The Anatomy of Work: Labor, Leisure, and the Implications of Automation

The Anatomy of Work: Labor, Leisure, and the Implications of Automation

The Anatomy of Work: Labor, Leisure, and the Implications of Automation

The Anatomy of Work: Labor, Leisure, and the Implications of Automation

Excerpt

Some years ago I accompanied an industrial psychologist on a visit to a factory engaged in the mass-production of watches and alarm-clocks. He was a specialist in the problems of the division of labour, and, wherever his advice was sought, tried as far as possible to eliminate physical and mental strain from the simplified motions into which the work had been broken down. The plant was equipped with the most modern machines, and from a technical standpoint was highly rationalized. Everywhere in the workshops we saw semi-skilled workers repeating several times a minute the same operation, which consisted in a few elementary and carefully studied movements. There were stampers, cutters, drillers, polishers, etc. among whom stood out here and there, like survivors from an age long extinct, a few professional watchmakers, 'finishers' or foremen, who knew all the mechanisms of a watch and could take one to pieces and put it together again singlehanded.

My companion stopped for a while in front of a young workman, who with a few stereotyped motions was punching holes in the plates of watches brought to him every ten seconds on a mechanical belt. 'You see,' he said after a moment's thought, 'here the man is bigger than his job.'

This remark could very well have served as the title of this short book. While not neglecting, as will be seen, any of the more general and complex kinds of work which our industrial society still demands, and even in certain sectors tends to increase, what follows is particularly concerned with those occupations, now highly subdivided by the progress of technology, which are much too limited in scope to involve the worker's whole personality, however much his intellectual needs and personal ambitions may have been restricted by his upbringing and social environment. All those engaged in such work, and there are still tens of millions, indeed perhaps hundreds of millions of them in different parts of the world, are 'bigger than their jobs'; those repetitive and fragmentary operations of all kinds, performed in factories, in mines . . .

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