Jun 23 2020

Labor and Monopoly Capital is one of the most influential books of our time,and it Harry Braverman () drew on his rich experience as pipefitter. Review: Harry Braverman. Labor and. Monopoly Capital: The Degradation of. Work in the Twentieth Century. New. York: Monthly Review Press, ,. pp. This widely acclaimed book, first published in , was a classic from its first day in print. Written in a direct, inviting way by Harry Braverman, whose year.

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Return to Book Page. Labor and Monopoly Capital: John Bellamy Foster Introduction. This widely acclaimed book, first published inwas a classic from its first day in print. Written in a direct, inviting way lsbor 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 Foste This widely acclaimed book, first published inwas a classic from its first day in harru.

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” and “Two Comments”that add much to our annd of the book.

Paperbackpages. The Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century. To see what your ,onopoly thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about Labor and Monopoly Capitalplease sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Labor and Monopoly Capital.

Lists with This Book. Jan 03, Christy rated it it was amazing.

Braverman is what you should read if you want the background of the continual “deskilling” movement where capitalists invest in strategies that undermine, mechanizes, and cheapens literally and figuratively, the latter in terms of materials the craftsperson’s trade and skill, thereby keeping the cost of labor and product down. It helps explain the collapse of the “living wage” job in the U. De-skilling has hit the university, too, and it’s why your kiddies have adjunct instructors instead of full-time, tenured professors teaching at your local public universities.

Beaverman recent Atlantic article described the radical change to public higher education as the market finally caught up with it: Inalmost 80 percent of college faculty members were tenure or tenure track. Today, the numbers have essentially harryy, with two-thirds of faculty now non-tenure and half of those working only part-time, often with several different teaching jobs.

View all 14 comments. Jul 21, Hadrian rated it really liked it Shelves: The title is the first thing which struck me about this book.

Labor and Monopoly Capital – Wikipedia

Let’s be honest about it. Many jobs these days are just terrible, either from the monotony and repetition of their work, their poor wages, or just the lack of respect and dignity hwrry get from them.

Just today, I told one of my close bravermman how to deal with ocular migraines from stress I’m dealing from experience.

Many jobs these days are so bad that they could even be worse than unemployment. A lot of people gravitate to some kind of work, almost from instinctual reasons.

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

However, the present structuring of work leaves a process which is separate from psychological validation, only dull repetitive tasks. This is the main focus of Foster’s book. The method of Foster’s argument is a history of the structuring and control of labor from Bravermqn Taylor through Ford and the modern assembly line. Each worker is taken away from any knowledge of the process, and is an appendage to the larger technology of production. The process of ‘management’ is breaking down the parts of any job into repetitive tasks and increasing efficiency, with the ability to exchange one worker for any other if they are no longer suitable.

His argument is directly influenced by Marx’s old concept of ‘alienation’ – yet the history of industrial organization presented is so thorough that an adapted version could make its way to a business school course. I should add, however, that Foster’s focus is on manufacturing.


Foster was a craftsman for a few years so there are a few anecdotes from his experience, but this idea of work does take up much of his time. However, he does spend some time analyzing ‘clerical’ or office work, and its systematization under the principles of ‘management’. Nothing about domestic labor or agricultural labor, however. Even some thirty years later, the broad strokes momopoly his argument are still valid.

The increased automation of both manufacturing and clerical labor, leads to the comparative inefficiency of human employees and hharry taking human labor out of the process of creating profit. I suspect that bdaverman if this book isn’t widely read, harr will be very easy to become bravreman with its ideas. View all 3 comments.

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

Nov 16, Trevor rated it it was amazing Shelves: You have to be careful when you say things like that, obviously. One of the things Marx says about Capitalism somewhere is that to really understand it you need to think of it as simultaneously the best and worst things that have ever happened to the world. I suspect we need to think of the division of labour in much the capita way.

But I want to play with the ideas contained here about the division of labour and what that might mean if you were to hope for a utopian future of some kind.

Marx makes it very clear that labour is what made hharry what we are — not just in the sense that building cities or houses or farms are good things to have about you if you want to be properly human, but more that human labour has changed us as beings much more fundamentally still.

It has changed our hands so we can grasp, it has structured out brains to be plastic so we can learn, it has helped us to create environments that have both changed the world and changed us to fit that world and could be argued to have changed our vocal pathways so we can communicate — xapital most human of abilities — that enables labour to be something we learn from.

At one point in Capital Marx says that the difference between the worst architect and the best bee is that a bee works purely from instinct, while an architect has already built their building in their head before they even start to build it in the world.

This unity of mental and physical labour is a large part of what Marx means when he says that it is labour bravermxn makes us human. And this is a large part of his distaste for the division of labour. Particularly under capitalism, the division of labour has become a kind of hyper-reality. This book takes this idea and runs with it. Essentially, in the capitalist division of labour, work is designed to reduce all tasks to the lowest possible skill level — in fact, ultimately to have all tasks done by a machine that replaces human labour altogether if monoooly.

Now, crafts people are expensive — their bravermman is expensive — so, one monoooly the things capitalism does momopoly to reduce the complexity of the series of tasks needed to produce something down to a series of simple and highly repeatable ones. Then it allocates those tasks to various people according to the skill level of those tasks and therefore the amount of skill those people will have and that they will be paid.

If doing one part of the overall production cycle involves lots of skill, then you will organise the process to ensure that the high value labour needed for that part of the job will only be employed doing that part of the job – and none of the other less skilled parts of the job. The other less skilled parts will be then done by less skilled people who will be paid accordingly. With the Ford motor company, all this was then attached to a conveyor belt and then the company capltal control over the process and who did what in that process; and also over the speed with which the process occurred.

But notice also that even bravedman most skilled people end up doing only a small part of the overall work — and they do this over and over again. This means they too becoming increasingly de-skilled and are likely to also be bored out of their minds doing it. They also labbor been reduced to less than bees — because at least a bee builds a hive according to its natural inclinations — a worker is so alienated from their labour that they can have no interest in what they do at all, other than that it puts food on the table.


If labour is what makes us human, the capitalist division of labro degrades us to the point where we stop being human, but become rather cogs ans a machine. Okay, but labro things changed? Are we now living in a world where these early horrors of capitalism have been replaced and now, rather than jobs being reduced to the lowest possible skill level, we are seeing broad-banding, multi-skilled jobs and total quality management?

Well, yes and no. One of the things documented here is the steady decline in skill level needed for virtually all work in capitalist economies. The increasing use of computers in office work has only accelerated this process — as the Global Auction makes clear.

That some jobs require increased skill says nothing for the average job. Braverman even points out that in some cases employers made it clear that too much education actually undermined a worker’s ability to do certain jobs – as they simply got too bored. A recent ‘secret’ in post-secret summed this up by saying that nothing in hadry current job was in any way as intellectually challenging as the course they needed to do to get the job beaverman the first place. The thing about factories designed according to scientific management principles is that they are insanely efficient.

They produce lots of stuff and do so increasingly effectively in ways that increase the overall standard of living of people. As is repeatedly pointed out in this book, annd alienation of labour makes us all less than fully human. The moral hraverman here is that the increasingly moronic forms of work we are forced to do ends up making us increasingly morons — and by that I mean something other than truly human.

Does your job suck? I bet you said yes. Are you proud of what you do for a living? Chances are good that whoever you are which is probably just you, Maya, I knowyour job requires you to be either chained to a desk or behind a counter or to sell something and by “sell” I mean throw your scruples into the gutter each morning before you’re off to engage in the act of convincing insecure people omnopoly spend their money on things they don’t need or want, nor had they hharry heard of befor Does your job suck?

Maybe you don’t have a job like any of these. Labof you like your job and are proud of it. Maybe your job is to make sure that the people who have jobs like those just described don’t get calital of line, but probably not because such jobs constitute the vast majority of all jobs under our currently world-dominant capitalist system.

This fact is no accident. People saw that unskilled, mindless, low-paying and degrading jobs would all but consume the workforce, e. Marx and, yes, Smith, back at the beginning of the industrial revolution.

This book shows how capigal near-religious devotion to “efficiency” and “scientific” management principles by managers and capitalists in late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries drove the systematic transformation of labor power into a commodity. Labor is now a sort of fuel which powers monopily technologies that have taken over the jobs people had done for centuries. Monoppoly course the technology creates jobs, but very few require real skill or intellectual exertion while most are even less skilled than the previous technologies required, and always the total number of jobs steadily decreases.

Are the managers and capitalists to blame? The scientists and engineers who push the technology forward? Yes, yes, and yes. Modern Capitalism raises some of us to the level of demigods, keeps some of us right where we want to be, and lowers most of us to the level of “wage slaves”, or absolute non-participants in the modern world.