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Labor Process Theory

and Other Grand Narratives

David M. Boje

July 1, 1999; Revised Oct 29, 2010

This brief is part of the Storytelling Organization Game and it is an MBA study
guide for LPT questions on the MBA Oral. It covers LPT, various ideologies, and
has links to other texts.

Question: Is democratic worker control over the labor process possible?

Textbooks and gurus do not ask this questions. Textbooks and gurus privilege managers�
control over the labor process ahead of wage-earners� democratic governance of planning,
doing, and controlling their own work. Harry Braverman (1974) argues worke rs have been
deskilled by science/technology/hierarchy moves, decisions for how the work gets done
and how capital is accumulated is situated in management hands. The textbooks and gurus
in management and OT set up an ideology that the disenfranchisement of wage earners
from control of their work (something they had during the craft and guild phase of
mercantile capitalism) is the right and unquestionable order of things under industrial
capitalism because of technology, science, and human nature. The ide ological narratives
make the manager the rightful expert in the labor process, while the worker lacks skill to

Ideology plays a role in continuing the gap between hierarchical control by

capital/management and workers� democratic governance of their work. The ideology of
managerialism legitimates the status quo. Gurus in "excellence" "TQM" and "BPR" have not
changed the balance between manager control and democratic control of the labor process.
The Tom Peters (and Waterman) excellence movement sets up a "strong culture" in which
employees are persuaded and seduced to buy into managerially dominated labor process.
Hammer and Champy reengineering sets up more managerialism by bringing in expert
"science-imitators" to make designs more controlled by senior management. Imai�s and
Deming�s TQM does not promote democratic worker control. Like Taylorism, TQM and BPR
shifts worker knowledge to tec hnocratic expert managers (and overpaid consultants) who
tweak the system as a whole into higher states of centrally controlled labor process.

Ideology is "masking specific interest (e.g. capital accumulation of labor surplus into senior
management/owners hands) through general theories, demonstrating how bourgeois
conceptions of justice or democracy (e.g. TQM, BPR, team management, Tayl orism) mystify
capitalist hegemony (power manipulations that are too subtle to notice) over the working
class" (Best, 1995: 248, editions mine, from Politics of Historical Vision - Guilford Press). By
creating quality, customer visions as the genera l interest of workers, the particular greed
interests of senior executives are masks by clever rhetoric. With Nike we get to see the
hegemony of Phil Knights claims as they are dismantled and deconstructed and otherwise
demystified to reveal the exploitation of whole races of Third World Women and un-
knowledgeable First World consumers.

. I am applying Alvesson�s (1987: 147) definitions of ideology to look at what he terms

"objectification mistakes:"

- A form of consciousness is ideological if it contains �an objectification

mistake,� i.e. if a social produced phenomena is assumed to be a natural one.
This means that the products of a particular society or a group of individuals
which potentially c ould be controlled and changed by the participants, are seen
as natural phenomena, governed by processes outside their control.

- If a form of consciousness falsely assumes that the particular interest of the

group as a whole it can be referred to as ideological.

- The glorification of social conditions as harmonious when they are, in fact,

conflict-ridden and the denial or transmutation of contradictions might be seen as
ideological forms of thought.

Managerialism Ideology � The viewpoint and voice of management is privileged above all
other perspectives. The management function "is looked upon as clearly differentiated from
organization work in general and is expressed as equally impor tant or more important than
the organization in its entirety, i.e. the work carried out by 95-99% of the personnel who do
not belong to the management" (Alvesson, 1987: 160). For more on manageri alist.

Elitist Ideology � The good boss, good leader, and the good executives work hard, are
competent, and exhibit situated qualities necessar y to succeed. In both concentrated and
diffuse spectacle, the elite view is that the they were born to power, and those out of power
are where they belong. The executive (boss, leader) elite are segmented from people in
general by their special education, training, and psychological nature. "Business leaders
possess special personal qualities which make them more �holistic� in their thinking,
strength of will, capable of bringing out �the best� in their subordinates or quite simply
more �charismatic� than people who do not reach higher management positions in their
careers, all according to the elitist ideology" (Alvesson, 1987: 161).

Technocratic Ideology � Technological developments determine the imperatives that

management must follow. The mechanistic factory needs its concentrated spectacle to
legitimate its form as most suitable to particular environments. The global Int ernet
technology is the march of progress in the diffuse spectacle. Both are instances of techno-
determinism: technology is always seen as progress, without accounting for consequences,
access, social or ecological costs.

Harmony Ideology Harmony is the idea that a complete integration between management
and employee psychology is possible. Again, we see this in concentrated spectacles of job
enrichment and empowerment programs of the formal organization and in the new
cosmology of the global spectacle where labor is now set free from paternalism, to seek
independence from full time employment (as t he story goes). We only have to find the right
balance of "democratic leadership, personnel and group-oriented management, intrinsic
motivation, involvement, personal development, self-realization, etc" (Alvesson, 1987: 161).

Late Capitalist Ideology � The late capitalistic or post industrialism ideology of th diffuse
spectacle points to the advantages of capitalism, free enterprise, and self-organizing
markets. Here diffuse spectacle opposes concentrated spectacle, but it is still spectacularly
ideological theater. The ideology is used to oppose all forms of state control and to
celebrate private ownership (Alvesson, 1986: 158-9). It is the market that "determines,
"legitimizes," and "rationalizes& quot; lay-offs, downsizing, merger, acquisitions, plant
relocations, and temporary employment.

In short, I am proposing that the road beyond managerialist ideology lies in democratic
governance of the work by workers. I favor local administration of overseas pla nts.
Braverman (1974) points out that the antidote to managerialist labor process is granting
workers democratic control over their own workplace and society (see p. 445-6 footnote). By
democratic control he does not mean parliamentarian committees that elect directors and
workers� councils. This is the false, pseudo democracy that is the university. The "real"
decisions never get to committee. Braverman means taking labor process control away
from experts, committees, etc. and demystifying ps eudo-science claims and privileged
ideologies (e.g. managers are the experts), and returning technical and system knowledge
back to the workers. It is skilling-up instead of skilling down. It is broadening the unitary
goal of profit maximizing schemes t o include worker-control of work, social accountability,
and environmentally sustainable designs. It means an education system that educates
wage-earners in self-governance, science, technology, ecology, and democracy.

Alvesson & Willmott. Their book Making Sense of Management (Sage, 1996) integrates
Braverman�s labor process with Derrida�s poststructuralism (deconstruction), and
Habermas� modifications to Marxism and enlightenment (tenets of developing modes of dialogue to
achieve social consensus). They (A&W) say the intent of Habermas� Critical Theory (CT) "is to foster
a rational, democratic development of modern institutions in which self-reflective, autonomous and
responsible citizens become progressively less dependent upon received understandings of their needs,
and are less entrance by the apparent naturalness or inevitability of the prevailing poli tical-economic
order (A & W, 1996: 17). It all started with a division of labor between management and labor. The
social division of "handlers" and (of horses) and the handled (the horses is the original metaphor for
maneggiare (management) (A & W, 1996: 29).

I would like to review LPT and how the CT perspective has been moving toward a CT enlightenment
project. In LPT, we learn that management is the guardian of the accumulation of surplus value, which
it puts into its own pockets, and those of the owners by operating a hierarchical control scheme to
devalue and degrade labor. Managerialism promotes divisions of gender-labor, race-labor, skill/de-skill
to accumulate excess dollars by taking democracy out of work. The buying and selling of labor is perfe
cted in centralist reengineering and downsizing schemes to increase stock value by thwarting local and
democratic control. To all of this there is an alternative.

The alternative is workplace democratic control over the allocation of resources and the labor process.
Democracy challenges the ideology of expert hierarchy, and a labor process of acquisition,
managerialism, and the relentless expansion of global ca pitalism to accumulate. Management experts,
gurus and textbook writers have been apologists for the power and control model of elite domination of
the corporate pyramid. Texts are full of ideology and propaganda that legitimate the ideology of a
labor p rocess that is sexist, racist, hierarchical, and environmentally destructive. Gurus preach the
illusion of freedom while emancipatory progress is prevented from realizing democratic ideals.

The ideology of managerialism legitimates the treatment of individuals as objects of undemocratic

managerial decisions and control. This is accomplished by arguing that democratic workplace control
is unnecessary given the manager�s expert, rational a nd science training. This is rhetoric. In LPT we
learn that "best practice" is the accumulation of capital through efficiency and speed. But in
democratic workplace we learn that best practice is realizing "progressive objectives of auto nomy,
responsibility, democracy and ecologically sustainable development" (A&W, p.18). TQM and BPR
sustain the status quo of autocratic governance and surplus accumulation by the elite at the top.

There are alternatives to autocratic governance. These includes collectives and cooperatives what have
minimal vertical division of labor. We can champion autonomy, responsibility, democracy and
ecological balance (A&W, p. 19). It is no accident that these alternatives never make it into mainstream

It is through social movements promoting democratic control of work (what I call transorganizational
development 2) that we can collectively mobilize and engage in struggle for control over the Nikes of
the world. The green and feminist movements have made an impact democratic movements can model.
Deetz (1992) calls workplace democracy a moral issue, not just something to enhance production or
satisfaction. Again, y democracy we do not mean formal systems of voting or political parties. We mean
par ticipating fully the day to day decisions of our work lives instead of surrendering our freedoms to

Most textbooks recycle ideas, practices, and ideologies of the status quo system of LPT and non-
democratic control. Managers are portrayed as the heroes of modern corporations and societies, as
they are deemed professional, scientific, and an agent of capital. But, managers do not have a universal
right to govern. There are democratic alternatives that texts do not explore.

Press Here for LPT Chart [Missing - if anyone has this from 1999 to 2002, please send to

Labor Process Theory (LPT) explains the surplus value of top executives in the capitalist
mode of production and the lowering of wages to support unproductive labor activities in an
surplus-extractive division of labor. It is not ab out getting higher quality goods and
services to customers. This is a fiction masking the labor process of extracting surplus
values to bloat the top of the pyramid as more unproductive labor rides on the backs of
productive labor as both labor divisions experience the tragedy of de-skilling,
rationalization, and hierarchy. Extraction of surplus, not quality is the goal of corporations
and higher education. We begin by looking at how Braverman does his own deconstruction of
the productive-unproductive labor duality.

1. Duality Productive and unproductive labor.

2. Explore the Hierarchy. Productive labor dominates unproductive labor. Productive
labor in LPT produces surplus value for capital. Unproductive labor are the self-
employed farmers, artisans, craftsmen and professionals. Capital accumulation r
equires all self-employment become wage employment under capitalism. Else there is
no surplus value for capitalists to gather unto themselves. Nike capitalism, for example
allows Phil Knight to accumulate billions in personal capital by destroying unpro
ductive labor in third world countries and transforming it into productive labor in Nike
Inc. factories. A second form of unproductive labor is the occupations in the firm that
do not directly engage in production, such as accounting, finance, marketing, sales,
etc. While unproductive labor has declined outside the grasp of capital, it has
increased within its ambit (P. 415).
3. Reverse the Hierarchy. The duality deconstructs itself in Braverman�s chapter. As
unproductive labor was put inside the corporation and put to work to keep overhead
down and otherwise aid in the capital accumulation made possible by productiv e
labor, unproductive "white collar" labor gained status over productive "blue collar"
labor. They also gained privileges, security, and status over blue collars.
4. Resituation of the Hierarchy. As the number of unproductive wage earners inside the
firm multiplied a labor process took effect in which only the heads of departments had
major privileges and status. The lowly white collar and the lowly blue collar employee
became subject to the same misfortunes. The commercial (surplus value extending)
side of the house employed its wage-workers, just as the production side of the house.
Both productive and unproductive wage-earners became rationalized in t he division of
labor, de-skilled, and performed repetitive tasks for lower and lower wages. Except for
the color of the collar, they lost the characteristics that made them a duality in the first

A Final Note On Skill

As science builds more mechanical systems of organization, the average worker

understands little of the total process and is dependent upon a few experts who understand
the system as a whole. To keep the fiction of progress alive, the labor statis ticians and
sociologists cleverly redefined "unskilled, "semi-skilled," and "skilled" occupations � to
make it appear that with more technology and science, that skills were being "upgraded."
Part of the ruse was to ext end the number of years of education, as if more years meant
more educated than before. What used to be craft mastery became the skill of tending,
watching, oiling, or feeding a machine. Farmers skilled in animals, plants, soil and the like
were classi fied as unskilled laborers, so that a story could be told that in their move to the
factory to tend machines they moved from no skill to semi-skill. Absurd to think that years
of apprenticeship to farm and ranch was less a skill than a day or week of trai ning in
machine tending.

Semi-skilled workers are what Nike has after two hours of training. They are told exactly
what to do and how to do it and their work is supervised very closely. They repeat the same
sewing or gluing motions throughout the workday. It could easily be argued that the duality:
semi-skilled and unskilled is easy to reverse. The Vietnamese farmer had more skill as a
farmer did than the two hours it took to learned to be a semi-skilled sewer and assembler.
Skill is an artifact of a classification system meant to obscure. As Braverman says the
transformation is especially illusory (p. 433). Now the Vietnamese Nike worker will lose
mastery of a great many skills such as a knowledge of land, fertilizer, animals, tools, farm
machinery, construction skills , etc. (p. 434). In what ways is this progress?

Nike�s economic development is an illusory upgrading of Third World skills. What has
happened is that Nike transforms labor outside the corporation to labor insider the
corporation, labeling all that remains outside its grasp as unproductive and all t hat is inside
"productive" and "economically "developed."

Press Here for LPT Chart Display

Final Summary of LPT

As LPT does its magic transformation in every industry, every product and service, the jobs
of the majority of citizens require less education, contain more monotony, less wages, less
benefits, less advancement, and less skill. Mass education does its bit by keeping students
stupid enough in 12 years of education to read and write at the 6th grade levels required of
most jobs. School systems are designed perfectly to produce the kinds of ignorant workers
that can be paid McDonald�s wag es. As Braverman puts it "education is a liability to the
employer" (p. 441). They might figure out what surplus accumulation actually means. More
education would mean workers who would be dissatisfied with low wages, repetitive worker,
auth oritarian hierarchy, ecological decay, and greed.

Capital accumulates into fewer and greedier hands. Phil Knight is a primary example. His six
billion is made on the back of people paid in pennies to performed deskilled work.

I would like to see the reestablishment of craft skills and the reconstruction of the labor
process in the hands of skilled labor. This would mean an education system that provides
technical, scientific, and engineering knowledge to the masses. It wo uld downsize the scale
of capital accumulation. Be gone Goliath corporate giants. Redefine unproductive,
entrepreneurial ad-ventures as more productive than working in the bowels of the whale.
The worker can regain mastery over collective production only by learning to design and
manage their own organizations (p. 445). Rather than accumulating wealth for a few Phil
Knights, accumulate wealth in the hands of millions of entrepreneurs. Instruct workers in
the accumulation of surplus so that they mig ht better understand the game in which they
have been asked to play with blindfolds. Profit sharing for everyone or none at all.


1. Labor Process. The capitalist purchases wage earners to accumulate more capital
through surplus value extracted from the labor process via technology, fractionated
tasks, placing knowledge of craft into the system, minute control, and substitut ions of
cheap labor for more expensive labor. Once the labor process (how the work is
planned and done) was the responsibility of the craftsperson, it is now the
responsibility of the capitalist and his handmaiden or surrogate agent, the manager. In
ear ly industrial capitalism, the capitalist just sub-contracted (p. 61) the highly skilled
craftsperson (miller, blacksmith, printer, potters, tinsmiths, etc.) through the crafts
guild to do the work. But, there was a way to extract more surplus and to dri ve wages
down. Factories began in guild-less towns where their power over the labor process
was unrestricted so capital could take control of the labor process (p. 60). Company
towns, such as you see in Nike labor camps provide systems of total control o f labor
and the labor process. In each industry there is a transformation as skilled crafts
people and entrepreneurs become instruments in a systems of capital accumulation
and substitute factors of production (p. 139). The labor process was dissolved f rom
something conducted by the skilled worker and reborn as a mechanistic process
conducted by management over dumbed-down workers (p. 170). As the labor process
does its thing fewer workers are needed and more non-productive labor (accounting,
finance, surveillance) and senior salaries rest upon their backs (p. 206-7). This can be
seen in universities as fewer faculty teach larger class sizes, technical substitutes
(distance learning, computer labs) go on line to displace faculty, graduate students do
more teaching, and faculty carry more and more administrators, grant agencies,
research institutes, athletic departments, assistant to assistant administrators, and
other non-productive service providers are their backs. More resources are going into
sur veillance of faculty time, while less resources go into classrooms. Over time
university employment is becoming deskilled to further surplus labor extraction in the
hands of those at the apex of the bloating pyramid. Finally, as Braverman says "the
whole form of the movement of modern industry depends � upon the constant
transformation of a part of the laboring population into unemployed or half-employed
hands" (p. 383). The last two decades have seen more downsizing, de-skilling, and
movemen t of workers into no-benefits, part-time and no employment, while the salary
paid to those at the top has sky rocketed. Each downsize nets corporate 1000 CEOs
millions in stock payoffs. Braverman says the Reserve Army of Labor is composed of
floating wo rkers moving from job to job, latent surplus workers moving from
agriculture (and other sectors) to displace higher paid workers, and stagnant surplus
people who dwell in the world of the unemployed and poor.
2. Surplus Labor Value. This is the point of LPT: to accumulate surplus labor value from
wage earners working the most hours, at the fastest speed at the lowest rates of pay in
order to put those dollars into the pocket of senior management/owners . As
Braverman says "it is money exchanged for labor with the purpose of appropriating
that value which it creates over and above what is paid, the surplus value" (p. 413).
Labor which can be transformed into accumulated surplus is destro yed. Misery
accumulates in direct proportion to the accumulation of capital in the pockets of CEOs
(p. 396). "The pyramids were built with the surplus labor of an enslaved population" (p.
64). Coercive methods were required to turn free craftsp eople into habituated cogs in
the machine. Surplus labor is the difference between what a wage earner receives and
what a capitalist sells the workers� services for to a customer. The difference is
accumulated into the budget of the CEO and the dividends of the owners (less actual
costs of materials, tools, and physical plant). The absolute general law of capitalist
accumulation is the greater the reserve army of part-time, under- and unemployed the
more extensive the poverty, the more concentrated the w ealth, while the rest get
misery (p. 388-9). The wealth and misery surplus is extracted by finding ways to reduce
the wages of employees using the following items:
3. Division of Labor. Detailed division of labor destroys the skill and comprehension of
craft occupations who could perform the entire production process. This lowers
wages. One division of labor is between the fractionated productive labor an d the
unproductive labor watching, tabulating, gazing, planning, advertising, and auditing
the behavior of the productive labor (p. 417). In both forms, operations are separated
from each other and assigned to different and cheaper workers. Destroying the craft as
a process, it is reconstituted under the direct command and control of capital�s
agent, management and his/her legions of unproductive clerks. Each productive
worker only needs the requisite skill and wage to perform one routine operation which
results in surplus value to the capitalist and each unproductive worker can be similarly
de-skilled and de-waged. The division of labor systematically destroys all-around
skills, only using the craftsmen where needed and eventually not at all (See Boje�s
1995 analysis of Disney and Ub Iwerks, the key man). A mass of simple, low-paid, de-
skilled labor results from the division of labor which invests all knowledge in the
system (Babbage�s general law of the capitalist division of labor, p. 83). In the
university there is productive and much unproductive labor. Productive professors are
more and more specialized, but also told what and how to do by unproductive labor
who assigns them what to teach, what books to use, audits, and assesses etc. Where
once upon a time the university was run by the faculty, the administrators and legions
of unproductives have taken total control of the university. Divisions of lesser paid
functionaries do the unproductive work while those at the top of the unproductiv e
pyramids reap the perks and benefits (p. 417-8). In this games, there is no money left to
train a professor to be cross-disciplinary, provide hands-on instruction, spend quality
time with students, when most of the money is spent in inflated central adm inistration
budgets to pay for the unproductive side of the university. While the number of faculty
decreases the staff of administrators (along with salary and budgets) has increased in
the past decade. Capital is appropriated from the productive side of the university to
finance the accumulation of the unproductive side. As the labor process continues to
work its way through the university system, the quality of education deteriorates as the
skill and number of faculty decreases and the proportion of u nproductive work done
to extract surplus value from faculty labor increases. The system continues to take on
more importance than faculty and students, who are both cogs in the total machinery
of the university now re-engineered to multiply capital to tho se at the top end (p. 419).
4. Wages. By lowering wages through supplements of technology and substitutions of
cheaper genders, races, and lowering skill requirements, wages can be lowered to
allow for more surplus labor capital to be put into the pocket of the senior execu
tives/owners. Those who watch and micro-manage professors receive more money, get
more housing, bigger offices, more support, than those who work in the classrooms.
Wage increases are sucked into the top of the pyramid. Faculty-originated grants carry
4 0% overhead payoffs to central administration budgets. For Nike, the "minimum
wage" is not a "living wage" necessary to support a working-class family (p. 397). As
the great Army of Reserves grows, wages drop and wealth concentrates into fewer
hands. Notice also how all training received outside the higher education orbit is
deemed unacceptable (i.e. unproductive).
5. Technology. "The purpose of machinery is not to increase but to decrease the number
of workers attached to it" (p. 384). This makes more money available to central
administration to hire bigger entourages. Deans and administrators ar e great fans of
technology. Mechanization displaces productive labor (p. 172) and subordinates them
to the machine (p. 231) resulting in dehumanized prisons of labor (p. 233). With
technological determinism, the only important things are those material s that come
from mass production and mass consumption (p. 16). Technology is now used for the
control of labor (e.g. surveillance, numerical control, guiding & pacing the process,
computer key stroke counts, time clocks). Automation deskills to crea te "dead labor
(p. 220, 225, 228). At Nike there is machine servitude (p. 194). There are many
academically dead professors teaching at the university. The outcomes assessment
movement in higher education is a way to subordinate faculty to the mach ine system
of input (GMAT scores), throughput (how do you measure learning?), and now output
measurement of faculty behavior. With deskilling of the profession, more micro
measurement and surveillance is thought necessary.
6. Race. Capitalism subordinates one race over another as the labor reservoir of the
unproductive (defined as those who are self-employed) is made productive (brought
into the capital enterprise so surplus value can be accumulated at the top) to the
accumulate of surplus capital for the master races. Those at the top of the pyramid
may be a race apart from those at the bottom.
7. Gender. The female is brought into corporate enterprise to displace higher paid males
in order to move surplus wages into the pockets of the capitalist, who is usually also
male (p. 202, 392-3). In universities, few women attain rank of profe ssor. At that same
rank, women faculty receive significantly less pay and benefit (estimates are 30 to 35%
8. Education. Millions are educated to willingly tolerate a public education arrangement
that destroys happiness, de-skills, and renders much of the population unemployable
and unable to fend for themselves. Braverman says high school is a place to baby-sit
teens so that they will not add to unemployment (p. 436-9). The universality of public
education devalues the earning power of the unproductive laborers hired to extract
surplus from the productive workers, who are also devalued by an educat ion that
takes 12 years to teach what was once taught in eight (p. 422). Too much education
leads to imagination which results in work dissatisfaction with being a cog in a
machine extracting labor surplus and injecting it into CEO stock and perks (p. 44 2).
More education allows you to see through the illusory fiction of rhetorics of
participation, empowerment, vision, and human relationships that m ask the labor
process as usual. Education (especially liberal) may be a liability to employers (p. 441).
What to do: go back to apprenticeship and let the faculty and students run the
university. Use the unproductive money spent on administrative perks and surveillance
to fix the chairs! Return the process of education to faculty and students. Give faculty
and students democratic control of their own workplace and the university as a whole.
9. Science. Used to place control of ever-larger systems in the hands of fewer expert
agents while the mass of people do not understand the processes they operate.
Capitalism and the concentration of capital pays for labs and the results therein (p.
156). Science grew out of the industrial arts. Science spawned by corporate giants
buys and sells science like a commodity (p. 166).
10. Scientific Management. Taylor was the first management guru. He is also an apologist
for the labor process system, which extracts knowledge and skill from the
craftsperson and nests it into the machine system of management. Scientific manag
ement (SM) masquerades as a science (p. 86). In reality, working craftpersons attended
training in mathematics, properties of materials, and physical sciences (p. 133-4). Work
became less, not more scientific, but Taylor, like Tom Peters is an evangelical guru
who tells a good story. In effect SM uses methods that the craftsperson used to plan
and segment their own work (p. 88, 110). The real issue is control: control over the
work through the control of decisions made in the process of work (p. 107).

1. Managers take over the traditional knowledge of the craft. Worker is no longer
encouraged to understand his/her work or the business in which the work is
done. Workers were stripped of craft knowledge and replaced by workers who
were cluel ess.
2. Planning and layout work once done by craftsperson is done by manager�s
clerks. This lowers need for training.
3. Management plans out the work in advance of the worker receiving the work to
be done. Again, a competent craftsperson did both planning and doing. Brain and
hand separated.

1. Skill. De-skilling occurs in factories, offices, services, and management work when
workers are rendered homogeneous in lack of skill, then low pay, and
interchangeability (p. 359). Workers are separated from a knowledge of the production
sys tems they work within. Once upon a time, craftspeople learned their skill in six to
ten years of supervised apprenticeship. Now a few hours, days, or weeks of training is
enough for most jobs. There is an atrophy of competence with the implementation o f
the labor process in each industry.
2. Self-employment. In the early 1800s 4/5th of the population was self-employed and by
now less than 1/10th are so (p. 53). Those who are self-employed are defined as
"unproductive" by the capital accumulation sys tem.
3. Human Resource Management. Handmaidens to capitalist. Sets up conditions whereby
de-skilled, unskilled, and otherwise degraded workers cooperate in the scheme of
capitalist capital accumulation and concentration (p. 140, 145). How to manipula te
workers in the interests of management and capital accumulation. How to adjust
workers to increasingly brain-dead and unpopular jobs.
4. Monopoly Capitalist. Sees labor as a human resource that can expand his ownership
of more and more capital. Capitalist mode of production destroys all other forms of
organization of labor, such as entrepreneurship, independent farmers, or coo ps (p.
149). It tends toward monopoly. Monopoly capitalism "embraces the increase of
monopolistic organizations within each capitalist country, the internationalization of
capital, the international division of labor, imperialism, the world market a nd the world
movement of capital, and changes in the structure of state power" (p. 252). Nike is the
poster boy for monopoly capitalism. Nike creates a small proportion of tech jobs
(linked to managerial control) and huge proportion of unskilled l abor (p. 256). Nike
selects manager/subcontractors for their aggressiveness, ruthlessness, barbarous,
and labor prison talents (p. 258).
5. Managerialism After Labor Process. Managerialism is a shift in perspective from those
who do the work, to those who manage and control the labor process for the
accumulation of capital for the capital (p. 214, 263, 267, 301, 405). Management is also
subject to its own labor process. Turn of the century clerical work was akin to a craft
with master bookkeepers and chief clerks and would be considered managerial by
today�s standard (p. 298). Over time the labor process progressively eliminated/r
estricted thought and planning in management by creating a division of labor of record
keepers, time keepers, office managers, etc. doing the hand work and a cadre of
auditors and spies to watch them all. Mechanization, rationalism, and division of labor
into discrete task parcels in the office contributed to a further deskilling (p. 310, 312-
313, 326). Thinking and planning was done be a few people in the managerial office
while others did repetitive work requiring speed and dexterity in data processin g (p.
316, 325, 328). Then, gender aspects of labor process shifted out males in favor of
cheaper key-punch and data-entry girls (p. 333, 353). The office job is no different than
the factory job after labor process (p. 336). There was also an end to a dvancement �
data-processing is not a stepping stone to other jobs (p. 338). In the end only the upper
executives share in the surplus wrought by the labor process.
Postmodern Critique of Habermas and Critical Theory (CT). Postmodernism is a "critical"
movement within social and art theory and a philosophical break with "modernism" theory.
Postmodernity, on the other hand, refers to a new historical era that includes substitution of
simulation for the "real," late capitalism (global economies dominated by multinationals).
Modernism is a theory advocating idealism, utopias, teleologies of progress and
enlightenment through rat ional reason. Habermas has tried to clean up the scientism,
positivism, technocratic, and exploitative aspects of modernism (e.g. the tyranny of the
expert) by making amendments that put rationality in the service of social consensus and
universal value claims. Habermas has a theory of progress driven by a teleological concept
that historically people get more rational in their ability to effect social consensus and
democratic process. Postmodernist are skeptical of progress teleologies.

Postmodernists also critique the increasing domination of administrative structures over

work and social scenes (Best, 1995: 243). Habermas tries to resurrect an enlightenment
thesis, the rescuing of workers from the domination of technocratic and man agerialist
ideologies we see in labor process. But, in late capitalism, postmodernist see that instead of
progress toward enlightenment, the domination has been expanded. Instead of linear
progress, postmodernists see non-linearity and the interplay of power and resistance.
Teleology is the theory that history moves toward a pre-ordained goal (e.g. enlightenment,
progress, democracy, etc.). Nike, for example use propaganda by a rbitrarily selecting
specific bits of information to tell a story of the linear development of Third World
economies who have erected Nike factories. CT and postmodernism both point out facts left
out of the story. Nike reduces history to a teleology t hat values one particular ideology
(managerialist) over the particular stories of particular cultures. Both seek to overturn false
ideologies and metaphysical guru theories, including Nike stories, in order to effect real
changes in how corporations impl ement democratic rights. Habermas also poses
transcendental values which can guide ideal speech toward social consensus.
Postmodernists are skeptical. The more social voices, the more diversity, the more social
heterogeneity, the more complexity, the l ess likely that social consensus is possible or
advisable. Instead of an appeal to transcend ideals, ideal speech, or teleology,
postmodernists privilege local stories, local implementation of democratic/pluralistic ideals,
and see a dark age around them instead of an age of progress and reason.

Critical Postmodern Solutions to Labor Process. Critical postmodernists are accused of

critiquing everything without posing any so lution. As a critical postmodernist I would like
to cross that line in the sand. My books on postmodern management and OT (Boje and
Dennehy, 1993 Managing in the Postmodern World - Kendall Hunt Press; Boje, Gephart and
Thatchenkery, 1996 Postmodern Man agement and Organization Theory - Sage Press) have
posed solutions.

In the postmodern era, we are experiencing more examples of the "butterfly effect,"
"fractals," "strange attractors" and other chaos theory elements that put modernity into
question. Chaos as a metaphor moves beyond the me chanistic metaphor of modernist
administrative science. Chaos theory introduces new language, now images, and new
reality claims into our discourse. We are seeing life as more self-organizing, self-regulating,
and subject to a multiplicity of interpretat ions (Best & Kellner, 1997: 260). Deterministic,
universalizing, essentialist, and teleological (totalizing, one story) explanations are now
more problematic in the postmodern era. In the postmodern era B&K see an implosion of
science, technology and humans into a techno/cyber/culture in which concepts like entropy,
chaos and ecology are prominent (p. 261). How do we and nature survive in a high tech
society in which half the world�s population earns less than $2 a day (B&K, p. 263). Can
org anizations and their science and technology be managed to harmonize with nature? Are
we too trapped in the McDonaldization land of modernity and unable to change? Will
entropy and ecological and human catastrophe on a global scale be the end of the mode rn
era? B&K favor entropy over ideologies of utopia. "The entropic way of thinking provides a
context for a postmodern form of consciousness that is far more sophisticated and
challenging that the forms of knowing we have relied on in the past: (B&K, p. 266). Initial
changes in a chaos system have enormous consequences. We are only beginning to look at
the complex ecological relations of business and nature. Organizations are like "Dr.
Frankenstein, have embarked on a reckless temperi ng with the creation of life without
considering the potential long-range consequences of their actions" (p. 266). Postmodern
ecologists are calling were a new harmony with nature that is not mediate by capitalism and
the labor process. This means looking at how our concepts of nature are mediated through
by social and historical discourse. Constructs of nature change historically. Capitalism has
set up a duality in which corporate dominates and exploits nature. It does this be the
disenchantme nt of nature, deification of the mechanistic world view, and the privileging of
anthropocentric outlooks. Modernity can not shake off the mechanistic view of social and

I would like to resituate LPT and postmodern theory into a critical postmodern theory (CPT).
CPT demystifies global capitalism by looking critically at social and ecological realities. I
think it is possible to transform corporate structures of socia l and ecological domination by
promoting democratic control of work and sustainable business conduct. It will require
overthrowing managerialism and the reliance upon experts, a redistribution of capital
accumulation in ways that balance social and ecolo gical interests. I do not believe that
nihilism is the only result of postmodern theory. I think that proliferating discursive
alternatives, plurality, and critique can contribute to de-centering managerialist and
anthropocentric ideologies. But, then I am an affirmative optimist.

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