By Dr. Frank Elwell Rogers State University
This presentation is based on the theories of Harry Braverman. A more complete summary of his and other macro-social theories can be found in Macrosociology: The Study of Sociocultural Systems, by Frank W. Elwell.
In 1974 Harry Braverman published Labor and Monopoly Capitalism, an analysis of the impact of capitalism on work in twentieth century America. Using the concepts and theories developed by Marx in the first volume of Capital, Braverman’s book was a biting critique of the growing degradation of work in America.
A large part of Braverman’s argument centered on the “deskilling” of jobs in a capitalist economy in a systematic effort to more efficiently control and coordinate the labor force to maximize profit.
Braverman then documents the growth of working class occupations from 1900 to 1970 using U.S. Census data. This presentation briefly reviews Braverman’s argument and data and then extends the analysis through 2001 to determine the validity of the Braverman/Marxist critique.
Braverman’s problem—a study of the objective conditions of the working class—is identical to the task Marx set for himself in the first volume of Capital.
Work, Marx (and thus Braverman) asserts, is central to the human animal. It is through work that men and women realize their humanity. Capitalism begins with labor power, specifically the purchase and selling of labor power. This has consequences for the entire sociocultural system.
The value of all goods and services (all commodity value) is created by human labor. Capitalism is a system built around the drive to increase capital. In order to expand his capital, the capitalist invests in the purchase of labor.
The capitalist then attempts to get more value out of this labor than he has invested in it. The more surplus the capitalist can expropriate from the
Bibliography: Braverman, H. (1974/1998). Labor and Monopoly Capital: The Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century. New York: Monthly Review Press. Elwell, F. (2009), Macrosociology: The Study of Sociocultural Systems. Lewiston: Edwin Mellen Press.