[OPE-L:8327] Re: Re: Electronics and Value

From: Paul Adler (padler@usc.edu)
Date: Mon Jan 13 2003 - 11:10:31 EST

Jerry -- perhaps it might be more interesting for others on the list 
if we zoomed out a bit.

To focus on overall skill levels -- I'm curious if you and others on 
the list would agree with me: while the data are very difficult to 
synthesize, have not the cognitive resources of US workers -- the 
combined result of childhood socialization, education, training, 
on-the-job learning -- increased on average over the last 100 years? 
(And dont' forget the huge change implied by the shift out of farming 
-- from 38% of the labor force in 1900 to 3% today...)
If you grant that these cognitive resources have increased, then as 
marxists, we have to ask ourselves whether and where this fits with 
our basic story. (Of course, out story also has to accomodate the 
many cases of real deskilling we observe --such as the supermarket 
cashiers.) It seems to me that it fits nicely with the paleo-marxist 
story I summarized.

In a piece I published long ago in Socialist Review, I argued that 
Braverman's analysis attracts leftists because it gives us a platform 
for denouncing capitalism by spotlighting cases of deskillling. 
Indeed, even if such cases are less frequent than cases of upgrading, 
it is surely appropriate to agitate around "the unacceptable costs of 
progress" imposed by capitalism. The downside of this overall 
posture, however, is that starting from Braverman, it seems as if to 
acknowledge any broad upgrading trend would be to endorse capitalism. 
I think Braverman is empirically wrong; that adopting his analysis 
therefore means we have nothing to say about all the cases where 
capitalist development and technological change do lead to upgrading; 
too many workers therefore find our analysis implausible in the face 
of their work experience. That's why I find the alternative, 
paleo-marxist story so compelling -- it puts the left in a much 
stronger position to play a hegemonic role -- rather than a marginal 
role, offering only denunciations that sound shrill because they are 
(and are seen to be) polemically one-sided.

  At 8:18 PM -0500 1/12/03, gerald_a_levy wrote:
>Re Paul A's [8316]:
>>  1. at the aggregate, empirical level:
>>  * the overall skill level -- understood as "socially necessary
>>  education and training time" to take us back to value categories --
>>  of the US workforce as a whole, of its non-managerial/non-supervisory
>>  component, and even of its manual component taken separately, is
>>  higher today than 100 or 200 years ago.
>Yes, I agree that the level of _education_ understood to be socially
>necessary has increased in the US and elsewhere over the last
>100-200 years.  It is certainly the case that a certain level of reading
>and math competence by workers is deemed to be necessary by
>capitalists that wasn't the case 200 years ago.  The _training time_ for
>many (most?) jobs in industry has gone _down_ with the emergence
>of "modern industry":  indeed, how many millions of workers today still
>require in industry (and sometimes in the office) no more than a
>few days (or even hours) training? 
>>  While it is interesting to study the skill
>>  trajectory of individual occupations and industries, if we're
>>  interested in capitalist development's skill requirements, we should
>>  allow that overall requirement evolve in part due to shifts in the
>>  industry and occupation mix.
>Yes, this might have significance especially for a regional or
>national economy especially if that region's or nation's economy
>is very dependent on only a few industries.
>>  * notwithstanding the impression left by David Noble's work, much
>>  pre-NC machining involved very little skill.
>Harley Shaiken also wrote quite a bit about this.  I think that Noble
>and he were pretty much in agreement on the effect of CNC.
>Before NC,  skilled machinists were required.  _Even if_ many of
>their routine tasks required little skill there were other tasks that
>required a significant level of training and experience (and hence
>the apprenticeship requirements).  One has to remember that in the
>pre-NC days machinists were among the most skilled workers in
>many factories, along with tool and die makers, electricians and others.
>>  * hospitals are a nightmare. The main issues in hospitals have little
>>  to do with our current discussion tho, and much more to do with
>>  ruthless cuts in staffing levels.
>Agreed -- but the desire by capital to raise the productivity of
>labor and ruthlessly cut staffing levels is a _typical_ (but not by
>any means the only) motivation for automation.  
>>  (snip, JL) But the valorization
>>  process is not only what happens when surplus value is realized in
>>  sales: it is also the force shaping the labor process for surplus
>>  value creation within the enterprise.
>>  In the software factory as on the shop floor, purely coercive
>>  dependence cannot entirely displace collaborative interdependence,
>>  else production would cease. The effect of the supercession of formal
>>  subordination by real subordination -- combined with the related
>>  development of the forces of production -- is to progressively deepen
>>  and broaden the collaborative interdependence of the collective
>>  worker, and thereby exacerbate the contradiction between the
>>  increasingly socialized forces of production (here embodied in the
>>  capabilities of the collective worker) with exploitative relations of
>>  production.
>What of some more recent trends, e.g. the transition from the 'pre-
>industrial office' and 'industrial office' to the so-called 'information
>age office' (see Vincent E. Giuliano "The Mechanization of Office
>Work", 1982)?    While these workers are still  interdependent, they
>are  no longer in the same place necessarily as in the industrial
>office.  Trends such as 'home work' are increasing the prospects that
>workers are frequently more isolated on the job. What does this trend
>mean from the standpoint of the "collective worker"?
>Solidarity, Jerry

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Prof. Paul S. Adler,
Management and Organization Dept,
Marshall School of Business, 
University of Southern California,
Los Angeles, CA 90089-0808
USC office tel: (213) 740-0748 
Home office tel: (818) 981-0115
Home office fax: (818) 981-0116
Email: padler@usc.edu
List of publications and course outlines at: http://www-rcf.usc.edu/~padler/ 
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Tue Jan 14 2003 - 00:00:01 EST