Contradiction Employee involvement Empowerment Deskilling Labour process Marxism Multiskilling Postfordism Taylorism Technical change Upskilling
Brill Academic Publishers
VIDAL, M., 2019. Contradictions of the labour process, worker empowerment and capitalist inefficiency. Historical Materialism, [in press].
I articulate a classical-Marxist theory of technical change in the capitalist labour process, highlighting two contradictions. The management contradiction is the conflict managers experience between coordination (to increase efficiency) and discipline (to ensure valorisation). The workforce contradiction is the tension workers experience between productive socialisation and alienation. I submit that both contradictions were substantially muted from the earliest stages of capitalism through the Fordist stage but have become intensified in the postfordist period. Under postfordism, the basis of efficiency is economies of scope and flexibility, and thus there is a real efficiency advantage to empowering workers, via both multiskilling and employee involvement in problem solving and decision making. Postfordist capitalism has thus initiated an intensification of the management and workforce contradictions. In response, capitalist management is increasingly impeding the growth of the productive forces by failing to empower workers.
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