CONTESTED TERRAIN: The Transformation of the Workplace in the Twentieth Century by Richard C. Edwards

CONTESTED TERRAIN: The Transformation of the Workplace in the Twentieth Century

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KIRKUS REVIEW

While Professor Edwards (Economics, University of Massachusetts) focuses on the emergence of new methods of worker control along with the development of the corporation, his encompassing study also examines such broad questions as the fragmentation of the working force, the tension between capitalism and democracy, and the possibilities for change. First we tour early attempts at control--welfare capitalism, scientific management, and company unions--all of which were ultimately unsuccessful but each of which taught management lessons later translated into a control based on technology and bureaucratic regulation. Edwards' analysis of such corporations as Polaroid and AT&T, backed by broader economic and historical research, may at times lose the reader unfamiliar with Marxist approaches or uncomfortable with terms such as ""class-fraction politics"" or ""capitalist hegemony."" In trying to cover so much ground, moreover, Edwards occasionally lapses into summary without providing adequate historical detail to support his conclusions, leaving the reader with little basis on which to agree or disagree with the argument. Still, his development of these worker-management moves and countermoves does proceed with a logical force: the structural changes he outlines affect an ever-widening pool of workers as small businesses move to the economic periphery and huge corporations take command. As for where we are now, Edwards sees a work force divided into ""fractions,"" broken up by class, race, sex, and bureaucratic regimentation, and he fears that many current attempts at reform (including those discussed by David Jenkins in Job Power) may prove ""merely the latest wrinkle in employer control."" Only socialism--""industrial democracy alongside political democracy""--is seen as resolving the contradictions between capitalism and democracy that have emerged in this century. Edwards' contentions will surely stimulate discussion among specialists though they are not, in their present form, accessible to all concerned.

Pub Date: March 16th, 1979
Publisher: Basic Books