Man, Work, and Society: A Reader in the Sociology of Occupations

By Sigmund Nosow; William H. Form | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
INDUSTRIAL CHANGE AND OCCUPATIONAL TRENDS

The average reader tends to avoid examining statistical tables of occupational trends even though an intimate knowledge of such trends might answer many of his questions concerning trends in the larger society. An intimate knowledge of economic trends is also helpful to predict occupational trends, for the nature of the occupational structure derives directly from the economic system. Thus agricultural societies have one type of occupational structure while commercial and industrial societies have other types.

Wilbert Moore has related the impact of economic and occupational changes to other features of Western capitalist societies. Although his observations pertain primarily to Western societies (and perhaps the impact of industrialization on different cultures varies somewhat), once an industrial revolution gains momentum certain common consequences appear as inevitable in any society. We are concerned in this chapter with these common consequences. To be sure, while we have focused our observations on the United States, great similarities in industrial and occupational structures are shared with such a socially and ideologically divergent society as the Soviet Union.

Typically, when the industrial revolution begins, it first affects the manufacturing and extractive industries and increases their workers in the labor force. Gradually the number engaged in agriculture decreases, and manufacturing continues to increase until it absorbs the majority of urban workers. As employers increase the use of machines to replace unskilled labor, an accompanying change is a marked increase in the proportion of semiskilled workers. Eventually mechanization and a continued division of labor affect the white-collar workers, and then the technical, managerial, and even the professional workers.

In the most mature industrial economies the number of urban workers engaged in nonmanufacturing activities eventually exceeds the number

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