Tuesday, September 6, 2011


In Labor and Monopoly Capital (1974), Harry Braverman echoes the prophetic theories of Karl Marx by tracing the historical development of capitalist production. 

Marx predicted: “the needs of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the whole surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, and establish connections everywhere.[1]” As capital established connections everywhere, Marx posited that capitalism would create “a world after its own image,[2]” and Braverman connects this prophesy with contemporary socioeconomic conditions created as capitalism has, in fact, nestled everywhere.

Post-modern man now lives in a state of total administration[3]rendered one-dimensional (Marcuse 1964). The one-dimensional man is both a product and a cause of the intensification of capitalism's domination of the self in the era of monopoly capitalism (Braverman 1974). Capitalism alienates man from his labor, himself, and his society. Alienation lies at the center of capitalism’s self-destructive nature.

The two main innovations of capitalism were the division of labor and Mr. Ford's assembly line. These two innovations led to a few changes in the nature of production:
  1. Allowed manufacturers to produce large surpluses (supply > demand) with less money, 
  2. Increased the need for new consumers in order to increase profits. 
  3. Simplified the workers duties, increased the expected production levels, and decreased wages 
  4. Divided labor and consolidated management
The capitalists implemented scientific management theories in order to optimize production and capitalized on new transportation technologies to expand the market for their goods nationally and internationally. As capitalism has progressed labor has been divided while management has been consolidated:

"The mass of humanity is subjected to the labor process for the purposes of those who control it rather than for any general purposes of humanity as such…. Machinery comes into the world not as a servant of humanity, but as the instrument of those to whom the accumulation of capital gives the ownership of those machines… production may be controlled not by the direct producer but by the owners and representatives of capital."[4]

Since “control is indeed the central concept of all management systems,” (Braverman 47) and control leads to the utilization of man as a machine[5], eventually the simplification of the mind of the worker becomes the simplification of the mind of man outside of work. 

The division of labor divides the man to the point where he eventually no longer represents his full self. Lacking the full use of all his faculties, the one-dimensional man is not capable of interpreting the images and ideas that are sold to him and in an attempt to maximize his free time - he is remade in the image of capitalism. 

Eventually, capitalist logic becomes embedded in culture and is reinforced by the government and schools. Parents work more hours - for less money, in jobs that discourage the use of creativity and critical thinking, while their children are raised within the educational institutions that teach the self-destructive logic of capitalism (competition, profit, aggressiveness, ruthlessness, and selfishness[6]). 

The "truth" that capitalism teaches to be inherent in nature are driven into the heads of children and they grow up expecting a “real world” that is an economically determined reality in which those who adhere to the self-destructive logic win and those who don’t lose.

This inner logic of today’s capitalist economy is fully embedded in a culture where all generations have been alienated from their mutli-dimensional self, discouraged to think, work to shop, and aggressively pursue their self-interest. Children become adults as they are trained in business and engineering schools that rate students based on tests and competitive behavior. They learn that their colleagues are obstacles to success, constantly seek out new areas that they can nestle into to make more money, and send their kids back through the same process.

Marx did not foresee how deep the ideology of capitalism could burrow into the minds of those most affected by it. Instead of leading to a revolution of the working class, the working class has banded together with the elites to create a tea party that adheres to the very capitalist ideals that have left them deaf, dumb, blind, and broke. Those that aren’t broke are so enamored by their salaries and cars, that they fail to see the depths of despair that man experiences and further shield themselves from viewing the destruction that the capitalist system has imposed on the relationships as they trade natural relationships for market media relationship.

All of this intensifies as technology speeds up the pace of life in the post-industrial economy:
Post- World War II capitalism accelerated in such a way that it was increasingly difficult for people to stand outside their daily lives and gain a critical perspective on what was happening to them. In this condition of domination or what Herbert Marcuse termed ‘one dimensionality’ people’s imaginations are gripped by a deeper false consciousness than were Marx’s nineteenth century workers. (Agger 2004, 106)
Individuals have more information that could lead to freedom of the mind but have already been destroyed and recreated in the image of the post-modern leaders of the capitalist worldview (ESPN, Google, Procter & Gamble, Fox, CNN, Etc).

The government continues to strangle the emerging economies of the world by combining forces with other capitalist countries, creating a bank of the world that imposes its destructive logic on the poor countries that it lends its money too. 

The money being lent to them is the same money extracted from their country in natural resources and justified by the capitalist claim that the most powerful have the god given right to take at will. 

Indeed the strongest do survive until the very thing that made them strong makes them weak. Faulty mortgage practices, transnational corporations with no face to hold accountable, families in debt, permanent war, poverty, and declining educational attainment threaten to sink all boats except for those who own the manufacturing plant of the boats… but not even they can sell boats to the exploited masses whom they have deserted in search of cheaper production.

Agger, Ben. 2004. The Virtual Self: A Contemporary Sociology. Malden: Blackwell Publishing.
Braverman, Harry. 1998 [1974]. Labor and Monopoly Capital: The Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century. New York: Monthly Review Press.
Marcuse, Herbert. 1964. One-Dimensional Man. Boston: Beacon Press.
Marx, Karl and Engels, Frederick. 1998 [1848]. The Communist Manifesto: A Modern Edition. New York: Verso.

[1] (Marx 1998 [1848], 39)
[2] (Marx 1998 [1848], 40)
[3] “Their lives are so ‘administered’ that their needs flow almost immediately out of television screens, magazines, and now the internet into their minds and bodies, which are ‘totally mobilized’ for the project of endless shopping.” (Agger 2004, 106)
[4] (Braverman 133)
[5] “This leads to faster and more efficient methods and machinery. But in the capitalist mode of production, new methods and new machinery are incorporated within a management effort to dissolve the labor process as a process conducted by the worker and reconstitute it as a process conducted by management.” (Braverman 118)
[6] (Braverman 180)

1 comment:

Brittany Dever said...

Favorite entry so far!!!