authorities. Increasingly, work
hierarchies are organized bureaucratically clearly defined positions and written goals, rules,
and procedures govern the organization of work.
Workplaces have grown enormously in size.
Bad jobs (“Dead-end” Jobs) don't pay much and require the performance of routine tasks under
close supervision. Working conditions are unpleasant, sometimes dangerous. Bad jobs require
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SOCA02-Textbook Work and the EconomyJan-31-2011
very little formal education.
Good job requires higher education, pay well, not closely supervised and encourage workers to
be creative in pleasant surroundings. Secure employment, opportunities for promotion, and
other benefits.
Most jobs fall into the 2 extremes, they have both mix of good and bad features.
The Deskilling Thesis (Braverman and Zuboff)
Deskilling refers to the process by which work tasks are broken into simple routines requiring
little training to perform. Deskilling is usually accompanied by the use of machinery to replace
labor wherever possible and increase management control over workers.
Fordism is a method of industrial management based on assembly-line methods of producing
cheap, uniform commodities in high volume. (mass production, cheap routined labors, just like
how Ford car company can make massive amount of cars and sell them at at an affordable price
to make maximum profit)
Scientific management was developed around the same time by Frederick W. Tayloris, it is a
system for improving productivity. After analyzing the movements of workers as they did their
jobs, Taylor trained them to eliminate unnecessary actions. This technique is also known as
However, many people dislike the deskilling thesis, because only a small percentage of workers
are involved in factory works. Most people now are in service sectors, thus it brings a new
question are there bad jobs and good jobs being developed in the service sector?
Part-Time Work
The growth of part-time work in Canada has added to concern about the erosion of meaningful,
dignified employment.
Also, a lot of people depend on part-time jobs for a living etc.. and a lot of part-time workers are
involuntary part-timers (1/3 of part-time workers want to be working more hours).
Fast-food workers who dislike their job, and feel shameful, and get humiliated etc...
A Critique of the Deskilling Thesis
Not all jobs are being deskilled.
Deskilling ma be occurring primarily in jobs that are characteristics of the old economy (eg,
assembly-line manufacturing) but not of the new economy (eg, biotechnology, informatics).
Definition of skill is contentious, making research on skills more difficult, it's very hard to
measure if certain jobs have been up-skilled or re-skilled etc...
One of the many reasons why people assume that deskilling is occurring is because of the rise
of the service sectors. But there are just as many high-paying and low-paying jobs in both
sectors. Thus the increase of service sector and the decrease of manufacturing sector does not
really imply a downward slide in the skills of the entire labor force.
But service sectors require high levels of both conceptual autonomy and complexity, thus, it
undermines the idea of deskilling in the overall workforce since higher skill requirements
are reported in the service economy, which is the fastest-growing sector.
Also, if deskilling is to take place, then some members of the labor force must invent, design,
advertise, market etc.. Most of these people have better jobs than the factory and office workers
analyzed by Braverman and Zuboff. Although technological innovations kill of entire job
categories, they also create entire new industries with many good jobs.
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