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March 09, 2007



but what reason is there to suppose that this process would be any different in non-capitalist societies? Unless these non-capitalist societies would dismantle the division of labour.

So is there a trade off between alientation and productivity?

Chris Williams

All this happened to coppers in 1829, you know.


This should also look familiar because it could have been copied verbatim from newspapers of the 1940s where doctors were complaining about the creation of the NHS in the first place.


That was before the Internet, DD, it can't possibly have happened.


"victims of a process analyzed by a great Marxist": as Luis implied, surely described by Professor Smith long before Marx?


State industries are usually monopoly industries. It would seem natural that the fight between management and labour will be especially bitter.


It's a shame power doesn't rest with the scarce resource in government.

Maynard Handley

I'm sympathetic to the scoffers above.

I think the point is that two issues are being conflated
- why does this happen, and
- is it a good or a bad thing.

I think deskilling for control is part of why it happens, and may be a bad thing, or may not, or may be neutral. If you're on the side of management it's great; if you're on the side of doctors it's bad; if you think most people suck then you probably don't much care; and if you're a pragmatist, well probably this results in more smart people to do other work, so it's probably on balance good.

But deskilling also happens as a way of improving productivity --- division of labor, better use of technology, all that; and is in that way almost certainly a good thing for society, though it may well suck for the individuals being deskilled.

A much better example for this point would surely be the manufacture of not especially talented musical acts, precisely because such acts tilt the balance of power to those who can do the marketing and promotion that make such acts viable; and this is a case where the countervailing concerns of better overall efficiency for society no longer exist to complicate the issue.


C'mon chaps, you're missing a big part of the story.
Of course, Smith showed how the division of labour raised efficiency and productivity, albeit at the price of making people as "stupid and ignorant as it is possible for a human creature to become."
But Braverman's and Dalrymple's point is that the form of deskilling they see isn't necessary to raise efficiency, but is a way for management to gain power. The overall efficiency of this is dubious - it's good for bosses, not necessarily for everyone.


Ah I see. But still, in any feasible non-capitalist society there's still going to be some sort of power structure isn't there? So some incentive for the powerful to entrench their position in this fashion - even if they couch it as (elected) wise heads making sure workers do what's in the interest of the greater good. I mean the NHS is a case in point isn't it - hardly a hard-nosed capitalist organisation.

Oh but re-reading your post I see that you are not suggesting this is a feature of capitalism (even if Braverman was).

Is this process less evident in worker's co-ops? Or if it is less evident


oops stray incomplete sentence at end of that last comment


"Irony one is that middle class professionals, most of whom have long considered themselves anti-Marxist, are now victims of a process analyzed by a great Marxist.
Irony two is that it's the state, not capitalists, which is doing this."

These two ironies are actually the same thing and, therefore, not in the least ironic.

This is exactly why the middle classes do not like Marx: his proposed solutions cause the problem.

Rob Spear

What Cleanthes said. When will you perfidious leftists get it through your thick heads that it is attempts to fix the problems of the world through state power that entrench and exacerbate the problems of the world?

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