'Critically assess labour process theory'

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'Since the appearance of Braverman's Labour and Monopoly Capital, the impact of labour process analysis has been experienced in the fields of industrial sociology, organisational theory, industrial relations, labour economics, politics and business studies'

This is an excerpt from the introduction to a book, Labour Process Theory, which was written by David Knights and Hugh Willmott, these two men are very closely associated with UMIST and particularly the MSM. It is for this reason that I have decided to critically assess the labour process theory and see how my views will conflict with those who have gone before me.

This study of labour process theory will begin with the origins of the theory - Marx, it will go on to discuss the work of the key author in the field Harry Braverman. The discussion of the book 'labor and monopoly capital' written in 1974 by Braverman will be followed by analysis of this book and some of the key criticisms that have emerged. An alternative to labour process, flexible specialisation will briefly be discussed and then conclusions will be made.

The works of Karl Marx begin to set the chain of labour process theory in motion although Braverman is most recognised as 'the father of labour process theory' It goes back to Marxist theories of alienation, Marx claimed that workers who were not in control of the work process were alienated and therefore also alienated with the products that they produced, they were also alienated with the workers that they worked with as they were unable to be suitably stimulated. This led to conflicts of interest between workers and management. Marx also highlight the difference between 'labour' and 'labour power' whereby the labour power was the total work that could potentially be performed by the employee and 'labour' which is the work that actually is performed. Indeed Marx went as far as to say that workers in a capitalist society were alienated from their species being as they were being denied an intrinsic right to control of there labour. (Albert and Hahnel 1990)

Braverman's work Labor and Monopoly Capital in 1974 re-opened the debate about the Labor Process. All societies have labour processes but under capitalism the labour process has specific characteristics. Thompson and McHugh cited Richard Evans, 1979 pg.18 when they distinguish three elements in any system of control, these are

·Direction and specification of work

·Evaluation, monitoring and assessment of performance

·The apparatus of discipline and reward to elicit co-operation and compliance

These three elements disagree with Bravermans three characteristics of capitalist work society. Which will be discussed later. These three elements would seem to actively encourage integration between workers and management, this mutuality will result in workers and manager doing their jobs acceptable and the business carrying on as it was intended. Braverman does not agree that this is a mutuality, he fears the workers are being exploited.

Essentially Braverman 1974 was his application of Marx's work to modern US capitalism. Braverman criticized Taylorism claiming that it only served to increase the control of the employer in a bid to gain a greater proportion of 'labour power' from 'labour'. He also cited Taylorism as a means of allowing the capitalists to justify charging a higher wage for the same 'labor' my means of 'de-skilling'. Essentially, Braverman claimed that Scientific Management was on the whole another way of gaining more out of the masses for less. If the workers are doing a less skilful task then it follows that a lower wage can be justified. Braverman was concerned that this would lead to a disturbing trend which must be addressed or the societal issues would be disturbing in the future. (Wood, 1982)

Initially, Labour and Monopoly Capital was hailed as a great thesis on the progressive and general de-skilling that was occurring in the current work climate. Braverman...
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