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Labor and Monopoly Capital

Labor and Monopoly Capital: The Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century

Harry Braverman
Foreword by Paul M. Sweezy
New Introduction by John Bellamy Foster
Copyright Date: 1998
Published by: NYU Press,
Pages: 465
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qfrkf
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  • Book Info
    Labor and Monopoly Capital
    Book Description:

    This widely acclaimed book, first published in 1974, was a classic from its first day in print. Written in a direct, inviting way by Harry Braverman, whose years as an industrial worker gave him rich personal insight into work, Labor and Monopoly Capital overturned the reigning ideologies of academic sociology.This new edition features an introduction by John Bellamy Foster that sets the work in historical and theoretical context, as well as two rare articles by Braverman, "The Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century" (1975) and "Two Comments" (1976), that add much to our understanding of the book.

    eISBN: 978-1-58367-375-1
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Introduction to the New Edition
    (pp. ix-xxiv)
    John Bellamy Foster

    Work, in today’s society, is a mystery. No other realm of social existence is so obscured in mist, so zealously concealed from view (“no admittance except on business”) by the prevailing ideology. Within so-called popular culture—the world of TV and films, commodities and advertising—consumption occupies center stage, while the more fundamental reality of work recedes into the background, seldom depicted in any detail, and then usually in romanticized forms. The harsh experiences of those forced to earn their living by endless conformity to boring machine-regulated routines, divorced from their own creative potential—all in the name of efficiency...

  4. Foreword to the Original Edition
    (pp. xxv-2)
    Paul M. Sweezy

    In the Introduction to our bookMonopoly Capital, published in 1966, Paul Baran and I wrote that the approach we had adopted was not calculated to give a complete picture of the form of society under study. We continued:

    And we are particularly conscious of the fact that this approach, as we have used it, has resulted in almost total neglect of a subject which occupies a central place in Marx’s study of capitalism: the labor process. We stress the crucial role of technological change in the development of monopoly capitalism but make no attempt to inquire systematically into the...

  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-28)

    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 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. Since the details of this process, especially its historical turning points and the shape of the new employment that was taking the place of the old, were...

  6. Part I: Labor and Management

    • Chapter 1 Labor and Labor Power
      (pp. 31-40)

      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, minerals, and sunlight; animals feed on plant life or 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...

    • Chapter 2 The Origins of Management
      (pp. 41-48)

      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. Spinners, weavers, glaziers, potters, blacksmiths, tinsmiths, locksmiths, joiners, millers, bakers, etc. continue to exercise in the employ of the capitalist the productive crafts they had carried on as guild journeymen and independent artisans. These early workshops were simply agglomerations of...

    • Chapter 3 The Division of Labor
      (pp. 49-58)

      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....

    • Chapter 4 Scientific Management
      (pp. 59-85)

      The classical economists were the first to approach the problems of the organization of labor within capitalist relations of production from a theoretical point of view. They may thus be called the first management experts, and their work was continued in the latter part of the Industrial Revolution by such men as Andrew Ure and Charles Babbage. Between these men and the next step, the comprehensive formulation of management theory in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, there lies a gap of more than half a century during which there was an enormous growth in the size of enterprises,...

    • Chapter 5 The Primary Effects of Scientific Management
      (pp. 86-95)

      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. In this chapter, we will discuss, in a preliminary way, some of the effects of scientific management upon the working class; later chapters will return to this discussion after the necessary conditions for understanding it more fully have been established.

      The separation of mental work from manual work reduces, at any given level of production, the need for workers engaged...

    • Chapter 6 The Habituation of the Worker to the Capitalist Mode of Production
      (pp. 96-104)

      The transformation of working humanity into a “labor force,” a “factor of production,” an 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...

  7. Part II: Science and Mechanization

    • Chapter 7 The Scientific-Technical Revolution
      (pp. 107-116)

      Considered from a technical point of view, all production depends upon the physical, chemical, and biological properties of materials and the processes which can be based upon them. Management, in its activities as an organizer of labor, does not deal directly with this aspect of production; it merely provides the formal structure for the production process. But the process is not complete without its content, which is a matter of technique. This technique, as has been noted, is at first that of skill, of craft, and later assumes an increasingly scientific character as knowledge of natural laws grows and displaces...

    • Chapter 8 The Scientific-Technical Revolution and the Worker
      (pp. 117-126)

      “In manufacture,” wrote Marx, referring to the hand workshops that preceded the Industrial Revolution, “the revolution in the mode of production begins with the labour-power, in modern industry it begins with the instruments of labour.”¹ In other words, in the first stage of capitalism the traditional work of the craftsman is subdivided into its constituent tasks and performed in series by a chain of detail workers, so that the process is little changed; what has changed is theorganization of labor. But in the next stage, machinofacture, the instrument of labor is removed from the worker’s hand and placed in...

    • Chapter 9 Machinery
      (pp. 127-162)

      Machines may be defined, classified, and studied in their evolution according to any criteria one wishes to select: their motive power, their complexity, their use of physical principles, etc. But one is forced at the outset to choose between two essentially different modes of thought. The first is the engineering approach, which views technology primarily in its internal connections and tends to define the machine in relation to itself, as a technical fact. The other is the social approach, which views technology in its connections with humanity and defines the machine in relation to human labor, and as a social...

    • Chapter 10 Further Effects of Management and Technology on the Distribution of Labor
      (pp. 163-172)

      Marx has pointed out that unlike generals, 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 machine 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...

  8. Part III: Monopoly Capital

    • Chapter 11 Surplus Value and Surplus Labor
      (pp. 175-178)

      The atomized and competitive model of capitalism, in which the individual owner of capital (or family group, or small group of partners) and 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. Economists and social observers of a variety of persuasions are in general agreement that it has been displaced by a substantially different structure, although they may disagree in their descriptions and analyses of the new structure. Marxists have used various names for this new stage of capitalism since it made...

    • Chapter 12 The Modern Corporation
      (pp. 179-187)

      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 theconcentrationof 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. Thecentralizationof capital, on the other hand, changes the distribution of existing capitals, bringing together “capitals already formed,” by means...

    • Chapter 13 The Universal Market
      (pp. 188-196)

      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.

      Industrial capitalism began with a limited range of commodities in common...

    • Chapter 14 The Role of the State
      (pp. 197-200)

      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...

  9. Part IV: The Growing Working-Class Occupations

    • Chapter 15 Clerical Workers
      (pp. 203-247)

      If we view the evolution of those occupations called “clerical” over a long time span, from the Industrial Revolution to the present, we are soon led to doubt that we are dealing with the continuous evolution of a single stratum. The clerical employees of the early nineteenth-century enterprise may, on the whole, more properly appear as the ancestors of modem professional management than of the present classification of clerical workers. While it is probable that some of the clerks of that time corresponded roughly to the modem clerical worker in function and status, it is for various reasons more accurate...

    • Chapter 16 Service Occupations and Retail Trade
      (pp. 248-258)

      The giant mass of workers who are relatively homogeneous as to lack of developed skill, low pay, and interchangeability of person and function (although heterogeneous in such particulars as the site and nature of the work they perform) is not limited to offices and factories. Another huge concentration is to be found in the so-called service occupations and in retail trade. We have already discussed, particularly in Chapter 13, “The Universal Market,” the reasons for the rapid growth of service occupations in both the corporate and governmental sectors of the economy: the completion by capital of the conquest of goods-producing...

  10. Part V: The Working Class

    • Chapter 17 The Structure of the Working Class and its Reserve Armies
      (pp. 261-278)

      Labor and capital are the opposite poles of capitalist society. This polarity begins in each enterprise and is realized on a national and even international scale as a giant duality of classes which dominates the social structure. And yet this polarity is incorporated in a necessary identity between the two. Whatever its form, whether as money or commodities or means of production,capital is labor: it is labor that has been performed in the past, the objectified product of preceding phases of the cycle of production which becomes capital only through appropriation by the capitalist and its use in the...

    • Chapter 18 The “Middle Layers” of Employment
      (pp. 279-283)

      In the discussion thus far we have restricted ourselves to that portion of the population, embracing as we have seen some two-thirds to three-fourths of the total, which appears readily to conform to the dispossessed condition of a proletariat. But the system of monopoly capitalism has brought into being a further mass of employment, not inconsiderable in size, that does not answer so readily to such a definition. Like the petty bourgeoisie of pre-monopoly capitalism (the petty proprietors in farming, trade, services, the professions, and artisan occupations), it does not fit easily into the polar conception of economy and society....

    • Chapter 19 Productive and Unproductive Labor
      (pp. 284-293)

      In an earlier chapter devoted to the labor which produces services, we arrived at the conclusion that the existence of a working class as such does not depend upon the various concrete forms of labor which it is called upon to exercise, but rather its social form. Labor which is put to work in the production of goods is not thereby sharply divided from labor applied to the production of services, since both are forms of production of commodities, and of production on a capitalist basis, the object of which is the production not only of value-in-exchange but of surplus...

    • Chapter 20 A Final Note on Skill
      (pp. 294-310)

      In a study of the mechanization of industry conducted for the National Bureau of Economic Research in the 1930s, Harry Jerome concluded: “As to the effect on skill of further mechanization in the future … there is considerable reason to believe that the effect of further changes will be to raise the average skill required.”¹ Forty years later there are few who would disagree with this judgment. The idea that the changing conditions of industrial and office work require an increasingly “better-trained,” “better-educated,” and thus “upgraded” working population is an almost universally accepted proposition in popular and academic discourse. Since...

  11. Appendix 1: Two Comments
    (pp. 311-315)
  12. Appendix 2: The Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century
    (pp. 316-325)
  13. Index
    (pp. 326-338)