LABOR AND MONOPOLY CAPITAL: The Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century by Harry Braverman

LABOR AND MONOPOLY CAPITAL: The Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century

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A radical writer with greater freshness and energy than Paul Sweezy, who contributes an introduction, Braverman attempts to present a Marxian solution to the following paradox: on the one hand, technological advancement should bring higher cultural and material standards of living, but on the other hand there has been an empirically observable decrease in those living standards. Braverman addresses the problem by making monopoly capitalism a plot -- a plot to introduce cheaper labor through technological innovations and creation of' service industries. Like an ordinary trade-unionist, he is not concerned about how the labor power is used, but simply with wage rates as the index of capitalist exploitation. Braverman indignantly examines Taylorist speedup -- another way of cutting wages -- though he ignores its 1970's version, Organizational Development. The significance of all this low-paid labor is lost in a conceptual confusion -- a confusion between ""productive"" in the sense of augmenting capital investment, and ""productive"" in the sense of producing socially necessary commodities. Dwelling on the former alone, this latter-day Citizen Weston believes that the creation of surplus value is not inherent in human activity, but merely due to the prolongation of the working day -- as though prolonging an ant's working day would produce surplus value. Marx would commend Braverman's moral earnestness but smile at his economics.

Pub Date: Dec. 30th, 1974
Publisher: Monthly Review Press