Critical Study Of Work

Critical Study Of Work

Rick Baldoz
Charles Koeber
Philip Kraft
Copyright Date: 2001
Published by: Temple University Press
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  • Book Info
    Critical Study Of Work
    Book Description:

    Two broad developments reshaped work at the end of the twentieth century. The first was the implosion of the Soviet Union and the worldwide triumph of market capitalism. The second was the increasing use of computer-based production technologies and management command-and-control systems. How do we make sense of these important developments.The editors have assembled a collection of provocative, original essays on work and workplaces throughout the world that challenge the current celebration of globalization and new technologies. Building on labor process analysis, individual case studies venture beyond factory and office to examine "virtual" workplaces, computer-era cottage work, and emotional and household labor. The settings range from Indian and Irish software factories to Brazilian supermarkets, Los Angeles sweatshops, and Taiwanese department stores.Other essays seek to make theoretical sense of increasingly de-centered production chains, fluid work relations, and uncertain employment. Individually and collectively the authors construct a new critical study of work, highlighting the connections between geography, technology, gender, race, and class. They offer an accessible and flexible approach to the study of workplace relations and production organization -- and even the notion of work itself.

    eISBN: 978-1-59213-809-8
    Subjects: Business

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-IV)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. V-VI)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. VII-VIII)
  4. Introduction
    • Making Sense of Work in the Twenty-First Century
      (pp. 3-18)
      Rick Baldoz, Charles Koeber and Philip Kraft

      Two broad developments reshaped work at the end of the twentieth century. The first was the implosion of the Soviet Union and the worldwide triumph of market capitalism. The second was the widespread use of computer-based production technologies and management command-and-control systems. The much-anticipated global economy seemed, at long last, to have arrived (Castells 1996). Local and regional economies became parts of international production chains tightly bound by freely moving capital. Computer-based information systems coordinated in unprecedented detail the movement of capital, goods, and people. The effects were visible everywhere. Asian agricultural economies metamorphosed into large and small economic “tigers.”...

  5. Part I: Continuity and Change
    • CHAPTER 1 Dwelling in Capitalism, Traveling Through Socialism
      (pp. 21-44)
      Michael Burawoy

      Until the appearance of Harry Braverman’sLabor and Monopoly Capitalin 1974, the renaissance of Marxism in the 1960s and 1970s had confined itself either to theories of the state, ideology, or education or of capitalism as an economic system, leaving Marx’s analysis of production largely untouched. It was the unproblematic prop for the Marxian edifice. It was Braverman who took up the challenge of rewriting volume one of Marx’sCapital, producing a history of capitalism’s expropriation of control from direct producers. First proletarianized, then deskilled, the working class—Braverman among them—was subject to the inexorable logic of capital....

    • CHAPTER 2 Do Capitalists Matter in the Capitalist Labor Process? Collective Capacities, Group Interests, and Management Prerogatives, c. 1886–1904
      (pp. 45-68)
      Jeffrey Haydu

      A common and early criticism of Harry Braverman’sLabor and Monopoly Capital(1974) was its neglect of workers. Labor appeared in his story, of course, but largely as a generic victim of capital’s relentless quest for control. What critics found missing in Braverman’s account was a dialectic between the labor process and its victim. They called for more attention to the impact of production relations on workers’ ideology and action, and they insisted that workers’ resistance to capital also shaped the development of the labor process (Thompson [1989] reviews the debates). Sympathetic scholars soon filled the gap. Ethnographic and historical...

  6. Part II: Service and Service Sector Workers
    • CHAPTER 3 Gender, Race, and the Organization of Reproductive Labor
      (pp. 71-82)
      Evelyn Nakano Glenn

      Feminist sociologists and historians have revolutionized labor studies by making gender a central concept in the analysis of work. One of their most significant contributions has been to expand the concept of labor to include activities that were not previously recognized as forms of work, especially unpaid work in the household. In this chapter, I present a race-gender analysis of one form of nonmarket work-the labor of social reproduction—which has been extensively explored as a form of gendered labor, but not as labor that is simultaneously racialized.

      The term “social reproduction” was coined by feminist scholars to refer to...

    • CHAPTER 4 The Body as a Contested Terrain for Labor Control: Cosmetics Retailers in Department Stores and Direct Selling
      (pp. 83-105)
      Pei-Chia Lan

      Contemporary sociologists, unfettered by the Cartesian mind/body dualism, finally turn to a topic that has been ignored for centuries: the body (Turner 1984; Frank 1991). As many theorists have argued from different perspectives, the body is not only a biological existence, but also a historical and social construct. It is inscribed by the articulation of knowledge and power (Foucault 1977, 1980), it embodies social distinctions and class taste (Bourdieu 1984), and it reproduces social construction of gender differences (Cornell 1987; Bordo 1993). However, the body is still an overlooked dimension in labor process theory. The blindness to the body is...

    • CHAPTER 5 Silent Rebellions in the Capitalist Paradise: A Brazil-Quebec Comparison
      (pp. 106-124)
      Angelo Soares

      Supermarkets may be considered major exponents of consumer society, a capitalist version of the Garden of Eden, where everything exists for the happiness of men and women. Indeed,

      when a purchase is made in the supermarket, the displays hide all the work involved there: the work of production, distribution, the placement of displays, price labelling, etc. Goods are there like fruits in an orchard, vegetables in a garden, fish in the seas and rivers, … until one arrives at the checkout to pay; the cash-register is the end of the Garden of Eden and the return to the brutality of...

  7. Part III: Production and Industrial Workers
    • CHAPTER 6 Flexible Despotism: The Intensification of Insecurity and Uncertainty in the Lives of Silicon Valley’s High-Tech Assembly Workers
      (pp. 127-154)
      Jennifer JiHye Chun

      In the special fifth-anniversary issue ofWIREDmagazine Po Bronson (1998, 1) issues a simple message: “Be warned: if your imprint of the Silicon Valley was soldered together in the 80s, it’s time to upgrade.” Competition, innovation, and adrenaline are perpetually transforming this high-tech culture of dynamism. According to Bronson, the Silicon Valley is like a “stew that never comes off the gas heat,” and the “real work” is “done in silence, sitting in cubicles, staring at screens.” Part of the recipe for success certainly entails the creative inspiration needed to design a new software program or a faster microchip....

    • CHAPTER 7 The Challenge of Organizing in a Globalized/Flexible Industry: The Case of the Apparel Industry in Los Angeles
      (pp. 155-178)
      Edna Bonacich

      The apparel industry combines some of the most backward production methods with some of the most advanced techniques of labor control in the “new world order” of post-“monopoly capitalism.”¹ While basic production still depends on a worker, usually a woman, sitting at a sewing machine, because of advances in computer technology and containerized shipping, the industry has been able to engage in global production to an unprecedented degree. “Globaloney” may apply to some industries, but not to apparel. Garment manufacturers (and retailers) are able to shift production from one region or country to the next in order to seek out...

    • CHAPTER 8 Transcending Taylorism and Fordism? Three Decades of Work Restructuring
      (pp. 179-195)
      James Rinehart

      In this chapter I describe and critically evaluate a number of work-restructuring initiatives that appeared over the last three decades of the twentieth century. I concentrate on changes that ostensibly relax, dismantle, or transcend Fordist and Taylorist modes of organizing work, and, consequently, that allegedly benefit workers as well as employers. Developments in the auto industry, from the onset of concession bargaining to lean production and the Saturn model, receive special attention.

      In the early 1970s workplace reform ranked among the most pressing issues of the day. Increasing manifestations of worker discontent, most notably the widely publicized 1972 strike at...

    • CHAPTER 9 Manufacturing Compromise: The Dynamics of Race and Class Among South African Shop Stewards in the 1990s
      (pp. 196-212)
      Edward Webster

      During the 1970s and 1980s a powerful shop-floor-based trade union movement took root in South Africa. Shop stewards emerged as crucial leaders in the struggles that began in the 1980s in the townships over rent, shack removals, education, and the occupation by the South African Defense Force. Their involvement in issues beyond the factory distinguishes the South African shop stewards from their European and North American counterparts. It also distinguishes South Africa from the rest of Africa, where the struggle against colonial rule did not involve the mobilization of a grassroots working-class movement. Instead independence was won either by nationalist...

  8. Part IV: Professional and Technical Workers
    • CHAPTER 10 “Globalization”: The Next Tactic in the Fifty-Year Struggle of Labor and Capital in Software Production
      (pp. 215-235)
      Richard Sharpe

      The making of software is a high-value-added production process that is concentrated in a handful of locations worldwide. On the surface, virtually none of the conventional forms of struggle between labor and capital seem to be employed. With software production, we cannot see the production line of, say, a car plant; we cannot put our finger on piles of primary or secondary goods going out of a factory door. But the seemingly intangible nature of software production does not mean there is no continued struggle between labor and capital in the process, for the underlying struggle for control is masked...

    • CHAPTER 11 Controlling Technical Workers in Alternative Work Arrangements: Rethinking the Work Contract
      (pp. 236-257)
      Peter Meiksins and Peter Whalley

      Managing technical workers presents a continual dilemma for employers. Routinizing it, deskilling it, and using other conventional strategies for controlling labor threaten to minimize the application of knowledge and creativity for which these employees are nominally hired. Similarly, purchasing such expertise from external sources has usually been regarded as impractical or inefficient because of the transaction costs involved.

      Although there are a variety of national and firm-specific differences in the responses to this dilemma (Meiksins and Smith 1996), the general practice has been to employ a variety of mechanisms that bind the technical expert to the organization without compromising autonomous...

    • CHAPTER 12 Net-Working for a Living: Irish Software Developers in the Global Workplace
      (pp. 258-282)
      Seán Ó Riain

      It is 4:15 in the afternoon. On the wall of the software test group in the Irish offices of USTech, a prominent Silicon Valley computer company, there are four clocks. At the moment they show that it is 8:15 a.m. in Silicon Valley, California, 10:15 in Austin and Fort Worth, Texas, and 11:15 in Montreal, Canada. Silicon Valley has just “opened for business” and the software developers and managers in Ireland begin a hectic few hours of discussion with their American counterparts. The row of clocks evokes a smoothly working global economy, held back only by time zones, and a...

  9. About the Contributors
    (pp. 283-285)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 286-286)