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Degradation of Work - Essay Example

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Sociologists regularly criticise Marx and Braverman for being functionalist and determinist (for example, Littler and Salaman, 1982). Braverman notes Marx's dialectical analysis of the historical relations between the material forces and social relations of production…
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Degradation of Work
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Download file to see previous pages He claims that "he Marx gave primacy to the forces of production in the long sweep of history" (Braverman, 1974, 19-20). Braverman's productive force determinism prevents him penetrating the complexities of the capitalist mentality and the critical importance of the valorization process in the control of labour. Braverman's (1974, pp. 24-25) lack of concern with the valorization process is evident when he writes off Marx's definition of the working class as "the static terms of an algebraic equation", signalling the abandonment of any interest in Marx's political economy.
For instance, the present treatise on capitalist production does not contain a formal definition of 'capital' . Marx would agree with Braverman that the 'accumulation of capital' - the generation of increasing amounts of surplus - "dominates in the mind of the capitalist, into whose hands the control of the labour process has passed" (Braverman, 1974, p. 53). He would also agree with Braverman's (1974, 53) aim to consider "the manner in which the labor process is dominated and shaped by the accumulation of capital". However, as Braverman fails to grasp Marx's definition of capital, he has little to say about how the accumulation of capital controls labour, and focuses solely on the material process of production. Some participants such as Morgan and Hooper recognise "the lack of an adequate theorisation of 'capital' " as a major "lacunae" in Braverman and the labour process debate. Marx says that machines only dominate labour 'technologically' - they impose technical constraints and demands - not that they control every aspect of work. He says that workers are impotent against capital 'even when labour exists autonomously', that is, without supervision or technical constraint. Marx (1976, 994) made quite clear his view that it was "pre-eminently in this sense - which pertains to the valorization process as the authentic aim of capitalist production - that capital as objectified labour (accumulated labour, pre-existent labour and so forth) may be said to confront living labour (immediate labour, etc.)". The workers find themselves not only confronted by material reality, "the workers find themselves confronted by the functions of the capital that lives in the capitalist" (Marx, 1976, 1054), and therefore by accounting. It follows that in Marx's theory it is not so much in detailed control of the labour process that we see the fully developed subsumption of labour in capitalism, but in fully developed systems of accounting. Braverman, by contrast, sees the detailed control of labour as capitalism's defining problem. This explains his view that "capitalists use the most productive instruments of labor and the greatest intensity of labor, but they are always aimed at realizing from the potential inherent in labor power the greatest useful effect of labour, for it is this that will yield him the capitalist the greatest surplus and thus the greatest profit" (Braverman, 1974, 56). By contrast, in Marx's management accounting, and in reality, the capitalist thinks the other way around. Because capital's overriding aim is the greatest return on capital, it invests in machinery ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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