Alas for us, Braverman’s book is not one of those cheerful books which finishes with a section on how “there’s hope!” to turn around what we’ve been discussing. (Here – the fragmentation and alienation of modern society via capitalism and jobs).
No, his final five chapters deal more fully with what we call “the middle class” or the “working class” and their role in society and the increasingly dull and meaningless jobs they have to look forward to performing.
Braverman deals more fully with the issue of skill in these jobs. Though there used to be some, there is little anymore. “Unskilled” work is that which can be done with no training, however it turns out that “Semi-Skilled” merely means training is done which can be completed within 2 – 12 weeks. Peak work efficiency is often reached within 3-6 months after being hired.
And though there used to be some status bump with having office work, increasingly office and clerical work is rote having the mental feel of factory work, being chained to a desk, submitted to efficiency trainings, and made to perform at the same sorts of paces as those in the factory with few breaks and even fewer perks.
Though jobs are being created all the time through the universal marketplace phenomenon, and “work” which simply used to something one did (ie: making bed) is increasingly a paid activitiy unfortunately unemployment is rising all the time, particularly if you factor in – those who are in school, those who are not seeking work because they have given up looking, and those who work but are not paid a living wage.
(Again, you can read all these things on the front page of nearly every newspaper in the nation. Not much seems to have changed since 1974. Abysmality is the order of the day.)
In fact, Braverman appears to arrive at few sweeping conclusions in his book, the introduction serving as his sole attempts at synthesizing everything, and a few final paragraphs, such as this one,
The worker can regain mastery over collective and socialized production only by assuming the scientific, design and operational prerogatives of modern engineering; short of this there is no mastery over the labor process.
And this mastery must be a conjunction of education and work, it cannot be as it is now, all study and no work, or the way it is for laborer – all work and no study. It must be both conjoined.
The (Dismal) End.