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Labor and Monopoly Capital: The Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century

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4.27  ·  Rating Details  ·  416 Ratings  ·  26 Reviews
This widely acclaimed book, first published in 1974, was a classic from its first day in print. Written in a direct, inviting way by Harry Braverman, whose years as an industrial worker gave him rich personal insight into work, Labor and Monopoly Capital overturned the reigning ideologies of academic sociology.

This new edition features an introduction by John Bellamy Foste
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Paperback, 338 pages
Published December 1st 1998 by Monthly Review Press (first published January 1st 1974)
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The Communist Manifesto by Karl MarxDas Kapital by Karl MarxThe State and Revolution by Vladimir LeninThe Jungle by Upton SinclairReform or Revolution by Rosa Luxemburg
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Hadrian
The title is the first thing which struck me about this book. 'Labor and Monopoly Capital' is vague, but the 'degradation of work in the 20th century' is something raw and immediate. Let's be honest about it. Many jobs these days are just terrible, either from the monotony and repetition of their work, their poor wages, or just the lack of respect and dignity you get from them. Just today, I told one of my close friends how to deal with ocular migraines from stress (I'm dealing from experience). ...more
Caleb
Jul 25, 2011 Caleb rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: economics
Does your job suck? I bet you said yes. Are you proud of what you do for a living? "No," right? Chances are good that whoever you are (which is probably just you, Maya, I know), your job requires you to be either chained to a desk or behind a counter or to sell something (and by "sell" I mean throw your scruples into the gutter each morning before you're off to engage in the act of convincing insecure people to spend their money on things they don't need or want, nor had they ever heard of befor ...more
Geoff
Nov 21, 2013 Geoff marked it as to-read
Amazon=Goodreads=Bezos recommends that I read this. Amazon. Bezos. Wants me to read this.
Miquixote
I had my doubts that this would be interesting, but in fact it is an easy, and excellent read, not at all the dull one you might expect by the title. A well-deserved leftist classic. The alienation of labor clearly has not ended with technological advance and Braverman argues (to me quite successfully) that is has actually gotten worse.

This 1974 work started "the labor process debate" (finding that there was a decline in the use of skilled labor as a result of managers strategy for control). It
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Zach
Jan 25, 2016 Zach rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people who want to understand Marx without reading Capital; alienated workers of all stripes
Basically an updating/expansion of Marx's Capital, this book was written in 1974 to make a case for the continued relevance of Marxist theory to late 20th century America. I guess you could call it a kind of pyrrhic victory that we're now over a decade into the 21st century, and Braverman's argument is more relevant than ever. Braverman not only elucidates Marx's theories--in particular the key concept of alienated labor--but he also extends them, showing the ways in which changes in capitalist ...more
Brian
Dec 06, 2007 Brian rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned-and-read, labor
This is the kind of book (like Jane Jacob's Death and Life of Great American Cities) that I think every human being in the world ought to know on a basic level, although very few people will want to read it cover-to-cover. The main idea is pretty simple: Employers do absolutely anything they can to apply technology and constantly break jobs down into simpler and simpler tasks. Despite the hype about technology making work easier, it means that over time, there is a constantly growing majority of ...more
Mike
Jan 12, 2015 Mike rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, commentary
I was assigned to read this book for a class in Marxism. I expected it to be as dry as toast but was pleasantly surprised to find the book not just readable but riveting.
John  Mihelic
Nov 16, 2015 John Mihelic rated it it was amazing
I bought this several years ago, but I had left it on my shelf for too long, one of those books I know I should have read, but other books just kept getting in the way. I don’t remember the impetus, but I was looking at all my unread and half read books that I had relegated to the shelves - their newness lost and becoming dusty fixtures - and I grabbed Braverman’s study of the nature of work.

What struck me most about this work was that it was researched and written in the late 60s and early seve
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Will
Jul 18, 2007 Will rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who has to work for a living
Shelves: favorites
Ignore the awful title-- this book is the clearest explanation of work under capitalism and what's wrong with it that you'll ever read. The writing is clear and good-humored, the depth of analysis is astounding.
Dan
Feb 04, 2015 Dan rated it it was amazing
I work with healthcare workers. The same process Braverman described 40 years ago is happening now in our hospitals. Executives are working to seize total control of the work process from healthcare workers, take decision-making away from caregivers, divide up the work into predefined tasks, and eliminate skill -- all in order to maximize profits. Braverman wouldn't be surprised -- he argues convincingly that the need to accumulate capital compels management to constantly reorganize and degrade ...more
William Leight
Jan 21, 2016 William Leight rated it it was amazing
Though Braverman covers a lot of ground in this book, the heart of it is an argument as to why the job market tends to bifurcate, with jobs growing rapidly in unskilled and low-paying sectors as well as (at least nominally) highly skilled and highly paid sectors (though of course there aren’t nearly as many of the latter as the former), but not growing or even shrinking in middle-wage skilled occupations. (The fact that this is still a hot-button concern today is another strong piece of evidence ...more
Manish Gupta
Mar 12, 2015 Manish Gupta rated it it was amazing
Harry Braverman's masterpiece. If you have ever wondered why your work is not giving the satisfaction it should, you will find out why. Does not matter whether you are white collar/blue collar or laborer or a knowledge worker, this book would have the answer. Absolutely must read.
never-been-in-a-riot
Sep 28, 2012 never-been-in-a-riot rated it really liked it
Shelves: economics, marxism
Solid, compelling explication of how modern capitalism, in its quest to "rationalize" production, systematically reduces individuals to an homogenous mass of fragmented, alienated, or "abstract" human beings increasingly divorced from both their own powers of conceptualization and the knowledge embodied in the production process as a whole. The absolute thoroughness and pettiness of the "scientific" techniques developed by capitalist management for analyzing, measuring, manipulating and controli ...more
Kristin
Jan 30, 2012 Kristin rated it it was amazing
I am reading this for a marxist, socialist book group. Although I have been resisting reading non-fiction lately, my commitment to the group convinced me to read despite my mood.

This is the first book I've read that focuses on how capitalism fucks with skilled workers. I've been a skilled craftsperson for over 35 years and nothing I read seemed unfamiliar. I realize that this is not the information we usually receive, yet it is the reality that most of us live.

We need more books that focus on t
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Richard Sandbrook
One of the classics in its field in the 20th century.
Eji
Aug 08, 2014 Eji rated it it was amazing
its really cool
Spicy T AKA Mr. Tea
Brilliant critical analysis of the conditions of modern labor; Braverman takes a critical look at Taylorism and the effects of what is called "scientific management." Want to know why your job sucks? Feeling a bit alienated? Don't know how things got to where they are but are fed up with it? Well, this book won't give you all the answers, but it will set you on the right path. This was excellent!
Dan Sharber
Sep 11, 2011 Dan Sharber rated it it was amazing
this books is one of my favorites of all time. so clear and well written and the content is a fantastic synthesis of both theory and application to conditions of labor both in the past and in the present. a great basis for understanding what is consistent in labor from a capitalist stand point as well as why labor has become particularly stultifying in later stage capitalism. highly recommended!
David
Jun 30, 2008 David rated it it was amazing
Important extention of Marx's analysis of capitalism--shows why class struggle is intrinsic to the work experience of everyone in our society. Demolishes the idea that just because we produce more, our lives are better. Echoes Marx in asserting that creative labor is an essential human need and shows why our society denies it to all but a small minority.
Ben
Jun 08, 2012 Ben rated it liked it
An excellent defense of Marxism and a reappropriaton of Marx's economic theories in an era of changing relations in advanced capitalism. One of the most important things discussed in this work is the fluidity of social class, which Braverman believes will ultimately lead to placement in either the proletariat or the bourgeois camp.
Brian
Aug 31, 2009 Brian rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
I was very interested in the analysis of how the historical simplification of jobs makes a difference for workers on the micro level. But of course this whole line of literature related to the effects of "monopoly capital" ignored (and frustratingly, doesn't even address) Schumpeter, and we've seen it not borne out.
Chris Tempel
Dec 12, 2015 Chris Tempel rated it it was amazing
Henry Braverman worked in a few trades for many years before being working in publishing later in life. The intro drives a crucial wedge between sociological definitions of the working class vs the social relations that constitute a working class subject which befits Marxism.
Katherine
Apr 28, 2009 Katherine rated it liked it
An interesting look at how labor has been changed by technology. A big emphasis is made against Taylorism and Scientific Management (controlling meticulously the decions/process/results) which he argues degrades humanity and their need to imagine/condeptualize/communicate.
Daniel Douglas
Dec 26, 2013 Daniel Douglas rated it really liked it
Shelves: oral-exams
Braverman makes a fundamental contribution to the way we understand the labor process under Fordism and port-Fordism.
David
Aug 13, 2008 David rated it it was amazing
a masterpiece
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Harry Braverman was an American Socialist, economist and political writer. He sometimes used the pseudonym Harry Frankel.

He became active in the American Trotskyist movement in 1937 and soon joined the newly founded Socialist Workers Party.

In the 1950s, Harry Braverman was one of the leaders of the so-called Cochranite tendency, a current led by Bert Cochran within the broader Socialist Workers Pa
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