Notes on Labor and Monopoly Capital:

The Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century

By Harry Braverman


This book first took shape in my mind as little more than a study of occupational shifts in the United States. I was interested in the structure of the working class, and the manner in which it had changed. That portion of the population employed in the manufacturing and associated industries--the so-called industrial working class--had apparently been shrinking for some time, if not in absolute numbers at any rate in relative terms (3).

The more I read in the formal and informal literature of occupations, the more I became aware of a contradiction that marks much of the current writing in this area. On the one hand, it is emphasized that modern work, as a result of the scientific-technical revolution and "automation," requires ever higher levels of education, training, the greater exercise of intelligence and mental effort in general. At the same time, a mounting dissatisfaction with the conditions of industrial and office labor appears to contradict this view. For it is also said--sometimes even by the same people who at other times support the first view--that work has become increasingly subdivided into petty operations that fail to sustain the interest or engage the capacities of humans with current levels of education; that these petty operations demand even less skill and training; and that the modern trend of work by its "mindlessness" and "bureaucratization" is "alienating" ever larger sections of the working population. As generalizations, these two views cannot easily be harmonized. On the other hand, I was not able to find in the vast literature any attempt to reconcile them by careful specification of the manner in which various occupations have evolved, perhaps in contrast to one another (3).

Thus my interests began to broaden to include the evolution of labor processes within occupations as well as the shifts of labor among occupations. And as both these varieties of change became gradually clearer in my mind, I was led into the search for the causes, the dynamic underlying the incessant transformation of work in the modern era. In particular, this led me to include in my investigation the evolution of management as well as of technology, of the modern corporation as well as changes in social life. Before long I found myself attempting to study the development of the capitalist mode of production during the past hundred years (3-4).

I believed then, and still believe now, that the transformation of labor processes from their basis in tradition to their basis in science is not only inevitable but necessary for the progress of the human race and for its emancipation from hunger and other forms of need. More important, throughout those years I was an activist in the social movement, and I had assimilated the Marxist view which is hostile not to science and technology as such, but only to the manner in which these are used as weapons of domination in the creation, perpetuation, and deepening of a gulf between classes in society (5).

However, I repeat that I hope no one draws form this the conclusion that my views are shaped by nostalgia for an age that cannot be recaptured. Rather, my views about work are governed by nostalgia for an age that has not yet come into being, in which, for the worker, the craft satisfaction that arises from conscious and purposeful mastery of the labor process will be combined with the marvels of science and the ingenuity of engineering, an age in which everyone will be able to benefit, in some degree, from this combination (5).

The intellectual influence under which this work was composed is that of Marx and, as the reader will see, little that has been written by any Marxists since Marx plays a direct role in those portions of this book concerned with the labor process, for reason which I must now try to explain ((6).

In this volume [Capital], the only part of the projected study of capitalism that he was able to realize fully, Marx shows how the processes of production are, in capitalist society, incessantly transformed under the impetus of the principal driving force of that society, the accumulation of capital. For the working population, this transformation manifests itself, first, as a continuous change in the labor processes of each branch of industry, and second, as a redistribution of labor among occupations and industries (6).

Marx completed this work in the mid-1860s. During the past century this very same dynamic has been far more powerful than the manifestations of it which Marx witnessed in his own lifetime and upon which he based his critical analysis of capitalist production. Yet the extraordinary fact is that Marxists have added little to his body of work in this respect. Neither the changes in productive processes throughout this century of capitalism and monopoly capitalism, nor the changes in occupational and industrial structure of the working population have been subjected to any comprehensive Marxist analysis since Marx's death. It is for this reason that I cannot, as I have already said, attribute to any Marxist other than Marx himself a strong intellectual influence upon this study: there simply is no continuing body of work in the Marxist tradition dealing with the capitalist mode of production in the manner in which Marx treated it in the first volume of Capital (6-7).

It may thus have been, in the beginning, the very prophetic strength of Marx's analysis that contributed to the dormancy of the subject among Marxists. The development of the factory system seemed to bear our Marx in every particular, and to render superfluous any attempt to repeat what he had already accomplished (7).

Meanwhile, the cataclysmic events of this century--two world wars, fascism, the successive disintegrations and restabilizations of capitalist economies in the aftermath of wars and in the Great Depression, and revolutions both proletarian and nationalist--dominated the analytical work of Marxism. The front of this violent stage was taken and held by monopoly, militarism, imperialism, nationalism, the "crisis" or "breakdown" tendencies of the capitalist system, revolutionary strategy, and the problems of the transition from capitalism to socialism (7).

The extraordinary development of scientific technology, of the productivity of labor, and to some extent the customary levels of working-class consumption during this century have had, as has often been noted, a profound upon the labor movement as a whole. The unionized working class, intimidated by the scale and complexity of capitalist production, and weakened in its original revolutionary impetus by the gains afforded by the rapid increase of productivity, increasingly lost the will and the ambition to wrest control of production from capitalist hands and turned ever more to bargaining over labor's share in the product. The labor movement formed the immediate environment of Marxism, and Marxists were, in varying degrees, compelled to adapt themselves to it (7-8).

The adaptation took various forms, many of which can now be seen as ideologically destructive. The working philosophy of Marxism, as distinguished from its holiday pronouncements, focused increasingly not upon the profound inner nature of capitalism and the worker's position within it, but upon its various conjunctural effects and crises. In particular, the critique of the mode of production gave way to the critique of capitalism as a mode of distribution. Impressed, perhaps even overawed, by the immense productivity of the labor process, baffled by its increasing scientific intricacy, participating in the struggles of workers for improvements in wages, hours, and conditions, Marxists adapted to the view of the modern factory as inevitable if perfectible form of the organization of the labor process (8).

The Soviet Union faced catastrophe unless it could develop production and replace the ingrained traditions of the Russian peasantry with systematic habits of social labor. In this situation, the respect and even admiration of Marxists for the scientific technology, the production system, and the organized and regularized labor processes of developed capitalism was if anything heightened. If the old Social Democracy tended to view the capitalist mode of production as an immensely powerful and successful enterprise with which it was necessary to compromise, the Communists tended to view it with equal awe as a source from which it was necessary to learn and borrow, and which would have to be imitated if the Soviet Union were to catch up with capitalism and lay the foundation for socialism (8).

In practice, Soviet industrialization imitated the capitalist model; and as industrialization advanced the structure lost its provisional character and the Soviet Union settled down to an organization of labor differing only in details from that of the capitalist countries, so that the Soviet working population bears all of the stigmata of the Western working classes. In the process, the ideological effect was felt throughout the world of Marxism: the technology of capitalism, which Marx had treated with cautious reserve, and the organization and administration of labor, which he had treated with passionate hostility, became relatively acceptable. Now the revolution against capitalism was increasingly conceived as a matter of stripping from the highly productive capitalist mechanism certain "excrescencies," improving the conditions of work, adding to the factory organization a formal structure of "workers' control," and replacing the capitalist mechanisms of accumulation and distribution with socialist planning (9).

It has now become a commonplace to assert that Marxism was adequate only for the definition of the "industrial proletariat," and that with the relative shrinkage of that proletariat in size and social weight, Marxism, at least in this respect, has become "outmoded." As a result of this uncorrected obsolescence, Marxism became weakest at the very point where it had originally been strongest (9).

And finally, the new wave of radicalism of the 1960s was animated by its own peculiar and in some ways unprecedented concerns. Since the discontents of youth, intellectuals, feminists, ghetto populations, etc., were produced not by the "breakdown" of capitalism but by capitalism functioning at the top of its form. So to speak, working at its most rapid and energetic pace, the focus of rebellion was now somewhat different from that of the past. At least in part, dissatisfaction centered not so much on capitalism's inability to provide work as on the work it provides, not on the collapse of its productive processes but on the appalling effects of these processes at their most "successful." It is not that the pressures of poverty, unemployment, and want have been eliminated--far from it--but rather that these have been supplemented by a discontent which cannot be touched by providing more prosperity and jobs because these are the very things that produced the discontent in the first place (10).

The question at once arises as to the place of the countries of the Soviet bloc in relation to this analysis. I have already briefly indicated my view that the organization of labor in the Soviet Union ….differs little from the organization of labor in capitalist countries (10).

The similarity of Soviet and traditional capitalist practice strongly encourages the conclusion that there is no other way in which modern industry can be organized. And this conclusion had already been sufficiently encouraged by the tendency of modern social science to accept all that is real as necessary, all that exists as inevitable, and thus present mode of production as eternal. In its most complete form, this view appears as a veritable technological determinism: the attributes of modern society are seen as issuing directly from smokestacks, machine tools, and computers. We are, as a result, presented with a theory of a societas ex machina, not only a "determinism" but a despotism of the machine (11).

The problem can be fruitfully attacked, it seems to me, only by way of concrete and historically specific analysis of technology and machinery on the one side and social relations on the other, and of the manner in which these two come together in existing societies. Such an analysis could well start with the possibility that the present mode of the organization and control of labor arose in capitalist society for reasons specific to that society, and was transferred to Soviet society and imitated by it for reasons that have to do with the specific nature of that society. Recognizing that there are very few "eternal" or "inevitable" features of human social organization in the abstract sense, such an analysis would proceed by way of an understanding of the historical evolution which produced modern social forms (12).

Marx did, of course, give a position of primacy to the "means of production" in social evolution. But this was never conceived as a simple and unilateral determinism which "causes" a specific mode of production to issue automatically form a specific technology. Such a determinism is false to history in general, and particularly useless in confronting revolutionary and transitional epochs, with which Marx was especially concerned. In such epochs, clearly, societies exhibiting a variety of forms of social relations coexist on the basis of substantially the same technology. Marx's solution to the problem of transition turns upon his conception of the development of the productive forces within a system of social relations, until they outgrow it, come into conflict with it, and burst its bounds (13).

On the basis of this sketch, we would expect the technology and organization of production of early capitalism to be much closer to those of the late feudal epoch, and those of late capitalism much closer to those of early socialism, than they are to each other. This is of course true, and serves as an elementary demonstration of the fact that the relations between technology and society are beyond the reach of any simpleminded "determinism." The treatment of the interplay between the forces and relations of production occupied Marx in almost all of his historical writing, and while there is no question that he gave primacy to the forces of production in the long sweep of history, the idea that this primacy could be used in a formulistic way in the analysis of history on a day-to-day basis would never have entered his mind (13-14).

Within the historical and analytical limits of capitalism, according to Marx's analysis, technology, instead of simply producing social relations, is produces by the social relations represented by capital…From this point of view, the first volume of Capital may be considered a massive essay on how the commodity form, in an adequate social and technological setting, matures into the form of capital, and how the social form of capital, driven to incessant accumulation as the condition of its own existence, completely transforms technology (14).

In this analysis the conditions of the oft-quoted aphorism [The hand-mill gives you society with the feudal lord; the steam-mill, society with the industrial capitalist] are reversed. If Marx was not in the least embarrassed by this interchange of roles between social forms on the one side and material production processes on the other, but on the contrary moved comfortably among them, it was because--apart from his genius at dialectic--he never took a formulistic view of history, never played with bare and hapless correlatives, "one-to-one relationships," and other foolish attempts to master history by means of violent simplifications. Social determinacy does not have the fixity of a chemical reaction, but is a historic process. The concrete and determinate forms of society are indeed "determined" rather than accidental, but this is the determinacy of the thread-by-thread weaving of the fabric of history, not the imposition of external formulas (14-15).

The relevance of these observations for the subject matter of this book is simply this: As the reader will have already understood, it will be argued here that the "mode of production" we see around us, the manner in which labor processes are organized and carried out, is the "product" of the social relations we know as capitalist. But the shape of our society, the shape of any given society, is not an instantaneous creation of "laws" which generate that society on the spot and before our eyes. Every society is a moment in the historical process, and can be grasped only as part of that process. Capitalism, a social form, when it exists in time, space, population, and history, weaves a web of myriad threads; the conditions of its existence form a complex network each of which presupposes many others. It is because of this solid and tangible existence, this concrete form produced by history, no part of which may be changed by artificial suppositions without doing violence to its true mode of existence--it is precisely because of this that it appears as "natural," "inevitable," and "eternal." And it is only in this sense, as a fabric woven over centuries, that we may say that capitalism "produced" the present capitalist mode of production. This is a far cry from a ready-made formula which enables us to "deduce" from a given state of technology a given mode of social organization (15).

Whatever view one takes of Soviet industrialization, one cannot conscientiously interpret its history, even in its earliest and most revolutionary period, as an attempt to organize labor processes in a way fundamentally different from those of capitalism--and thus as an attempt that came to grief on the rocks of Clark Kerr’s eternal verities (15-16).

If there is no automatic and immediate transformation of the mode of production as a result of a change in social forms, then such hybrid formations as we see in the Soviet Union should not come as a surprise. It took capitalism centuries to develop its own mode of production, which, as we shall see later in these pages, is still being worked out and developed. Socialism, as a mode of production, does not grow "automatically" in the way that capitalism grew in response to blind and organic market forces; it must be brought into being, on the basis of an adequate technology, by the conscious and purposive activity of collective humanity (16).

In any event, the purpose of this book is the study of the labor processes of capitalist society, and the specific manner in which these are formed by capitalist property relations (16).

The self-imposed limitation to the "objective" content of class and the omission of the "subjective" will, I fear, hopelessly compromise this study in the eyes of some of those who float in the conventional stream of social science, For them, by long habit and insistent theory, class does not really exist outside its subjective manifestations. Class, "status," "stratification," and even that favorite hobby horse of recent years which has been taken from Marx without the least understanding of its significance, "alienation"--all of these are for bourgeois social science artifacts of consciousness and can be studied only as they manifest themselves in the minds of the subject population...This dogma calls for the delineation of various layers of stratification by means of questionnaires which enable the respondents to choose their own class, thereby relieving sociologists of the obligation (19).

On the basis of Mills’ approach [objective analysis in White Collar], Crozier argues, "social life without alienation would in effect be impossible," because "the individual is always necessarily limited by his place in the social structure. This is the genteel form of an argument made more bluntly by Robert Blauner when he said: "The average worker is able to make an adjustment to a job which, from the standpoint of an intellectual appears to be the epitome of tedium." In this line of reasoning we see the recognition on the part of sociology that modern labor processes are indeed degraded; the sociologist shares this foreknowledge with management, with whom he also shares the conviction that this organization of the labor process is "necessary" and "inevitable." This leaves to sociology the function, which it shares with personnel administration, of assaying not the nature of the work but the degree of adjustment for the worker. Clearly, for industrial sociology the problem does not appear with the degradation of work, but only with overt signs of dissatisfaction on the part of the worker. From this point of view, the only important matter, the only thing worth studying, is not the work itself but the reaction of the worker to it, and in that respect sociology makes sense (20).

The problem as it presents itself [worker dissatisfaction] to those managing industry, trade, and finance is very different from the problem as it appears in the academic or journalistic worlds. Management is habituated to carrying on labor processes in a setting of social antagonism and, in fact, has never known it to be otherwise. Corporate managers have neither the hope nor the expectation of altering this situation by a single stroke; rather they are concerned to ameliorate it only when it interferes with the orderly functioning of their plants, offices, warehouses, and stores. For corporate management this is a problem in costs and controls, not in the "humanization of work." It compels their attention because it manifests itself in absentee, turnover, and productivity levels tat do not conform to their calculations and expectations. The solutions they will accept are only those which provide improvements in their labor costs and in their competitive positions domestically and in the world market (25).

It is interesting to note that although the discussion of job enrichment, job enlargement, and the like began in connection with factory work, most actual applications have taken place in offices….Industrial installations represent heavy investments in fixed equipment, and industrial processes as they now exist are the product of a long development aimed at reducing labor costs to their minimum. In office and service processes, by contrast, the recently swollen mass of employment has not as yet been subjected to the same extremes of rationalization and mechanization as in the factories, although this is under way. For these reason, management decisions to reorganize work processes are made more readily and voluntarily in the office and are made in the factory only in situations that offer little choice (25).

The reforms that are being proposed today are by no means new ones, and have been popular with certain corporations (IBM, for instance) and certain management theorists for a generation. They represent a style of management rather than a genuine change in the position of the worker. They are characterized by a studied pretense of worker "participation," a gracious liberality in allowing the worker to adjust a machine, replace a light bulb, move from one fractional job to another, and to have the illusion of making decisions by choosing among fixed and limited alternatives designed by a management which deliberately leaves insignificant matters open to choice (26-27).



All forms of life sustain themselves on their natural environment; thus all conduct activities for the purpose of appropriating natural products to their own use. Plants absorb moisture, mineral, and sunlight; animals feed on plant life of prey on other animals. But to seize upon the materials of nature ready made is not work; work is an activity that alters these materials from their natural state to improve their usefulness. The bird, the beaver, the spider, the bee, and the termite, in building nests, dams, webs, and hives, all may be said to work. Thus the human species shares with others the activity of acting upon nature in a manner which changes its forms to make them more suitable for its needs (31).

Human work is conscious and purposive, while the work of other animals is instinctual (32).

In Human work, by contrast, the directing mechanism is the power of conceptual thought, originating in an altogether exceptional central nervous system (32).

"Men who made tools of standard type," as Oakley says, "must have formed in their minds images of the ends to which they laboured. Human culture…is the outcome of this capacity for conceptual thought." (33).

Thus work as purposive action, guided by the intelligence, is the special product of humankind. But humankind is itself the special product of this form of labor. "By thus acting on the external world and changing it, he at the same time changes his own nature," wrote Marx (34).

Labor that transcends mere instinctual activity is thus the force which created humankind and the force by which humankind created the world as we know it (34).

The possibility of al the various social forms which have arisen and which may yet arise depends in the last analysis upon this distinctive characteristic of human labor. Where the division of function within other animal species has been assigned by nature and stumped upon the genotype in the form of instinct, humanity is capable of an infinite variety of functions and division of function on the basis of family, group, and social assignment. In all other species, the directing force and the resulting activity, instinct and execution, are indivisible. The spider which weaves its web in accordance with a biological urge cannot depute this function to another spider; it carries on this activity because that is its nature. But for men and women, any instinctual patterns of work which they may have possessed at the dawn of their evolution have long since atrophied or been submerged by social forms. Thus in humans, as distinguished from animals. The unity between the motive force of labor and the labor itself is not inviolable. The unity of conception and execution may be dissolved. The conception must still precede and govern execution, but the idea as conceived by one may be executed by another. The driving force of labor remains human consciousness, but the unit between the two may be broken in the individual and reasserted in the group, the workshop, the community, the society as a whole (34-35).

Finally, the human capacity to perform work, which Marx called "labor power," must not be confused with the power of any nonhuman agency, whether natural or man made. Human labor, whether directly exercised or stored in such products as tools, machinery, or domesticated animals, represents the sole resource of humanity in confronting nature. Thus for humans in society, labor power is a special category, separate and inexchangeable with any other, simply because it is human. Only one who is the master of the labor of others will confuse labor power with any other agency for performing a task, because to him, steam, horse, water, or human muscle which turns his mill are viewed as equivalents, as "factors of production." For individuals who allocate their own labor (or a community which does the same), the difference between using labor power as against any other power is a difference upon which the entire "economy" turns. And from the point of view of the species as a whole, this difference is also crucial, since every individual is the proprietor of a portion of the total labor power of the community, the society, and the species (35).

Freed from the rigid paths dictated in animals by instinct, human labor becomes indeterminate, and its various determinate forms henceforth are the products not of biology but of the complex iteration between tools and social relations, technology and society. The subject of our discussion is not labor "in general," but labor in the forms it takes under capitalist relations of production (35).

Capitalist production requires exchange relations, commodities, and money, but its differentia specifica is the purchase and sale of labor power. For this purpose, three basic conditions become generalized throughout the society. First, workers are separated from the means with which production is carried on, and can gain access to them only by selling their labor power to others. Second, workers are freed of legal constraints, such as serfdom or slavery, that prevent them from disposing of their own labor power. Third, the purpose of the employment of the worker becomes the expansion of a unit of capital belonging to the employer, who is thus functioning as a capitalist. The labor process therefore begins with a contract or agreement governing the conditions of the sale of labor power by the worker and its purchase by the employer (35-36).

It is important to take note of the historical character of this phenomenon. While the purchase and sale of labor power has existed from antiquity, a substantial class of wage-workers did not begin to form in Europe until the fourteenth century, and did not become numerically significant until the rise of industrial capitalism (that is, the production of commodities on a capitalist basis, as against mercantile capitalism, which merely exchanged the surplus products of prior forms of production) in the eighteenth century. It has been the numerically dominant form for little more than a century, and this in only a few countries. In the United States, perhaps four-fifths of the population was self-employed in the early part of the nineteenth century. By 1870 this had declined to about one-third and by 1940 to no more than one-fifth; by 1970 only about one-tenth of the population was self-employed. We are thus dealing with a social relation of extremely recent date. The rapidity with which it has won supremacy in a number o countries emphasizes the extraordinary power of the tendency of capitalist economies to convert all other forms of labor into hired labor (36).

The worker enters into employment agreement because social conditions leave him or her no other way to gain a livelihood. The employer, on the other hand, is the possessor of a unit of capital which he is endeavoring to enlarge, and in order to do so he converts part of it into wages. Thus is set in motion the labor process, which, while it is a general process of creating useful values, has now also become specifically a process for the expansion of capital, the creation of profit. From this point on, it become foolhardy to view the labor process purely from a technical standpoint, as a mere mode of labor. It has become in addition a process of accumulation of capital. And, moreover, it is the latter aspect which dominates in the mind and activities of the capitalist, into whose hands the control over the labor process has passed. In everything that follows, therefore, we shall be considering the manner in which the labor process is dominated and shaped by the accumulation of capital (36-37).

It is of course understood that the useful effects or products of labor belong to the capitalist. But what the worker sells, and what the capitalist buys, is not an agreed amount of labor, but the labor over an agreed period of time. This inability to purchase labor, which is an inalienable bodily and mental function, and the necessity to purchase the power to perform it, is so fraught with consequences for the entire capitalist mode of production that it must be investigated more closely (37).

Human labor, on the other hand, because it is informed and directed by an understanding which has been socially and culturally developed, is capable of a vast range of productive activities. The active labor processes which reside in potential in the labor power of humans are so divers as to type, manner of performance, etc., that for all practical purposes they may be said to be infinite, all the more so an new modes of labor can easily be invented more rapidly than they can be exploited. The capitalist finds in this infinitely malleable character of human labor the essential resource for the expansion of his capital (38).

It is known that human labor is able to produce more than it consumes, and this capacity for "surplus labor" is sometimes treated as a special and mystical endowment of humanity or of its labor. In reality it is nothing of the sort, but is merely the prolongation of working time beyond the point where labor has reproduced itself, or in other words brought into being its own means of subsistence or their equivalent. This time will vary with the intensity and productivity of labor, as well as with the changing requirements of "subsistence," but for any given state of these it is a definite duration. The "peculiar" capacity of labor power to produce for the capitalist after it has reproduced itself is therefor nothing but the extension of work time beyond the point where it could otherwise come to a halt. An ox too will have this capacity, and grind out more corn than it will eat if kept to the task by training and compulsion (38).

The distinctive capacity of human labor power is therefore not its ability to produce a surplus, but rather its intelligent and purposive character, which give it infinite adaptability and which produces the social and cultural conditions for enlarging its own productivity, so that its surplus product may be continuously enlarged. From the point of view of the capitalist, this many-sided potentiality of humans in society is the basis upon which is built the enlargement of his capital. He therefore takes up every means of increasing the output of the labor power he has purchased when he sets it to work as labor. The means he employs may vary from the enforcement upon the worker of the longest possible working day in the early period of capitalism to the use of the most productive instruments of labor and the greatest intensity of labor, but they are always aimed at realizing from the potential inherent in labor power the greatest useful effect of labor, for it is this that will yield for him the greatest surplus and thus the greatest profit (38-39).

But if the capitalist builds upon this distinctive quality and potential of human labor power, it is also this quality, by its very indeterminacy, which place before him his greatest challenge and problem. The coin of labor has its obverse side: in purchasing labor power that can do much, he is at the same time purchasing an undefined quality and quantity. What he buys is infinite in potential, but in its realization it is limited by the subjective state of the workers, by their previous history, by the general social conditions under which they work as well as the particular conditions of the enterprise, and by the technical setting of their labor. The work actually performed will be affected by these and many other factors, including the organization of the process and forms of supervision over it, if any (39).

It thus becomes essential for the capitalist that control over the labor process pass from the hands of the worker to his own. This transition presents itself in history as the progressive alienation of the process of production from the worker; to the capitalist, it presents itself as the problem of management (39-40).


Industrial capitalism begins when a significant number of workers is employed by a single capitalist. At first, the capitalist utilizes labor as it comes to him from prior forms of production, carrying on labor processes as they had been carried on before. The workers are already trained in traditional arts of industry previously practiced in feudal and guild handicraft production (41).

Nevertheless, as soon as the producers were gathered together, the problem of management arose in rudimentary form. In the first place, functions of management were brought into being by the very practice of cooperative labor. Even an assemblage of interdependently practicing artisans requires coordination, if one considers the need for the provision of a workplace and the ordering of processes within it, the centralization of the supply of materials, even the most elementary scheduling of priorities and assignments, the maintenance of records of costs, payrolls, materials, finished products, sales, credit, and the calculation of profit and loss. Second, assembly trades like shipbuilding and coach making required the relatively sophisticated meshing of different kinds of labor, as did civil engineering works, etc. Again, it was not long before new industries arose which had little prior handicraft background, among them sugar refining, soap boiling, and distilling….All of these required conceptual and coordination functions which in capitalist industry took the form of management (41).

In time, however, law and custom were reshaped to reflect the predominance of the "free" contract between buyer and seller under which the capitalist gained the virtually unrestricted power to determine the technical modes of labor (42).

While all such systems involved the payment of wages by piece rates, or by subcontract rates, it must not be supposed that this in itself was their essential feature. Piece rates in various forms are common to the present day, and represent the conversion of time wages to a form which attempts, with very uneven success, to enlist the worker as a willing accomplice in his or her own exploitation. Today, however, piece rates are combined with the systematic and detailed control on the part of management over the processes of work, a control which is sometimes exercised more stringently than when time rates are employed. Rather, the early domestic and subcontracting systems represented a transitional form, a phase during which the capitalist had not yet assumed the essential function of management in industrial capitalism, control over the labor process; for this reason it was incompatible with the overall development of capitalist production, and survives only in specialized instances (43).

The subcontracting and "putting out" systems were plagued by problems of irregularity of production, loss of materials in transit and through embezzlement, slowness of manufacture, lack of uniformity and uncertainty of the quality of the product. But most of all, they were limited by their inability to change the processes of production…While the attempt to purchase finished labor, instead of assuming direct control over labor power, relieved the capitalist of the uncertainties of the latter system by fixing a definite unit cost, at the same time it placed beyond the reach of the capitalist much of the potential of human labor that may be made available by fixed hours, systematic control, and the reorganization of the labor process (44).

The control of large bodies of workers long antedates the bourgeois epoch. The Pyramids, the Great Wall of China, extensive networks of roads, aqueducts, and irrigation canals, the large buildings, arenas, monuments, cathedrals, etc., dating from antiquity and medieval times all testify to this. We find an elementary division of labor in the workshops which produced weapons for the Roman armies, and the armies of pre-capitalist times exhibit primitive forms of later capitalist practices…These predecessors, however, were undertaken under conditions of slave or other unfree forms of labor, stagnant technology, and the absence of the driving capitalist need to expand each unit of capital employed, and so differed markedly from capitalist management (44).

The capitalist, however, working with hired labor, which represents a cost for every nonproducing hour, in a setting of rapidly revolutionizing technology to which his own efforts perforce contributed, and goaded by the need to show a surplus and accumulate capital, brought into being a wholly new art of management, which even in its early manifestations was far more complete, self-conscious, painstaking, and calculating than anything that had gone before (45).

Pollard notes that "there were few areas of the country in which modern industries, particularly the textiles, if carried on in large buildings, were not associated with prisons, workhouses, and orphanages. This connection is usually underrated, particularly by those historians who assume that the new works recruited free labour only." So widespread does he find this and other systems of coercion that he concludes that "the modern industrial proletariat was introduced to its role not so much by attraction or monetary reward, but by compulsion, force and fear (45-46).

Legal compulsions and a paralegal structure of punishment within factories were often enlarged into an entire social system covering whole townships (46).

In this method of total economic, spiritual, moral, and physical domination, buttressed by the legal and police constraints of a servile administration of justice in a segregated industrial area, we see the forerunner of the company town familiar in the United States in the recent past as one of the most widely used systems of total control before the rise of industrial unionism (46).

Tradition, sentiment, and pride in workmanship play an ever weaker and more erratic role, and are regarded o both sides as manifestations of a better nature which it would be folly to accommodate. Like a rider who uses reins, bridle, spurs, carrot, whip, and training from birth to impose his will, the capitalist strives, through management, to control. And control is indeed the central concept of all management systems, as has been recognized implicitly or explicitly by all theoreticians of management (47).

It was not that the new arrangement was "modern," or "large," or "urban" which created the new situation, but rather that the new social relations which now frame the production process, and the antagonisms between those who carry on the process and those for whose benefit it is carried on, those who manage and those who execute, those who bring to the factory their labor power, and those who undertake to extract from this labor power the maximum advantage for the capitalist (47).


The earliest innovative principle of the capitalist mode of production was the manufacturing division of labor, and in one form or another the division of labor has remained the fundamental principle of industrial organization. The division of labor in capitalist industry is not at all identical with the phenomenon of the distribution of tasks, crafts, or specialties of production throughout society, for while all known societies have divided their work into productive specialties, no society before capitalism systematically subdivided the work of each productive specialty into limited operations. This form of the division of labor becomes generalized only with capitalism (49).

Herskovits gives us here a picture of a division of labor into crafts, a differentiation which in the beginning owes much to sex roles. By and large, however, there is no division of tasks within the crafts. While men or women may habitually be connected with the making of certain products, they do not as a rule divide up the separate operations involved in the making of each product (50).

This form of division of labor, characteristic of all societies, is, if we follow Marx’s terminology, called the social division of labor (50).

As against this general or social division of labor, there stands the division of labor in detail, the manufacturing division of labor, This is the breakdown of the processes involved in making of the product into manifold operations performed by different workers (50).

"But, in spite of the numerous analogies and links connecting them," Marx warned, "division of labour in the interior of society, and that in the interior of a workshop, differ not only in degree, but also in kind." (50).

The practice of regarding the social and the detailed divisions of labor as a single continuum, a single abstract technical principle, is by far the greatest source of confusion in discussions of this subject. The division of labor in society is characteristic of all known societies; the division of labor in the workshop is the special product of capitalist society. The social division of labor divides society among occupations, each adequate to a branch of production; the detailed division of labor destroys occupations considered in this sense, and renders the worker inadequate to carry through any complete production process. In capitalism, the social division of labor is enforced chaotically and anarchically by the market, while the workshop division of labor is imposed by planning and control. Again in capitalism, the products of the social division of labor are exchanged as commodities, while the results of the operation of the detail worker and not exchanged within the factory as within a marketplace, but are all owned by the same capital, While the social division of labor subdivides society, the detailed division of labor subdivides humans, and while the subdivision of society may enhance the individual and the species, the subdivision of the individual, when carried on without regard to human capabilities and needs, is a crime against the person and against humanity (50-51).

It is for this reason [preferred bourgeois image] that the popularity of Emile Durkheim’s work, The Division of Labor in Society, has grown as its applicability to the modern world has dwindled. Durkheim adopts just such a level of abstraction in his approach: "The only way to succeed in objectively appreciating the division of labor is to study it first in itself, entirely speculatively, to look for its use, and upon what it depends, and finally, to form as adequate a notion as possible of it." He proceeds in this fashion, determinedly avoiding the specific social conditions under which the division of labor develops in our epoch, celebrating throughout his proposition that "the ideal of human fraternity can be realized only in proportion to the progress of the division of labor," until in the last tenth of his work he discovers the division of labor in the factories and offices of modern capitalism, and dubs them "abnormal forms." But, as has been noted by a recent critic, M.C. Kennedy, "when we inspect these abnormal forms throughout the world, it becomes difficult to find one clear-cut case of the normal division of labor." Kennedy is absolutely right when he calls Durkheim’s "normal" form of the division of labor "the ideal of a moralistic sociologist and not a sociologist of morals." (51-52)

Georges Friedmann says that had Durkheim lived to see the further development of the division of labor, "he would have been obliged to consider "abnormal" most of the forms taken by labour in modern society, both in industry and in administration, and even more recently in commerce (I am thinking of the American supermarkets)." The idea that anyone writing several generations after the Industrial Revolution, after Adam Smith, Babbage, Ure, Marx, and countless others, needed to wait for the "American supermarkets" to learn about the division of labor in capitalism is not convincing. But in general, Friedmann’s gingerly handling of Durkheim, whom--despite the fact that in his succeeding pages he finds little of value in the book--he calls "the most vigorous mind that has ever worked on this great problem," testifies to the inflated reputation of Durkheim’s contribution (52).

Our concern at this point, therefore, is not with the division of labor in society at large, but within the enterprise; not with the distribution of labor among various industries and occupations, but with the breakdown of occupations and industrial processes; not with the division of labor in "production in general," but within the capitalist mode of production in particular. It is not "pure technique" that concerns us, but rather the marriage of technique with the needs of capital (52).

Not only are the operations separated from each other [step 1], but they are assigned to different workers [step 2], here we have not just the analysis of the labor process but the creation of the detail worker. Both steps depend upon the scale of production: without sufficient quantities they are impracticable. Each step represents a saving in labor time, The greatest saving is embodied in the analysis of the process [step 1], and a further saving, the extent varying with the nature of the process, is to be found in the separation of operations among different workers (54).

The worker may break the process down, but he never voluntarily converts himself into a lifelong detail worker. This is the contribution of the capitalist, who sees no reason why, if so much is to be gained from the first step--analysis--he should not take the second step as well as the first. That the first step breaks up only the process, while the second dismembers the worker as well, means nothing to the capitalist, and all the less since, in destroying the craft as a process under the control of the worker, he reconstitutes it as a process under his own control. He can now count his gains in a double sense, not only in productivity but in management control, since that which mortally injures the worker is in this case advantageous to him (54-55).

To put this all-important principle [Babbage Principle] another way, in a society based upon the purchase and sale of labor power, dividing the craft cheapens its individual parts (56).

Babbage’s principle is fundamental to the evolution of the division of labor in capitalist society. It gives expression to a technical aspect of the division of labor, but to its social aspect. Insofar as the labor process may be dissociated, it may be separated into elements some of which are simpler than others and each of which is simpler than the whole. Translated into market terms, this means that the labor power capable of performing the process may be purchased more cheaply as dissociated elements than as a capacity integrated in a single worker. Applied first to the handicrafts and then to the mechanical crafts, Babbage’s principle eventually becomes the underlying force governing all forms of work in capitalist society, no matter in what setting or at what hierarchical level (57).

Labor power has become a commodity. Its uses are no longer organized according to the needs and desires of those who sell it, but rather according to the needs of its purchasers, who are, primarily, employers seeking to expand the value of their capital. And it is the special and permanent interest of these purchasers to cheapen this commodity. The most common mode of cheapening labor power is exemplified by the Babbage principle: break it up into its simplest elements. And, as the capitalist mode of production creates a working population suitable to its needs, the Babbage principle is, by the very shape of this "labor market," enforced upon the capitalists themselves (57).

Every step in the labor process is divorced, so far as possible, from special knowledge and training and reduced to simple labor. Meanwhile, the relatively few persons for whom special knowledge and training are reserved are freed so far as possible from the obligations of simple labor. In this way, a structure is given to all labor processes that at its extremes polarizes those whose time is infinitely valuable and those whose time is worth almost nothing. This might even be called the general law of the capitalist division of labor. It is not the sole force acting upon the organization of work, but it is certainly the most powerful and general. Its results, more or less advanced in every industry and occupation, give massive testimony to its validity. It shapes not only work, but populations as well, because over the long run it creates that mass of simple labor which is the primary feature of populations in developed capitalist countries (57-58).


The scientific management movement initiated by Frederick Winslow Taylor in the last decades of the nineteenth century was brought into being by these forces [growth in size of enterprises, beginning of monopoly, and the purposive application of science to production]. Logically, Taylorism belongs to the chain of development of management methods and the organization of labor, and not to the development of technology, in which its role was minor (59).

Scientific management, so-called, is an attempt to apply the methods of science to the increasingly complex problems of the control of labor in rapidly growing capitalist enterprises. It lacks the characteristics of a true science because its assumptions reflect nothing more than the outlook of the capitalist with regard tot he conditions of production. It starts, despite occasional protestations to the contrary, not from the human point of view but from the capitalist point of view, from the point of view of the management of a refractory work force in a setting of antagonistic social relations. It does not attempt to discover and confront the cause of this condition, but accepts it as an inexorable given, a "natural" condition. It investigates not labor in general, but the adaptation of labor to the needs of capital. It enters the workplace not as the representative of science, but as the representative of management masquerading in the trappings of science (59).

Taylor dealt with the fundamentals of the organization of the labor process and of control over it. The later schools of Hug Munsterberg, Elton Mayo, and others of this type dealt primarily with the adjustment of the worker to the ongoing production process as that process was designed by the industrial engineer. The successors to Taylor are to be found in engineering and work design, and in top management; the successor to Munsterberg and Mayo are to be found in personnel departments and school of industrial psychology and sociology. Work itself is organized according to Taylorian principles, while personnel departments and academics have busied themselves with the selection, training, manipulation, pacification, and adjustment of "manpower" to suit the work processes so organized. Taylorism dominates the world of production; the practitioners of "human relations" and "industrial psychology" are the maintenance crew for the human machinery. If Taylorism does not exist as a separate school today, that is because, apart from the bad odor of the name. It is no longer the property of a faction, since its fundamental teachings have become the bedrock of all work design (60).

Friedman treats Taylorism as though it were a "science of work," where in reality it is intended to be a science of the management of others’ work under capitalist conditions. It is not the "best way" to do work "in general" that Taylor was seeking, as Friedmann seems to assume, but an answer to the specific problem of how best to control alienated labor--that is to say, labor power that is bought and sold (62).

But Taylor raised the concept of control to an entirely new plane when he asserted as an absolute necessity for adequate management the dictation to the worker of the precise manner in which work is to be performed. That management had the right to "control" labor was generally assumed before Taylor, but in practice this right usually meant only the general setting of the tasks, with little direct interference in the worker’s mode of performing them. Taylor’s contribution was to overturn this practice and replace it by the opposite (62).

In Germany it was known simply as rationalization; the German corporations were probably ahead of everyone else in the practice of this technique, even before World War I (63).

The conclusions which Taylor drew from the baptism by fire he received in the Midvale struggle may be summarized as follows: Workers who are controlled only by general orders and discipline are not adequately controlled, because they retain their grip on the actual processes of labor. So long as they control the labor process itself, they will thwart efforts to realize to the full the potential inherent in their labor power. To change this situation, control over the labor process must pass into the hands of management, not only in a formal sense but by the control and dictation of each step of the process, including its mode of performance. In pursuit of this end, no pains were too great, no efforts excessive, because the results will repay all efforts and expenses lavished on this demanding and costly endeavor (69).

The merit of this tale [Schmidt and the pig iron] is its clarity in illustrating the pivot upon which all modern management turns: the control over work through the control over the decisions that are made in the course of work. Since, in the case of pig-iron handling, the only decisions to be made were those having to do with a time sequence, Taylor simply dictated that timing and the results at the end of the day added up to his planned day-task. As to the use of money as motivation, while this element has a usefulness in the first stages of a new mode of work, employers do not, when they have once found a way to compel a more rapid pace of work, continue to pay a 60 percent differential for common labor, or for nay other job. Taylor was to discover (and to complain) that management treated his "scientific incentives" like any other piece rate, cutting them mercilessly so long as the labor market permitted, so that workers pushed to the Taylorian intensity found themselves getting little, or nothing, more than the going rate for the area, while other employers--under pressure of this competitive threat--forced their own workers to the higher intensities of labor (74).

From the earliest times to the Industrial Revolution the craft or skilled trade was the basic unit, the elementary cell of the labor process. In each craft, the worker was presumed to be the master of a body of traditional knowledge, and methods and procedures were left to his or her discretion. In each such worker reposed the accumulated knowledge of materials and processes by which production was accomplished in the craft. The potter, tanner, smith, weaver, carpenter, baker, miller, glassmaker, cobbler, etc., each representing a branch of the social division of labor, was a repository of human technique for the labor processes of that branch. The worker combined, in mind and body, the concepts and physical dexterities of the specialty: technique, understood in this way, is, as has often been observed, the predecessor and progenitor of science. The most important and widespread of all crafts was, and throughout the world remains to this day, that of farmer. The farming family combines its craft with the rude practice of a number of other, including those of the smith, mason, carpenter, butcher, miller, and baker, etc. The apprenticeships required in traditional crafts ranged from three to seven years, and for the farmer of course, extends beyond this to include most of childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood (76).

The first principle we may call the dissociation of the labor process form the skills of the workers. The labor process is to be rendered independent of craft, tradition, and the workers’ knowledge. Hensceforth it is to depend not at all upon the abilities of workers, but entirely upon the practices of management (78).

In the human, as we have seen, the essential feature that makes for a labor capacity superior to that of the animal is the combination of execution with a conception of the thing to be done. But as human labor becomes a social rather than an individual phenomenon, it is possible--unlike in the instance of animals where the motive force, instinct, is inseparable from action--to divorce conception from execution. This dehumanization of the labor process, in which workers are reduced almost to the level of labor in its animal form, while purposeless and unthinkable in the case of the self-organized and self-motivated social labor of a community of producers, becomes crucial for the management of purchased labor. For if the workers’ execution is guided by their own conception, it is not possible, as we have seen, to enforce upon them either the methodological efficiency or the working pace desired by capital. The capitalist therefore learns from the start to take advantage of this aspect of human labor power, and to break the unity of the labor process (78).

This should be called the principle of the separation of conception from execution, rather than by its more common name of the separation of mental and manual labor (even though it is similar to the latter, and in practice often identical). This is because mental labor, labor done primarily in the brain, is also subjected to the same principle of separation of conception from execution: mental labor is first separated from manual labor and, as we shall see, is then itself subdivided rigorously according to the same rule (79).

Finally, Taylor understood the Babbage principle better than anyone of his time, and it was always uppermost in his calculations. The purpose of work study was never, in his mind, to enhance the ability of the worker, to concentrate in the worker a greater share of scientific knowledge, to ensure that as technique rose, the worker would rise with it. Rather, the purpose was to cheapen the worker by decreasing his training and enlarging his output. In his early book, Shop Management, he said frankly that the "full possibilities" of his system "will not have been realized until almost all of the machines in the shop are run by men who are of smaller calibre and attainments, and who are therefore cheaper than those required under the old system." (p. 81).

Thus, if the first principle is the gathering and development of knowledge of the labor processes, and the second is the concentration of this knowledge as the exclusive province of management--together with its essential converse, the absence of such knowledge among the workers--then the third is the use of this monopoly over knowledge to control each step of the labor process and its mode of execution (82).

Modern management came into being on the basis of these principles. It arose as theoretical construct as systematic practice, moreover, in the very period during which the transformation of labor form processes based on skill to processes based upon science was attaining its most rapid tempo. Its role was to render conscious and systematic, the formerly unconscious tendency of capitalist production. It was to ensure that as craft decline, the worker would sink to the level of general and undifferentiated labor power, adaptable to a large range of simple tasks, while as science grew, it would be concentrated in the hands of management (83).


The generalized practice of scientific management, as has been noted, coincides with the scientific-technical revolution, It coincides as well with a number of fundamental changes in the structure and functioning of capitalism and in the composition of the working class (86).

The separation of mental work form manual work reduces, at any given level of production, the need for workers engaged directly in production, since it divests them of time-consuming mental functions and assigns these functions elsewhere. This is true regardless of any increase in productivity resulting form the separation. Should productivity increase as well, the need for manual workers to produce a given output is further reduced (86).

A necessary consequence of the separation of conception and execution is that the labor process is now divided between separate sites and separate bodies of workers. In one location, the physical processes of production are executed. In another are concentrated the design, planning, calculation, and record-keeping. The preconception of the process before it is set in motion, the visualization of each worker’s activities before they have actually begun, the definition of each function along with the manner of its performance and the time it will consume, the control and checking of the ongoing process once it is under way, and the assessment of results upon completion of each stage of the process--all of these aspects of production have been removed from the shop floor to the management office. The physical processes of production are now carried out more or less blindly, not only by the workers who perform them, but often by lower ranks of supervisory employees as well. The production units operate like a hand, watched, corrected, and controlled by a distant brain (86).

The novelty of this development during the past century lies not in the separate existence of hand and brain, conception and execution, but the rigor with which they are divided from one another, and then increasingly subdivided, so that conception is concentrated, insofar as possible, in ever more limited groups within management or closely associated with it. Thus, in the setting of antagonistic social relations, of alienated labor, hand and brain become not just separated, but divided and hostile, and the human unity of hand and brain turns into its opposite, something less than human (87).

This paper replica of production, the shadow form which corresponds to the physical, calls into existence a variety of new occupations, the hallmark of which is that they are found not in the flow of things but in the flow of paper. Production has now been split in two and depends upon the activities of both groups. Inasmuch as the mode of production has been driven by capitalism to this divided condition, it has separated the two aspects of labor; but both remain necessary to production, and in this the labor process retains its unity (87).

The separation of hand and brain is the most decisive single step in the division of labor taken by the capitalist mode of production. It is inherent in that mode of production from its beginning, and it develops, under capitalist management, throughout the history of capitalism, but it is only during the past century that the scale of production, the resources made available to the modern corporation by the rapid accumulation of capital, and the conceptual apparatus and trained personnel have become available to institutionalize this separation in a systematic and formal fashion (87).

In this manner, short-term trends opening the way for the advancement of some workers in rapidly growing industries, together with the ever lower skill requirements characteristic at the entry level where large masses of workers are being put to work in industrial, office, and marketing processes for the first time, simply mask the secular trend toward the incessant lowering of the working class as a whole below its previous conditions of skill and labor (89).

The profession of engineering is a relatively recent development. Before the engineer, the conceptual and design functions were the province of craftsmanship, as were the functions of furthering the industrial arts through innovation. "The appearance of the modern engineer," Bernal says, "was a new social phenomenon. He is not the lineal descendant of the old military engineer but rather of the millwright and the metal-worker of the days of craftsmanship." (91)

These same scientific managers have not ceased to complain bitterly, as is their wont, of the characteristics of a working population which they themselves have shaped to suit their ends, but they have not yet found a way to produce workers who are at one and the same time degraded in their place in the labor process, and also conscientious and proud of their work (92).

The destruction of craftsmanship during the period of the rise of scientific management did not go unnoticed by workers. Indeed, as a rule workers are far more conscious of such a loss while it is being effected than after it has take place and the new conditions of production have become generalized. Taylorism raised a storm of opposition among the trade unions during the early part of this century; what is most noteworthy about this early opposition is that it was concentrated not upon the trappings of the Taylor system, such as the stopwatch and motion study, but upon its essential effort to strip the workers of craft knowledge and autonomous control and confront them with a fully thought-out labor process in which they function as cogs and levers (94).

In an editorial which appeared in the International Molders Journal, we read: "The one great asset of the wage worker has been his craftsmanship. We thing of craftsmanship ordinarily as the ability to manipulate skillfully the tools and materials of a craft or trade. But true craftsmanship is much more than this. The really essential element in it is not manual skill and dexterity but something stored up in the mind of the worker. This something is partly the intimate knowledge of the character and uses of the tools, materials and processes of the craft which tradition and experience have given the worker. But beyond this and above this, it is the knowledge which enables him to understand and overcome the constantly arising difficulties that grown out of variations not only in the tools and materials, but in the conditions under which the work must be done."

The editorial goes on to point to the separation of "craft knowledge from "craft skill" in "n ever-widening area and with an ever-increasing acceleration," and describes as the most dangerous form of this separation "The gathering up of all this scattered craft knowledge, systematizing it and concentrating it in the hands of the employer and then doling it out again only in the form of minute instructions, giving to each worker only the knowledge needed for the performance of a particular relatively minute task. This process, it is evident, separates skill and knowledge even in their narrow relationship. When it is completed, the worker is no longer a craftsman in any sense, but is an animated tool of the management."

A half-century of commentary on scientific management has not succeeded in producing a better formulation of the matter (94).


The transformation of working humanity into a "labor force," a "factor of production," and instrument of capital, is an incessant and unending process. The condition is repugnant to the victims, whether their pay is high or low, because it violates human conditions of work; and since the workers are not destroyed as human beings but are simply utilized in inhuman ways, their critical, intelligent, conceptual faculties, no matter how deadened or diminished, always remain in some degree a threat to capital. Moreover, the capitalist mode of production is continually extended to new areas of work, including those freshly created by technological advances and the shift of capital to new industries. It is, in addition, continually being refined and perfected, so that its pressure upon the workers in unceasing. At the same time, the habituation of workers to the capitalist mode of production must be renewed with each generation, all the more so as the generations which grow up under capitalism are not formed within the matrix of work life, but are plunged into work form the outside, so to speak, after a prolonged period of adolescence during which they are held in reserve. The necessity for adjusting the worker to work in its capitalist form, for overcoming natural resistance intensified by swiftly changing technology, antagonistic social relations, and the succession of the generations, does not therefore end with the "scientific organization of labor," but becomes a permanent feature of capitalist society (96).

As a result, there has come into being, within the personnel and labor relations departments of corporations and in the external support organizations such as schools of industrial relations, college departments of sociology, and other academic and para-academic institutions, a complex of practical and academic disciplines devoted to the study of the worker. Shortly after Taylor, industrial psychology and industrial physiology came into existence to perfect methods of selection, training, and motivation of workers, and these were soon broadened into an attempted industrial sociology, the study of the workplace as a social system (96).

The cardinal feature of these various schools and the currents within them is that, unlike the scientific management movement, they do not by and large concern themselves with the organization of work, but rather with the conditions under which the worker may best be brought to cooperate in the scheme of work organized by the industrial engineer. The evolving work processes of capitalist society are taken by these schools as inexorable givens, and are accepted as "necessary and inevitable" in any form of "industrial society." The problems addressed are the problems of management: dissatisfaction as expressed in high turnover rates, absenteeism, resistance to the prescribed work pace, indifference, neglect, cooperative group restrictions on output, and overt hostility to management. As it presents itself to most of the sociologists and psychologists concerned with the study of work and workers, the problem is not that of the degradation of men and women, but the difficulties raised by the reactions, conscious and unconscious, to that degradation (97).

By and large, they [psych and soc] have sought a model of workers and work groups which would produce the results desired by management: habituation to the terms of employment offered in the capitalist firm and satisfactory performance on that basis. These schools and theories have succeeded one another in a dazzling proliferation of approaches and theories, a proliferation which is more than anything a testimony to their failure (99)

The premise of industrial psychology was that, using aptitude tests, it was possible to determine in advance the suitability of workers for various positions by classifying them according to degrees of "intelligence," "manual dexterity," "accident proneness," and general conformability to the "profile" desired by the management. The vanity of this attempt to calibrate individuals and anticipate their behavior in the complex and antagonistic dynamics of social life was soon exposed by practice (99).

From the confident beginnings as "sciences" devoted to discovering the springs of human behavior the better to manipulate them in the interests of management, they have broken up into a welter of confused and confusing approaches pursuing psychological, sociological, economic, mathematical, or "systems" interpretations of the realities of the workplace, with little real impact upon the management of worker or work (100).

A single illustration [1908 Ford Assembly line] will have to suffice as an indication that the wrenching of the workers out of their prior conditions and their adjustment to the forms of work engineered by capital is a fundamental process in which the principal roles are played not by manipulation or cajolery but by socioeconomic conditions and forces (100-101).

The quickening rate of production in this case depended not only upon the change in the organization of labor, but upon the control which management, at a single stroke, attained over the pace of assembly, so that it could now double and triple the rate at which operations had to be performed and thus subject its workers to an extraordinary intensity of labor. Having achieved this, Ford then moved to flatten the pay structure as a further cost-cutting measure (101-102).

In this initial reaction to the assembly line [huge worker turnover] we see the natural revulsion of the worker against the new kind of work. What makes it possible to see it so clearly is the fact that Ford, as a pioneer in the new mode of production, was competing with prior modes of organization of labor which still characterized the rest of the automobile industry and other industries in the area. In this microcosm, there is an illustration of the rule that the working class is progressively subjected to the capitalist mode of production, and to the successive forms which it takes, only as the capitalist mode of production conquers and destroys all other forms of the organization of labor, and with them, all alternatives for the working population, As Ford, by the competitive advantage which he gained, forced the assembly line upon the rest of the automobile industry, in the same degree workers were forced to submit to it by the disappearance of other forms of work in that industry (102-103).

"The payment of five dollars a day for an eight-hour day," Ford was to write in his autobiography, "was one of the finest cost-cutting moves we ever made" (103).

In this move can be seen a second element in the adjustment of workers to increasingly unpopular jogs. Conceding higher relative wages for a shrinking proportion of workers in order to guarantee uninterrupted production was to become, particularly after the Second World War, a widespread feature of corporate labor policy, especially after it was adopted by union leadership (103).

The bulk of the organized labor movement in production industries followed his [John L. Lewis] lead, either openly or implicitly, in the decades thereafter. And these policies were greatly facilitated by the monopolistic structure of the industries in question. The workers who were sloughed off, or the workers who never entered manufacturing industries because of the proportional shrinkage of these industries, furnished the masses for new branches of industry at lower rates of pay (103).

If the petty manipulations of personnel department and industrial psychology and sociology have not played a major role in the habituation of worker to work, therefore, this does not mean that the "adjustment" of the worker is free of manipulative elements. On the contrary, as in all of the functionings of the capitalist system, manipulation is primary and coercion is held in reserve--except that this manipulation is the product of powerful economic forces, major corporate employment and bargaining policies, and the inner workings and evolution of the system of capitalism itself, and not primarily of the clever schemes of labor relations experts. The apparent acclimatization of the worker to the new modes of production grows out of the destruction of all other ways of living, the striking of wage bargains that permit a certain enlargement of the customary bounds of subsistence for the working class, the weaving of the net of modern capitalist life that finally makes all other modes of living impossible. But beneath this apparent habituation, the hostility of the worker to the degenerated forms of work which are forced upon them continues as a subterranean stream that makes its way to the surface when employment conditions permit, or when the capitalist drive for a greater intensity of labor oversteps the bounds of physical and mental capacity. It renews itself in new generations, expresses itself in the unbounded cynicism and revulsion which large numbers of workers feel about their work, and comes to the fore repeatedly as a social issue demanding solution (103-104).



With the rise of modern industry, Marx wrote, the "varied, apparently unconnected, and petrified forms of the industrial processes now resolved themselves into so many conscious and systematic applications of natural science to the attainment of given useful effects." But, like many of Marx’s most illuminating observations, this was in his own day more an anticipatory and prophetic insight than a description of reality. The age of "conscious and systematic applications of natural science" had barely announced its arrival when these words were published in 1867. The last two decades of the nineteenth form a watershed marking so great a change in the role of science in production that the contrast --despite similarities which connect both periods of capitalism--can hardly be exaggerated (107).

Science is the last--and after labor the most important--social property to be turned into and adjunct of capital. The story of its conversion from the province of amateurs, "philosophers," tinkerers, and seekers after knowledge to its present highly organized and lavishly financed state is largely the story of its incorporation into the capitalist firm and subsidiary organizations, At first science costs the capitalist nothing, since he merely exploits the accumulated knowledge of the physical sciences, but later the capitalist systematically organizes and harnesses science, paying for scientific education, research, laboratories, etc., out of the huge surplus social product which either belongs directly to him or which the capitalist class as a whole controls in the form of tax revenues. A formerly relatively free-floating social endeavor is integrated into production and the market (107-108).

The organized scientific professions as we know them today hardly existed before the second half of the nineteenth century. At the beginning of the century, the universities were still oriented toward classical learning, scientific societies were in their infancy, and scientific patronage was principally a private affair (109).

The old epoch of industry gave way to the new during the last decades of the nineteenth century primarily as a result of advances in four fields: electricity, steel, coal-petroleum, and the internal combustion engine. Scientific research along theoretical lines played enough of a role in these areas to demonstrate to the capitalist class, and especially to the giant corporate entities then coming into being as a result of the concentration and centralization of capital, its importance as a means of furthering the accumulation of capital. This was particularly true in the electrical industries, which were entirely the product of nineteenth-century science, and in the chemistry of the synthetic products of coal and oil (109-110).

The corporate research laboratories of the United States begin more or less with the beginnings of the era of monopoly capitalism (112).

It was not until the rise of Nazism in Germany and World War II, as a result of which a great deal of scientific talent was either driven from Germany by Hitler’s racial and political policies or was appropriated by the victorious allies, that the United States acquired a scientific base equal to its industrial power, which had prior to this development depended largely upon the engineering exploitation of foreign science. Thus it has been only since World War II that scientific research in the United States, heavily financed by corporations and government, and buttressed by further drafts of scientific talent from all over the world, has systematically furnished the scientific knowledge utilized in industry (114).

By the last quarter of the nineteenth century, what Landes called "the exhaustion of the technological possibilities of the Industrial Revolution" had set in. The new scientific-technical revolution which replenished the stock of technological possibilities had a conscious and purposive character largely absent from the old. In place of spontaneous innovation indirectly evoked by the social processes of production came the planned progress of technology and product design. This was accomplished by means of the transformation of science itself into a commodity bought and sold like the other implements and labors of production. From an "external economy," scientific knowledge has become a balance-sheet item. Like all commodities, its supply is called forth by demand, with the result that the development of materials, power sources, and processes has become less fortuitous and more responsive to the immediate needs of capital. The scientific-technical revolution, for this reason, cannot be understood in terms of specific innovations--as in the case of the Industrial Revolution, which may be adequately characterized by a handful of key inventions--but must be understood rather in its totality as a mode of production into which science and exhaustive engineering investigations have been integrated as part of ordinary functioning, The key innovation is not to be found in chemistry, electronics, automatic machinery, aeronautics, atomic physics, or nay of the products of these science-technologies, but rather in the transformation of science itself into capital (114-115).


Thus, after a million years of labor, during which humans created not only a complex social culture but in a very real sense created themselves as well, the very cultural-biological trait upon which this entire evolution is founded has been brought, within the last two hundred years, to a crisis, a crisis which Marcuse aptly calls the threat of a "catastrophe of the human essence." The unity of thought and action, conception and execution, hand and mind, which capitalism threatened from its beginnings, is not attached by a systematic dissolution employing all the resources of science and the various engineering disciplines based upon it. The subjective factor of the labor process is removed to a place among its inanimate objective factors. To the materials and instruments of production are added a "labor force," another "factor of production," and the process is henceforth carried on by management as the sole subjective element. This is the ideal toward which management tends, and in pursuit of which it uses and shapes every productive innovation furnished by science (118).

The very success of management in increasing productivity in some industries leads to the displacement of labor into other fields, where it accumulates in large quantities because the processes employed have not yet been subjected--and in some cases cannot be subjected to the same degree--to the mechanizing tendency of modern industry. The result is therefore is not the elimination of labor, but its displacement to other occupations and industries (119).

The animating principle of all such work investigations is the view of human beings in machine terms. Since management is not interested in the person of the worker, but in the worker as he or she is used in office, factory, warehouse, store, or transport process, this view is form the management point of view not only eminently rational but the basis of all calculation. The human being is here regarded as a mechanism articulated by hinges, ball-and-socket joints etc….In this we see not merely the terms of a machine analogy used for experimental purposes, nor merely a teaching metaphor or didactic device, but in the context of the capitalist mode of production the operating theory by which people of one class set into motion people of another class. It is the reductive formula that expresses both how capital employs labor and what it makes of humanity (124).


"The machine proper is therefore a mechanism that, after being set in motion, performs with its tools the same operations that were formerly done by the workman with similar tools. Whether the motive power is derived from man, or from some other machine, makes no difference in this respect. From the moment that the tool proper is take from man, and fitted into a mechanism, a machine takes the place of a mere implement, The difference strikes one at once, even in those cases where man himself continues to be the prime mover." Karl Marx (128).

Marx selects from among a host of technical characteristics the specific feature which forms the juncture between humanity and the machine: its effect upon the labor process. The technical is never considered purely in its internal relations, but in relation to the worker (128).

The evolution of machinery form its primitive forms, in which simple rigid frames replace the hand as guides for the motion of the tool, o those modern complexes in which the entire process is guided from start to finish by not only mechanical but also electrical, chemical, and other physical forces--this evolution may thus be described as an increase in human control over the action of tools. These tools are controlled, in their activities. As extensions of the human organs of work, including the sensory organs, and this feat is accomplished by an increasing human understanding of the properties of matter--in other words, by the growth of the scientific command of physical principles. The study and understanding of nature has, as its primary manifestation in human civilization, the increasing control by humans over labor processes by means of machines and machine systems (132-133).

But the control of humans over the labor process, thus far understood, is nothing more than an abstraction. This abstraction must acquire concrete form in the social setting in which machinery is being developed. And this social setting is, and has been from the beginnings of the development of machinery in its modern forms, one in which humanity is sharply divided, and nowhere more sharply divided than in the labor process itself. The mass of humanity is subjected to the labor process for the purposes of those who control it rather than for any general purposes of "humanity" as such. In thus acquiring concrete form, the control of humans over the labor process turns into its opposite and becomes the control of the labor process over the mass of humans. Machinery comes into the world not as the servant of "humanity," but as the instrument of those to whom the accumulation of capital gives the ownership of machines. The capacity of humans to control the labor process through machinery is seized upon by management form the beginning of capitalism as the prime means whereby production may be controlled not by the direct producer but by the owners and representatives of capital. Thus, in addition to its technical function of increasing the productivity of labor--which would be a mark of machinery under any social system--machinery also has in the capitalist system the function of divesting the mass of workers of their control over their own labor. It is ironic that this feat is accomplished by taking advantage of that great human advance represented by the technical and scientific developments that increase human control over the labor process. It is even more ironic that this appears perfectly "natural" to the minds of those who, subjected to two centuries of this fetishism of capital, actually see the machine as an alien force which subjugates humanity! (133).

Before the human capacity to control machinery can be transformed into its opposite, a series of special conditions must be met which have nothing to do with the physical character of the machine. The machine must be the property not of the producer, nor of the associated producers, but of an alien power. The interests of the two must be antagonistic. The manner in which labor is deployed around the machinery--from the labor required to design, build, repair, and control it to the labor required to feed and operate it--must be dictated not by the human needs of the producers but by the special needs of those who own both the machine and the labor power, and whose interest it is to bring these two together in a special way. Along with these conditions, a social evolution must take place which parallels the physical evolution of machinery: a step-by-step creation of a "labor force," in place of self-directed human labor; that is to say, a working population conforming to the needs of this social organization of labor. In which knowledge of the machine becomes a specialized and segregated trait, while among the mass of the working population there grows only ignorance, incapacity, and thus a fitness for machine servitude. In this way the remarkable development of machinery becomes, for most of the working population, the source not of freedom but of enslavement, not of mastery but of helplessness, and not of the broadening of the horizon of labor but of the confinement of the worker within a blind round of servile duties in which the machine appears as more a technical necessity of machinery than appetite is, in the ironic words of Ambrose Bierce, "an instinct thoughtfully implanted by Providence as a solution to the labor question" (133-134).

And it has been estimated that three-fourths of all production in the metal-working industries of the United States takes place in batches of fifty units or less. Quantities as small as these must be manufactured on universal or general purpose machine tools, and the tooling, fixtures, and setup costs that may be distributed among these short runs are necessarily limited. Thus this vast area of metal cutting has until recently remained the province of the skilled machinist (135).

The unity of this process in the hands of the skilled machinist is perfectly feasible, and indeed has much to recommend it, since the knowledge of metal-cutting practices which is required for programming is already mastered by the machinist. Thus there is no question that from a practical standpoint there is noting to prevent the machining process under numerical control from remaining the province of the total craftsman. That this almost never happens is due, of course, to the opportunities the process offers for the destruction of craft and the cheapening of the resulting pieces of labor into which it is broken. Thus, as the process takes shape in the minds of engineers, the labor configuration to operate it takes shape simultaneously in the minds of its designers, and in part shapes the design itself. The equipment is made to be operated; operating costs involve, apart from the cost of the machine itself, the hourly cost of labor, and this is part of the calculation involved in machine design. The design which will enable the operation to be broken down among cheaper operators is the design which is sought by management and engineers who have so internalized this value that it appears to them to have the force of natural law or scientific necessity (137).

Numerical control is thus used to divide the process among separate operatives, each representing far less in terms of training, abilities, and hourly costs than does the competent machinist. Here we see once more the Babbage principle, but now in a setting of technical revolution. The process has become more complex, but this is lost to the workers, who do not rise with the process but sink beneath it. Each of these workers is required to know and understand not more than did the single worker of before, but much less. The skilled machinist is, by this innovation, deliberately rendered as obsolete as the glassblower or Morse code telegrapher, and as a rule is replaced by three sorts of operatives (138).

"Costs of developing and training an operator to produce identical parts by conventional methods and machines compared with NC machining system is approximately 12 to 1." This would mean that if it take four years to give a machinist his basic training, and operator of the sort required by numerically controlled machine tools may be trained in four months (139).

Such a separation of "intellectual work from the work of execution" is indeed a "technical condition" best adapted to a hierarchical organization, best adapted to control of both the hand and the brain worker, best adapted to profitability, best adapted to everything but the needs of the people. These needs, however, are, in the word of economists, "externalities," a notion that is absolutely incomprehensible from the human point of view, but from the capitalist point of view is perfectly clear and precise, since it simply means external to the balance sheet (141).

But the increasing productivity of labor is neither sought nor utilized by capitalism from the point of view of the satisfaction of human needs. Rather, powered by the needs of the capital accumulation process, it becomes a frenzied drive which approaches the level of a generalized social insanity. Never is any level of productivity regarded as sufficient. In the automobile industry, a constantly diminishing number of workers produces, decade by decade, a growing number of increasingly degraded products which, as they are placed upon the streets and highways, poison and disrupt the entire social atmosphere--while at the same time the cities where motor vehicles are produced become centers of degraded labor on the one hand and permanent unemployment on the other. It is a measure of the manner in which capitalist standards have diverged from human standards that this situation is seen as representing a high degree of "economic efficiency." (141).

The most advanced methods of science and rational calculation in the hands of a social system that is at odds with human needs produce nothing but irrationality; the more advanced the science and the more rational the calculations, the more swiftly and calamitously is this irrationality engendered. Like Captain Ahab, the capitalist say, "all my means are sane, my motives and object mad." (142).

The drive for increased productivity inheres in each capitalist firm by virtue of its purpose as an organization for the expansion of capital; it is moreover enforced upon laggards by the threats of national and international competition. In this setting, the development of technology takes the form of a headlong rush in which social effects are largely disregarded, priorities are set only by the criteria of profitability, and the equitable spread, reasonable assimilation, and selective appropriation of the fruits of science, considered from the social point of view, remain the visions of helpless idealists. Each advance in productivity shrinks the number of truly productive workers, enlarges the number of workers who are available to be utilized in the struggles between corporations over the distribution of the surplus, expands the use of labor in wasteful employment or no employment at all, and gives to all society the form of an inverted pyramid resting upon an ever narrower base of useful labor. Yet no matter how rapidly productivity may grow, no matter how miraculous the contributions of science to this development, no satisfactory level can ever be attained. Thus, a century after the beginning of the scientific-technical revolution and almost two centuries after the Industrial Revolution, the problem for capitalism which towers over all others, and which takes the form of a crisis threatening survival itself, remains: more productivity (142).

The very "efficiency" which produced the crises is here seen as the only answer to it. The machine which, working at top speed, threatens to fly apart is to be preserved from that threat by running it even faster. Each capitalist nation will further degrade its own working population and social life in an attempt to save a social system which, like the very planets in their orbits, will fall to its destruction if it slows in its velocity. Here we have the reduction ad absurdum of capitalist efficiency, and the expression in concrete terms of the insoluble contradiction that exists between the development of the means of production and the social relations of production that characterize capitalism (143).

In pursuit of this "solution," industry, trade, and offices rationalize, mechanize, innovate, and revolutionize the labor process to a truly astonishing degree. The methods used are as various as the resources of science itself. And since these resources are so vast, where they cannot accomplish a large saving of labor by a revolution in production they achieve the same effect by a degradation of the product (143).

Despite the variety of means used in all the innovations we have been describing, their unifying feature is the same as that which we noted at the outset of this discussion: the progressive elimination of the control functions of the worker, insofar as possible, and their transfer to a device which is controlled, again insofar as possible, by management from outside the direct process. It is this which dominates the new place of the worker in the production processes, and it is this above all which is slighted or entirely neglected in conventional assessments (146).

While the Bright studies dealt in general with the "management" aspects of automation, the principal focus was the "skill requirements" of increasingly mechanized industries. It must be pointed out that Bright nowhere indicates concern with this aspect of his subject from the point of view of the worker, but views the problem entirely from the management standpoint. His approach is detached and rigidly factual, and his concern is expressed in his final conclusion: "I suggest that excessive educational and skill specification is a serious mistake and potential hazard to our economic and social system. We will hurt individuals, raise labor costs improperly, create disillusion and resentment, and destroy valid job standards by setting standard that are not truly needed for a given task…" (147).

In the preface to his book, Bright notes: "A controversial area of this study will lie, no doubt, in my conclusions regarding the skill required of the work force in the automated plant, The relationship of skill requirements to the degree of automaticity as a declining rather than increasing ratio is not commonly accepted, or even considered." Nevertheless, after exploring his tentative conclusions with three to four hundred industrialists, and in presenting his findings to "at least a dozen industrial audiences totaling perhaps three thousand persons," he notes that "in general, these conclusions have not been strongly challenged" except with regard to plant maintenance skills, and even these challenges he attributes to "intense personal experiences" peculiar to special situations (147).

On mechanization levels 1 to 4 Bright concludes that since control is entirely up to the worker, skill is increasing (see Bright’s chart, "Changing Contribution Required of Operators," pp. 151-52). On levels 5 to 8, where control is mechanical but still dependent upon the worker, some skills are increasing but a number have turned downward, resulting, in Bright’s opinion, in an overall decrease in total skill required. In levels 9 to 11, where the machine has been put under external control at least to the extent of signaling its own needs, most skills turn downward. And finally, in the top six levels, which are characterized by self-modifications of machine action and therefor correspond to advanced methods of automatic production, every indicator of skill used by Bright, from knowledge and experience through decision making plunges downward sharply, and the indicators of "Worker contribution" all read either "Decreasing-nil," or flatly, "Nil" (with vague exceptions only for "Responsibility" and "Education"). The result is summarized by a curve which Bright calls the "Hump in Skill Requirements." (See Bright’s curve of Skill versus Automation," p. 154.) It describes a "suggested average experience as mechanization increases," and shows an increase only through the firs four levels, a decrease thereafter, and a plunge into the nether regions with the installation of those elements of mechanization which are associated with the popular term "automation." (148).

The entire evolution [maintenance and repair of capital equipment] is marked by the very same design characteristic that the consumer sees in home appliances or automobiles: the modular construction of equipment for easy replacement of entire assemblies. While the consumer finds it expensive to buy an entire assemble in order to replace a part worth a few cents, and also finds the consequent deterioration of repair skills among servicemen exasperating, in industry, where the length of time and production system is shut down for repairs is the most important and expensive factor, replacing entire assemblies is by far the cheapest way, But this tendency further reduces the number of mechanics who are able to do anything but replace the entire module after the source of the malfunction has been located--and this is something advanced electronic machinery increasingly does for itself (154).

Once labor has been embodied in instruments of production and enters the further processes of labor to play its role there, it may be called, following Marx, dead labor, to distinguish it from the living labor which takes part directly in production. Now, as a material process, production which makes use of tools, instruments, machinery, buildings, etc. is an ordinary and easily comprehensible activity: living labor making use of its own past stored-up labor to carry on production. As such a purely physical process, its terms are as clear as the relation between the first axes or potter’s wheels and the men and women who used them.

But within the framework of capitalist social relations, all this is reversed. The means of production become the property of the capitalist, and thus past or dead labor takes the form of capital. The purely physical relationship assumes the social form given to it by capitalism and itself begins to be altered. The ideal toward which capitalism strives is the domination of dead labor over living labor. In the beginning this ideal is seldom realized, but as capitalism develops machinery and makes use of its every suitable technical peculiarity for its own ends, it brings into being this system of domination of living by dead labor not just as an allegorical expression, not just as the domination of wealth over poverty, of employer over employed, or of capital over labor in the sense of financial or power relationships, but as a physical fact. And this is brought about, as we have seen, by the incessant drive to enlarge and perfect machinery on the one hand, and to diminish the worker on the other (157).

It is of course this "master," standing behind the machine, who dominates, pumps dry, the living labor power; it is not the productive strength of machinery that weakens the human race, but the manner in which it is employed in capitalist social relations (158).

The machine, the mere product of human labor and ingenuity, designed and constructed by humans and alterable by them at will, is viewed as an independent participant in human social arrangements. It is given life, enters into "relations" with the workers, relations fixed by its own nature, is endowed with the power to shape the life of mankind, and is sometimes even invested with designs upon the human race (158).

This is the reification of a social relation, in Marx’s sense of the term. "In order…to find an analogy, we must have recourse to the mist-enveloped regions of the religious world. In that world the productions of the human brain appear as independent beings endowed with life, and entering into relation both with one another and the human race. So it is in the world of commodities with the products of men’s hands. This I call the Fetishism which attaches itself to the products of labour, so soon as they are produced as commodities." This fetishism achieves its greatest force when it attaches to those products of men’s hands which, in the form of machinery, become capital (158-159).

Acting for the master in a way which he plans with inexhaustible care and precision, they seem in human eyes to act for themselves and out of their own inner necessities. These necessities are called "technical needs," "machine characteristics," "the requirements of efficiency," but by and large they are the exigencies of capital and not of technique. For the machine, they are only the expression of that side of its possibilities which capital tends to develop most energetically: the technical ability to separate control from execution (159).


Marx has pointed out that unlike general, who win their wars by recruiting armies, captains of industry win their wars by discharging armies. A necessary consequence of management and technology is a reduction in the demand for labor. The constant raising of the productivity of labor through the organizational and technical means that have been described herein must, in itself, produce this tendency. The application of modern methods of management and machined technology, however, become practical only with the rapid increase in the scale of production. Thus the rapid increase in the productivity of labor tends to be counterbalanced by the growth in production. Chiefly as a consequence of this, employment in those industries concerned with production of goods has not declined in absolute terms (163).

If the displacement of labor cannot be seen in the figures for the absolute size of the working population occupied in the making of goods, it can be seen in the measures of its relative size (164).

Chart showing reduction of Workers in manufacturing, construction and other goods producing industries going from 45.6 percent in 1820, climbing to 50 percent in 1880, and going to 33% in 1970 (164).

Chart showing Administration/production ration going from 7.7% in 1899 to 21.6% in 1947 (165).

But despite this rapid growth [in technical occupations], what is remarkable is the concentration of technical expertise of United States industries in a relatively small grouping. Taken together, the technical engineers, chemists, scientists, architects, draftsmen, designers, and technicians represent not much more than 3 percent of the total labor force in 1970…On balance, it is provably proper to say that the technical knowledge required operate the various industries of the United States is concentrated in a grouping in the neighborhood of only 3 percent of the entire working population--although this percentage is higher in some industries and lower in others (166-7).

The enormous and continuous growth in demand for engineers has created a new mass occupation. On the one hand, this has, along with other new professions such as accounting, given a place to those thrust out of the old middle class by the relative decline of the petty entrepreneurial occupations in trade and other erstwhile arenas of small business. But on the other hand, having become a mass occupation engineering has begun to exhibit, even if faintly, some of the characteristics of other mass employments: rationalization and division of labor, simplification of duties, application of mechanization, a downward drift in relative pay, some unemployment, and some unionization (167).



The atomized and competitive model of capitalism, in which the individual owner of capital (or family group, or small group of partners) ad the capitalist firm were identical, and production in each industry was distributed among a reasonably large number of firms, is no longer the model of capitalism today (175).

It will already have been noticed that the crucial developments in the processes of production date from precisely the same period as monopoly capitalism. Scientific management and the whole "movement" for the organization of production on its modern basis have their beginnings in the last two decades of the last century. And the scientific-technical revolution, based on the systematic use of science for the more rapid transformation of labor power into capital, also begins, as we have indicated, at the same time. In describing these two facets of the activity of capital, we have therefore been describing two of the prime aspects of monopoly capital. Both chronologically and functionally, they are part of the new stage of capitalist development, and they grow out of monopoly capitalism and make it possible (176).

We have already described the manner in which occupations within the manufacturing industries are rearranged and the balance is shifted toward indirect labor so that labor in the mass, as it is applied directly in production, may be lessened in numbers and controlled in its activities. This shift creates a small proportion of technical jobs, most of them closely linked to management, and a larger proportion of lower-grade routinized technical or unskilled clerical jobs. It is now necessary to focus not on the occupational shifts within these traditional industries but rather on the industrial shifts, the movements that change the entire social division of labor. In doing this we are following the course of capital, and the paths along which it has drawn labor. And for this we must attempt to sketch some of the broad social forces at work, and the social changes which are themselves nothing but the results of the rapid accumulation of capital in the monopoly era, as well as the conditions of further accumulation (178).


The first of these forces is to be found in the changed structure of the capitalist enterprise. The foundations for the theory of the monopolistic corporation were laid by Marx when he described the tendency of capital to agglomerate in huge units. This comes about in the first instance by the concentration of capital, which Marx defined as the natural result of the accumulation process: each capital grows and with it grows the scale of production it carries on. The centralization of capital, on the other hand, changes the distribution of existing capitals, bringing together "capitals already formed," by means of "destruction of their individual independence, expropriation of capitalist by capitalist, transformation of any small into few large capitals….Capital grows in one place to a huge mass in a single hand, because it has in another place been lost by many." This centralization may be accomplished, as Marx points out, either through competition of through the credit system, whereby many owners make their capital available to a single control (179).

The corporation as a form severs the direct link between capital and its individual owner, and monopoly capitalism builds upon this form. Huge aggregates of capital may be assembled that far transcend the sum of the wealth of those immediately associated with the enterprise. And operating control is vested increasingly in a specialized management staff for each enterprise. Since both capital and professional management--at its top levels--are drawn, by and large, from the same class, it may be said that the two sides of the capitalist, owner and manager, formerly united in one person, now become aspects of the class (179).

To belong to the capitalist class by virtue of ownership of capital, one must simply possess adequate wealth; that is the only requirement for membership in that sense. To belong to the capitalist class in its aspect as the direct organizer and manager of a capitalist enterprise is another matter. Here, a process of selection goes on having to do with such qualities as aggressiveness and ruthlessness, organizational proficiency and drive, technical insight, and especially marketing talent. Thus while the managerial stratum continues to be drawn from among those endowed with capital, family, connections, and other ties within the network of the class as a whole, it is not closed to some who may rise from other social classes, not through the acquisition of wealth on their part but through the co-optation of their talent on the part of the capitalist organization which they serve. In this case the ownership of capital later follows from the managerial positions, rather than the other way around (180).

The institutionalization of capital and the vesting of control in a specialized stratum of the capitalist class corresponds chronologically to an immense growth in the scale of management operations. Not only in the size of enterprises growing at a great pace--to the point where a few enterprises begin to dominate the productive activity to each major industry--but at the same time the functions undertaken by management are broadened very rapidly [production, and marketing] (181).

But if the engineering organization was the first requirement, it was soon outstripped in functional importance by the marketing apparatus. The first great integrated corporations, which began to appear in the United States in the 1880s and 1890s, were constructed on the basis of a new approach to the marketing problem, and it is not too much to say that after the assurance of basic engineering requirements it was this revolutionary marketing approach that served as the basis for the monopolistic corporation….The fundamental corporate innovation in this area was the national marketing organizations they established as part of their own structures, organizations which were soon to become international (181).

In general, the industrialization of the food industry provided the indispensable basis of the type of urban life that was being created; and it was in the food industry that the marketing structure of the corporation--embracing sales, distribution, and intensive consumer promotion and advertising--become fully developed (182).

Thus marketing became the second major subdivision of the corporation, subdivided in its turn among sales, advertising, promotion, correspondence, orders, commissions, sales analysis, and other such sections. At the same time, other functions of management were separated out to form entire division. [finance, construction and real estate, legal, public relations, personnel and labor relations, etc.] (183).

The picture is rendered still more complex by the tendency of the modern corporation to integrate, vertically as well as horizontally (183).

The overall purpose of all administrative controls is, as in the case of production controls, the elimination of uncertainty and the exercise of constraint to achieve the desired result. Since markets must remain the prime area of uncertainty, the effort of the corporation is therefore to reduce the autonomous character of the demand for its products and to increase its induced character. For this purpose, the marketing organization becomes second in size only to the production organization in manufacturing corporations, and other types of corporations come into existence whose entire purpose and activity is marketing (184).

Moreover, within the manufacturing organization, marketing considerations become so dominant that the structure of the engineering division is itself permeated by and often subordinated to it. Styling, design, and packaging, although effectuated by the producing part of the organization, represent the imposition of marketing demands upon the engineering division…Thus through the direct structure of the marketing organization, and through the predominance of marketing in all areas of the corporation’s functioning, a large amount of labor is channeled into marketing (185).

Corresponding to the managing functions of the capitalist in the past, there is now a complex of departments, each of which has taken over in greatly expanded form a single duty which he exercised with very little assistance in the past. Corresponding to each of these duties there is not just a single manager, but an entire operating department which imitates in its organization and its functioning the factory out of which it grew. The particular management function is exercised not just by a manager, nor even by a staff of managers, but by an organization of workers under the control of managers, assistant managers, supervisors, etc. Thus the relations of purchase and sale of labor power, and hence of alienated labor, have become part of the management apparatus itself. Management ahs become administration, which is a labor process conducted for the purpose of control within the corporation, and conducted moreover as a labor process exactly analogous to the process of production, although it produces no product other than the operation and coordination of the corporation. From this point on, to examine management means also to examine this labor process, which contains the same antagonistic relations as are contained in the process of production (185-6).


It is only in its era of monopoly that the capitalist mode of production takes over the totality of individual, family, and social needs and , in subordinating them to the market, also reshapes them to serve the needs of capital. It is impossible to understand the new occupational structure--and hence the modern working class--without understanding this development. How capitalism transformed all of society into a gigantic marketplace is a process that has been little investigated, although it is one of the keys to all recent social history (188).

In this earliest stage of industrial capitalism, the role of the family remained central in the productive processes of society. While capitalism was preparing the destruction of that role, it had not yet penetrated into the daily life of the family and the community; so much was this the case that one student of United States industrial history described this as the "family stage, in which household manufacturing was supreme. Practically all of the family’s needs were supplied by its members. The producer and consumer were virtually identical. The family was the economic unit, and the whole system of production was based upon it. Before 1810 this stage was common throughout many sections of the country; after this date it became more or less localized" (188-9).

This conquest of the labor processes formerly carried on by farm families, or in homes of every variety, naturally gave fresh energy to capital by increasing the scope of its operations and the size of the "labor force" subjected to its exploitation. The workers for the new processing and manufacturing industries were drawn from the previous sites of these labor processes: from the farms and from the homes, in great part in the form of women progressively transformed in ever larger numbers from housewives into workers. And with the industrialization of farm and home tasks came the subjugation of these new workers to all the conditions of the capitalist mode of production, the chief of which is that they now pay tribute to capital and thus serve to enlarge it (190-1).

The manner in which this transition was accomplished includes a host of interrelated factors, not one of which can be separated from the others. In the first place, the tighter packing of urbanization destroys the conditions under which it is possible to carry on the old life. The urban rings close around the worker, and around the farmer driven from the land, and confine them within circumstances that preclude the former self-provisioning practices of the home. At the same time, the income offered by the job makes available the wherewithal to purchase the means of subsistence from industry, and thus, except in times of unemployment, the constraint of necessity which compelled home crafts is weakened. Often, home labor is rendered uneconomic as compared with wage labor by the cheapening of manufactured goods, and this, together with all the other pressures bearing on the working-class family, helps to drive the woman out of the home and into industry. But many other factors contribute: the pressure of social custom as exercised, especially upon each younger generation in turn, by style , fashion, advertising, and the educational process (all of which turn "homemade" into a derogation and "factory made" or "store bought" into a boast); the deterioration of skills (along with the availability of materials); and the powerful urge in each family member toward an independent income, which is one of the strongest feelings instilled by the transformation of society into a giant market for labor and goods, since the source of status is no longer the ability to make many things but simply the ability to purchase them (191).

Thus the population no longer relies upon social organization in the form of family, friends, neighbors, community, elders, children, but with few exceptions must go to market and only to market, not only for food, clothing, and shelter, but also for recreation, amusement, security, for the care of the young, the old, the sick, the handicapped. In time not only the material and service needs but even the emotional patterns of life are channeled through the market (191).

It thereby comes to pass that while population is packed ever more closely together in the urban environment, the atomization of social life proceeds apace. In its most fundamental aspect, this often noticed phenomenon can be explained only by the development of market relations as the substitute for individual and community relations. The social structure, build upon the market, is such that relations between individuals and social groups do not take place directly, as in cooperative human encounters, but through the market as relations of purchase and sale (192).

The function of the family as a cooperative enterprise pursuing the joint production of a way of life is brought to an end, and with this its other functions are progressively weakened (192).

This process is but one side of a more complex equation: As the social and family life of the community is weakened, new branches of production are brought into being to fill the resulting gap; and as new services and commodities provide substitutes for human relations in the form of market relations, social and family life are further weakened. Thus is a process that involves economic and social changes on the one side, and profound changes in psychological and affective patterns on the other (192).

In a society where labor power is purchased and sold, working time becomes sharply and antagonistically divided from nonworking time, and the worker places and extraordinary value upon his "free" time, while on-the-job time is regarded as lost or wasted. Work ceases to be a natural function and becomes and extorted activity, and the antagonism to it expresses itself in a drive for the shortening of hours on the once side, and the popularity of labor-saving devices in the home, which the market hastens to supply, on the other. But the atrophy of community and the sharp division form the natural environment leaves a void when it comes to the "free" hours. Thus the filling of the time away from the job also becomes dependent upon the market, which develops to an enormous degree those passive amusements, entertainments, and spectacles that suit the restricted circumstances of the city and are offered as substitutes for life itself (193).

Thus understood, the massive growth of institutions stretching all the way from schools and hospitals on the one side to prisons and madhouses on the other represents not just the progress of medicine, education, or crime prevention, but the clearing of the marketplace of all but the "economically active" and "functioning" members of society, generally at public expense and at a handsome profit for the manufacturing and service corporations who sometimes own and invariably supply these institutions (194).

In the period of monopoly capitalism, the first step in the creation of the universal market is the conquest of all goods production by the commodity form, the second step is the conquest of an increasing range of services and their conversion into commodities, and the third step is a "product cycle" which invents new products and services, some of which become indispensable as the conditions of modern life change to destroy alternatives. In this way the inhabitant of capitalist society is enmeshed in a web made up of commodity goods and commodity services from which there is little possibility of escape except through partial or total abstention from social life as it now exists. This is reinforced form the other side by a development which is analogous to that which proceeds in the worker’s work: the atrophy of competence. In the end, the population finds itself willy-nilly in the position of being able to do little or nothing itself as easily as it can be hired, done in the marketplace, y one of the multifarious new branches of social labor. And while from the point of view consumption this means total dependence on the market, from the point of view of labor it means that all work is carried on under the aegis of capital and is subject to its tribute of profit to expand capital still further (194-5).

The universal market is widely celebrated as a bountiful "service economy," and praised for its "convenience," "cultural opportunities," "modern facilities for care of the handicapped," etc. We need not emphasize how badly this urban civilization works and how much misery it embraces. For purposes of our discussion, it is the other side of the universal market, its dehumanizing aspects, its confinement of a large portion of the population to degraded labor, that is chiefly of interest. Just as in the factory it is not the machines that are at fault but the conditions of the capitalist mode of production under which they are used, so here it is not the necessary provision of social services that is at fault, but the effects of an all-powerful marketplace which, governed by capital and its profitable investment, is both chaotic and profoundly hostile to all feelings of community. Thus the very social services which should facilitate social life and social solidarity have the opposite effect. As the advances of modern household and service industries lighten the family labor, they increase the futility of family life; as they remove the burdens of personal relations, they strip away its affections; as they create an intricate social life, they rob it of every vestige of community and leave in its place the cash nexus (195).

It is characteristic of most of the jobs created in this "service sector" that, by the nature of the labor processes they incorporate, they are less susceptible to technological change than the processes of most goods-producing industries. Thus while labor ends to stagnate or shrink in the manufacturing sector, it piles up in these services and meets a renewal of the traditional forms of pre-monopoly competition among the many firms that proliferate in fields with lower capital-entry requirements. Largely nonunion and drawing on the pool of pauperized labor at the bottom of the working-class population, these industries create new low-wage sectors of the working class, more intensely exploited and oppressed than those in the mechanized fields of production (195).


The use of the power of the state to foster the development of capitalism is not a new phenomenon peculiar to the monopoly stage of the past hundred years. The governments of capitalist countries have played this role from the beginnings of capitalism. In the most elementary sense, the state is guarantor of the conditions, the social relations, of capitalism, and the protector of the ever more unequal distribution of property which this system brings about. But in a further sense state power has everywhere been used by governments to enrich the capitalist class, and by groups or individuals to enrich themselves. The powers of the state having to do with taxation, the regulation of foreign trade, public lands, commerce and transportation, the maintenance of armed forces, and the discharge of the functions of public administration have served as an engine to siphon wealth into the hands of special groups, by both legal and illegal means (197).

But with monopoly capitalism this role is greatly expanded and takes on a more complex and sophisticated form….At any rate, in the end and in all places the maturing of the various tendencies of monopoly capitalism created a situation in which the expansion of direct state activities in the economy could not be avoided. This can be clearly seen if we consider some of the reasons for this development under four general headings: (197).

  1. Monopoly capitalism tends to generate a greater economic surplus than it can absorb. As a result it becomes increasingly vulnerable to disorders in its overall functioning, in the forms of stagnation and/or sever depression, marked by unemployment and idle plant capacity (197).
  2. The internationalization of capital--with respect to markets, materials, and investments--rapidly created a situation of economic competition which brought in its wake military clashes among capitalist countries. At the same time the spread of revolutionary movements in the countries dominated by foreign capital gave to all capitalist countries an interest in policing the world structure of imperialism. In this situation, the traditional concept of a peacetime military establishment gave way…to a permanent war mobilization (198).
  3. Within capitalist nations, poverty and insecurity have become more or less permanent features of social life, and have grown beyond the ability of private philanthropies to cope with them. Since these and other sources of discontent are concentrated in great cities and, if allowed to persist without amelioration, threaten the very existence of the social structure, the government intervenes to sustain life and relieve insecurity (198).
  4. With the rapid urbanization of society, and the acceleration of the pace of economic and social life, the need for other government-provided services has increased and the number and variety of these has therefore multiplied. Foremost among these services is education, which has assumed a much enlarged role in the era of monopoly capitalism….child-rearing, the responsibility for the care and socialization of children has become increasingly institutionalized….In school, the child and the adolescent practice what they will later be called upon to do as adults: the conformity to routines, the manner in which they will be expected to snatch from the fast-moving machinery their needs and wants (199).
Public health, postal, and many other government functions are similarly expanded by the needs of an intricate and delicately balanced social structure which has no means of social coordination or planning other than the internal corporate planning of the monopolies that provide the skeletal structure of the economy. And many of these "services," such as prisons, police, and "social work," expand extraordinarily because of the embittered and antagonistic social life of the cites (199-200).

It must not be supposed, however, that the impact of government spending upon the occupational structure is proportional to these figures [increases in government expenditures]. Much of government spending is channeled through the existing structure of the market rather than through direct government employment: it takes the form of military orders, the letting of contracts for highway and building construction, transfer payments to individuals and businesses, etc (200).