Industrial sociology, or the sociology of work, examines "the direction and implications of trends in technological change, globalization, labour markets, work organization, managerial practices and employment relations to the extent to which these trends are intimately related to changing patterns of inequality in modern societies and to the changing experiences of individuals and families the ways in which workers challenge, resist and make their own contributions to the patterning of work and shaping of work institutions."
Labor process theory
One branch of industrial sociology is Labor process theory (LPT). In 1974, Harry Braverman wrote Labor and Monopoly Capital: The Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century, which provided a critical analysis of scientific management. This book analyzed capitalist productive relations from a Marxist perspective. Following Marx, Braverman argued that work within capitalist organisations was exploitative and alienating, and therefore workers had to be coerced into servitude. For Braverman the pursuit of capitalist interests over time ultimately leads to deskilling and routinisation of the worker. The Taylorist (see Frederick Taylor, Scientific Managementwork) work design that is the ultimate embodiment of this tendency.
Braverman demonstrated several mechanisms of control in both the factory blue collar and clerical white collar labor force.
Braverman's key contribution is his "deskilling" thesis. Braverman argued that capitalist owners and managers were incessantly driven to deskill the labor force to lower production costs and ensure higher productivity. Deskilled labour is cheap and above all easy to control due to the workers lack of direct engagement in the production process. In turn work becomes intellectually or emotionally unfulfilling; the lack of capitalist reliance on human skill reduces the need of employers to reward workers in anything but a minimal economic way.
Braverman's contribution to the sociology of work and industry (i.e., industrial sociology) has been important and his theories of the labor process continue to inform teaching and research. Braverman's thesis has however been contested, notably by Andrew Freidman in his work "Industry and Labour" (1977). In it, Freidman suggests that whilst the direct control of labour is beneficial for the capitalist under certain circumstances, a degree of 'responsible autonomy' can be granted to unionised or 'core' workers, in order to harness their skill under controlled conditions. Also, Richard Edwards showed in 1979 that although hierarchy in organisations has remained constant, additional forms of control (such as technical control via email monitoring, call monitoring; bureaucratic control via procedures for leave, sickness etc) has been added to gain the interests of the capitalist class versus the workers.
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