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April 14, 2006

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Robert Schwartz

"Whatever the cause, though, deskilling seems a key feature of the market/capitalist economy."

And so is de-materialization. The truth is that throughout human history most men were peasant farmers, not skilled craftsmen. You can romanticize it all you want, but most men who did not belong to the peasantry were brutes. Human machines. Their lot has improved and will continue to improve. porters have been replaced by truck drivers and smith's pin-makers have been replaced by machines.

Capitalism is a gale of creative destruction. And it is a good thing. Stasis binds men into their places, only dynamism unlocks them. Marx's nostalgia is not an insight but a degrading atavism that is another reason for shunning his diseased product.

Gavin Cameron

But how well does this sit with the much larger range of jobs now available in the workplace than, say, 200 years ago? For example, I am a macroeconomist specialising in economic growth. 200 years ago I could have been a 'political economist' but that would have been far less specialised.

I think what Sennett is observing is a feature of technical change - the jobs that he thinks are those of craftsmen are gradually being mechanised over time, but new crafts are coming into being all the time too (cardio-angiogram surgeons, IT officers etc).

Perhaps a feature of this pervasive technical/occupational change is that the managerial/consultant class who can organise these disparate fields needs to grow. Anyway, that's enough of an apologia for consultants!

rjw

There is indeed a practical problem here, in that the features being described (skills, craftsmanship) are kinda hard to pin down. Its easy to be anecdotal, but how could we be systematic and measure this?

I too am a bit suspicious if the author doesn't even mention Braverman, Edwards and the other authors that were part of the debates on "labour process" theory that kicked off 30 years ago.

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