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Analyzing Braverman’s Division Of Labor

According to Harry Braverman the division of labor is recognized as one of the earliest concepts in regards to the capitalist mode of production. However, there are different types forms of the division of labor that differ from each other. For instance, the division of labor in a capitalist industry is not similar to distribution of tasks, crafts, or specialties of production throughout society. Although societies were known to divide their work into specialties before capitalism emerged, they were not subdivided specifically into limited operations like a capitalist society would be.

The differences mainly include subdividing humans and subdividing society in addition to sex roles and humanity. In addition, both forms of the division of labor have their fair share of enhancements as well as some disadvantages. Sociologists such as Karl Marx’s take stances to defend the differences that usually go disregarded despite being essential to the distinction between social division of labor and detail division of labor such as when he critiqued Adam Smith’s pin factory by relating to wage laborers and capitalists .

We can help determine the correct differences between the two by identifying how Braverman distinguishes the two forms of division of labor. In addition to the differences as well as social consequences of the capitalist organization of production, the differences between the forms of the division of labor including the positives and negatives can be analyzed by viewing the connection to the Babbage Principle and the effects it had on the events that unfolded during Rice’s play. Before determining the more better form of division of labor, we must define and contrast both from one another.

The social division of labor is mainly recognized as a characteristic of all societies, derivative of the specific character of human work,and is known to subdivide society (50). It was determined that each individual human is unable to produce in the accordance with the standard of every species. However, the human species as a whole finds this possible making the social division of labor inherent in the species character of human labor once it transforms into labor carried on through society.

An example of the division of labor could involve sex roles where men and women may be better suited or have a preference towards producing items, there is no rule dividing separate operations. There is also the detail division of labor or otherwise know as the manufacturing division of labor. This is the breakdown of the processes involved in the making of the product into manifold operations performed by different workers (50). One of the main differences between the two is that social division of labor is characteristic of all known societies while the other form is referred to as the special product of society.

Marx brought up an excellent point stating how while workers sell their own commodities for a wage for the use of labor power for a specific amount of time, capitalists use labor in production. In addition, the two are enforced differently with the social division being imposed more chaotically by the market while the detail division takes more of planning and controlling approach. Also, with social division subdividing society and detail division dividing humans, there may be a conflict considering the subdivision of society would disregard the human capabilities and needs despite potentially enhancing the individual and the species.

This would escalate into a crime against the person and humanity. Social consequences may occur as well as an effect on something known as the Babbage Principle. As mentioned before, there are 2 divisions of labor known as ‘social’ and ‘detail’. The detail division of labor arises under capitalism and follows a organization of production designed for capitalist. The capitalist organization of production displays a tendency of deskilling labor. The results include growth of the labor process by capitalists, wages being reduced, and human development facing additional limitations.

Furthermore, as capitalism developed, a tendency to polarize workers started to show which would include higher wages for the more skilled workers and lower wages for the unskilled workers. The capitalist mode of production would systematically remove all-around skills brings into skills and occupations that work with its needs. Scientific knowledge and training can not be eliminated. Some reasons are that scientific management being an attempt to apply science to control labor in a capitalist enterprise and the scientific movement having an important role in shaping modern corporation.

With scientific management actually representing management rather than science, it is described as an “absolute necessity for adequate management”. Another concept that was fundamental to the development of the division of labor in a capitalist society is the babbage principle. Charles Babbage, the founder of the Babbage principle, explained how the issue regarding skilled workers usually spend time performing tasks below their skill level. The problem with this involves “wasting social resources” on low wage workers being depended on to complete tasks they cannot complete.

Allowing only high wage workers to complete high skilled tasks can cut labor costs and “preserve skills” as presented in terms of the mythology of capitalism. To further explain his point, Babbage uses Adam Smith’s pin factory example. Charles Babbage then creates a table organizing the labor employed, age and gender, and the pay. It showed that labor costs would be doubled if craftsmen that are capable of performing all operations are employed exclusively and are not the highest paid. Illustrating what he stated about deskilling workers and preserving scarce skills.

Along with Babbage’s Principle, Rice’s play known as the adding machine illustrates some of the effects described above. Elmer Rice is the creator of a play known as the Adding machine. This play has a strong connection to the ideas associated with the division of labor mentioned in this essay. The Adding Machine is about an employee named Mr. Zero who was working at a department store for 25 years. He is upset with his wife and one of his co-workers, Miss Daisy Devore, is in love with him. Mr. Zero sees himself as an excellent worker noting that he has never missed a day or been more than five minutes late.

As Daisy is focused on getting Mr. Zero, Mr. Zero is determined to be worth more. He is later fired by his boss and replaced by something called the adding machine which adds the figures at a higher rate making Mr. Zero and Miss Daisy now seen as low skilled workers compared to the machine. The two were replaced by the adding machine which made Mr. Zero very upset that he lost his job after 25 years of dedication. He ended up killing his boss and later getting arrested at a dinner party. How does this play relate to Braverman’s comments? To be specific, Mr. Zero was “de-skilled” by a machine which would classify as the high-skilled worker making the higher wage in this role.

The only difference is that Mr. Zero did not get a lower wage, he was fired. Although he was dedicated to the store for 25 years and proved his capability of being regarded highly by not missing a day of work, a machine has a less chance of error while working at a faster rate. Mr. Zero claims he was never more than 5 minutes late, the adding machine is guaranteed to never be late while providing efficiency and profit maximization.

With that being said, Mr. Zero’s boss can justify his decision by looking at every approach he could have taken excluding a sentimental one because of Mr. Zero’s loyalty to the store. This would also allow the boss to cut his labor costs or not waste “social resources” as mentioned above. In terms of Braverman’s effects as the ‘naked worker’, Mr. Zero is deprived of access to the means of subsistence, and is driven into the employment agreement due to social conditions which leave him no other way to gain a livelihood. This is displayed when he becomes unemployed and ends up killing his boss. Wilbert Moore is one of the individuals who ignored the distinction between social and detail division of labor stating that they cannot be contrasted.

In this essay, I have already determined that social division of labor subdivides society while the detail division of labor subdivides humans. The detail division of labor is imposed by planning and controlling while the social aspect for the division of labor is enforced more chaotically. With the detail division of labor working under capitalist, there is a tendency to deskill workers which results in an expansion of the labor process by capitalists, wages being cut, and human development facing additional limitations.

The capitalist mode of production which is involved with the detail division of labor is also mentioned to rule out eliminating scientific knowledge due to technology being a huge part of the deskilling process with the adding machine by Elmer Rice being an example when a machine that could add figures at a faster and more efficient rate replaced an employee who worked there for 25 years. In addition,the subdivision of individuals which is the detail division of labor can be considered a crime against humanity when the human capabilities and needs are not taken into account.

This could be the case for Rice’s play considering Mr. Zero’s boss looked into what is best for the business rather than what Mr. Zero was capable of such as never missing a day of work for 25 years. Finally it has a relation to the idea created by Charles Babbage recognized as the Babbage Principle. He indicated that there has been an issue regarding people working below their skill level and even illustrated the labor costs being double when he used Adam Smith’s pin factory example using the high wage workers. To conclude, the differences between the two divisions of labor show a great amount of contrast when it comes to labor regarding how the work is divided, and the wages.

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