The publication of Braverman’s Labor and Monopoly Capital in 1974 has stimulated a wide-ranging and lively series of debates within the social sciences. Braverman, following Marx (Capital, vol. 1), forcefully argues that the logic of capitalist production is such as to inexorably ‘deskill’ the labour process — that is, to progressively render most work in capitalist society increasingly routine and fragmented, requiring very little skill on the part of the worker. Much of his discussion concerns the ‘deskilling’ of manual work, but he also argues that nonmanual — particularly clerical — work has also been substantially ‘deskilled’. This fact has contributed to the ‘proletarianisation’ of clerical work — that is, in respect of both the nature of the work and other terms and conditions of employment, the ‘class situation’ of the clerical worker now resembles that of the manual ‘proletariat’. One of our major objectives, therefore, in carrying out the empirical research which forms much of the substance of this book was to examine the non-manual labour process to ascertain the extent to which ‘deskilling’ had, in reality, occurred. An important factor informing our research was the impact of computers, a feature which has increasingly affected clerical work since the 1960s.
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