Saturday, October 06, 2007

Ali Khan inThe Dignity of Manual Labor observes the following about our current state:
… science and technology developed in post-industrial societies further sharpen the binary dichotomy between the manual and intellectual markets. In the pre-industrial era, the farmer, the artisan, and the craftsman used both their knowledge and physical labor to cultivate crops, make shoes, and manufacture sickles and hammers, respectively. Even the industrial revolution created a new breed of skilled workers who combined manual labor with knowledge of the machine. Gradually, however, science and technology have unlinked knowledge from manual labor. Aronowitz and DiFazio observe that, "The skilled worker, who performs both the manual and mental aspects of work, is systematically separated from his special knowledge of the labor process." As the microscopic division of labor becomes the organizational principle of new corporate management, manual work is increasingly becoming mindless. In information-driven industrial production, for example, engineers and scientists appropriate the design work, accountants keep the books, and corporate managers control the production processes. In this microscopic shuffle, the worker is reduced to a semiskilled or unskilled laborer, forced to perform the machine-coordinated, repetitive, boring, and monotonous manual work. This "de-skilling," as Harry Braverman demonstrates in his seminal and provocative book, Labor and Monopoly Capitalism, denies the worker the power he once enjoyed over his craft, creativity, as well as freedom and autonomy. If manual labor cannot be eliminated, and if it has indeed become more mindless than before, the questions of how and to whom the market will allocate manual labor remain.
Now, dear readers, take a moment and rub you hands together to warm them up. Maybe even spit in one, the other or both. This is going to take some work.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As my friend who just retired from the Ford stamping plant here would put it, he punches in and shuts off his brain, then turns it back on when he punches out. Mindless, soulless work even when management and labor work together to help keep a plant open.