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How did the nature of work change during the 20th century?

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Introduction

How did the nature of work change during the 20th century? The industrial revolution transformed the nature of work. It involved a breakthrough in the use of inanimate energy and power, massive investment in industries such as iron, coal, and textiles and a transport revolution. Industrialization changed the dimension of work. In pre-industrial society "those who are employed experience a distinction between their employers time and their "own" time. And the employer must use the time of his labour, and see it is not wasted, time is now currency: it is not passed but spent. Writing in the 19th century, Marx predicted that the intermediate strata would be depressed into the proletariat. However during the latter 20th century, a number of sociologist's had suggested that the opposite was happening. They claimed that a process of embourgeoisement was occurring whereby increasing numbers of manual worker's were entering the middle class. During the 1950's there was a general increase in prosperity in advanced industrial societies and, in particular, amongst a growing number of manual worker's whose earning's fell within the white-collar range. These highly paid affluent workers's were seen to be increasingly typical of manual worker's. This development, coupled with study's, which suggested that poverty was rapidly disappearing, led to the belief that the shape of stratification system was being transformed. ...read more.

Middle

Worker's in companies which are changing along these lines need to be more broadly trained as their work becomes increasingly varied. Because of their long training and the importance of their skills to their companies, they enjoy more job security, and management makes greater attempts to enlist their cooperation. Some firms have adopted another Japanese technique, quality circles. In quality circles groups of workers and managers meet together periodically to discuss how the production or performance of the company can be improved. Other initiatives may include worker's representatives sitting on company boards, and profit-sharing scheme's, which enable worker's to benefit from any success the company enjoys. Flexible specialization then, increases the skills needed by the workforce, and unlike industries where scientific management techniques are used; workers may cooperate with management in organizing the labour process. By, implication, job satisfaction increases and industrial conflict decreases. The theory of flexible specialization also implies a move away from the concentration of capital in giant corporations and an increase in the number of small businesses. The British economist John Atkinson has developed similar views in his theory of the flexible firm. Atkinson believes that a variety of factors have encouraged managers to make their firms more flexible. Economic recession in the 1970's and 1980's, and the consequent reduction in trades union power, technological changes and a reduction in the working week, has all made flexibility more desirable and easier to achieve. ...read more.

Conclusion

In mid-nineteenth century America, households still carried out a vast range of productive activities; growing and preparing food, sewing and mending cloths, and reusing fabric scraps in quilts, rugs, and homemade upholstery, making and repairing furniture, tools, and other household goods, even making candles and sop from household wastes. The expansion of consumer goods industries toward the end of the 19th century began to change all this, providing affordable mass-produced substitutes for many things that had formerly been made at home. This industrial change allowed, and perhaps required, the rise of a consumer society. In the new regime, the work of the housewife shifted away from material production, toward consumption of marketed goods combined with carrying for, or "nurturing", other family members. The change was a contradictory one, at once liberating women form exhausting toil, and commercialising daily life to an ever-expanding extent. Over the past century the way in which we go about getting work done has changed dramatically and this has created and facilitated fundamentally different social arrangements in the workplace. Indeed the application of new technologies has created new workplaces and challenged our thinking about where certain kinds of work can and should be done. Technological advances have resulted in the sharp divisions between professionals, skilled workers and unskilled workers being altered dramatically in the latter stages of this century. Whereas a century ago there were far more unskilled workers than skilled ones, in today's world this has completely reversed and there are know far more skilled workers than unskilled. ...read more.

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