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HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVES ON WORK "Canada was a settler society, in which the native population was pushed back and European sOcial patterns were transplanted. There was also a colonized population of Europeans -the French Canadians centred in the future province of Quebec-which kept alive its distinct culture, despite English hostility and assimilationist efforts. Throughout the British North American colonies, the landed aristocracy, once a distinct social class, quickly disappeared in the nineteenth century, and an ambitious, powerful capitalist class of merchants, manufac- turers, bankers, and sundry financiers took shape, initially regionally based and competitive, but increasingly cohesive by the turn of the century." Source: Craig Heron. (2012). The Canadian Labour Movement: A Short History. 3rd ed. Toronto: James Lorimer and Company, pp. xii. Canada was a country that depended on workers. .. . How did our work-ancestors live a hundred years ago? lt is very hard to generalize across a century in which remarkable stability in the value of money concealed enormous changes in every other economic and social factor. An unskilled day-labourer in 1867 might earn a dollar a day for a ten-hour day, six days a week. A highly skilled craftsman might earn three times as much. A woman's wage would be half that of a man-as little as thirty-five to sixly cents a day. A child earned as little as twenty-fve cents. Employers offered no paid holidays, and they rarely felt obliged to make provision for sickness, injury, or old age except to dismiss or reduce the wages of workers who were past their prime. Until 1877, masters and servants acts allowed the courts to send disobedient or absentee workers to jail at an employer's request." Source: Desrmond Morton. (2007). Working People: An llustrated History of the Canadian Labour Movement, 5/e. McGil-Queen's University Press INTRODUCTION In the mid- to latce 1800s in Montreal, it was common to find young chil- dren working in the textile, cigar, and other factories springing up along the Lachine Canal. The canal powered the factories and provided a route to NEL
transport goods to the Old Port of Montreal. Once the centre of the fur trade, Montreal was now an industrializing city, with a rapidly growing population, as rural and immigrant familics arrived in search of work. French Canadian workers held the most skilled jobs, leaving poor paying menial jobs for Irish and other immigrants. Though men had the pick of jobs as family breadwin- ners, seasonal downturns and poor pay meant that all family members had to pitch in. In the working class districts of Sainte Anne and Sainte Jacques, young children not only worked in the factories but could also be found scrounging for coal and wood to kcep home fires burning, or helping with the gardens, pigs, and chickens kept by urban households to make sure there was food on the table. Mothers took in work from nearby factories, stitching garments between laundering. cleaning, and cooking for their large families. They also cooked and cleaned for boarders in already cramped family spaces, with income from room and board generating essential household funds. Reflecting on these working patterns, it is hard not to be struck by the huge change that has occurred in just a few generations. Large families, boarders, and working children are no longer the norm. Factory work has been replaced by white-collar, retail, and knowledge-based jobs. Canada still relies on immigrants to fuel its economy, but not primarily those from Europe as was once the case. Although people still migrate for work, work itself is increasingly mobile, with production being spread across the globe. This book examines these changes and the types of paid work now done by Canadians. Today, most people work for wages or a salary in bureaucratic organizations. In most two-adult households, both partners are employed out- side the home. In a labour force of nearly 20 million individuals, three in tour workers are in the service sector. Children stay in formal schooling for much longer, with university education being increasingly common. Compared to a few decades ago, fewer workers are full-time employees. More than one in four is working in either a temporary or a part-time job, and growing numbers are self-employed. For every 15 employed Canadians, roughly one is unemployed, though rates vary widely across the country. These labour market realities become more interesting when we realiZe that just a few generations ago, some of these trends had just begun to emerge. And going back over a century and a half, as we have seen, the dif- ferences in work patterns are huge. What social and economic forces led 2 Chapter 1: Historical Perspectives on Work NEL
to the shifts from agriculture to manutacturing, then to services? Why did bureaucracies develop? Why has education become more important? Why are Indigenous peoples, women, and visible minorities underrepresented in better-paying jobs-and what are the social consequences? To answer these and many related questions, we look back in history and at other societies to examine the complex proces of industrialization. This historical and com- parative approach will help us to understand present patterns and trends. assess their significance for individuals and society, and respond to the future challenges they pose. Industrialization refers to the technical aspects of the accumulation and processing of a society's resources. Capitalism is a term used to describe key aspects of the economic and social organization of the productive enterprise. In an industrial society, inanimate sources of energy, such as coal or electricity, fuel a production system that uses technology to process raw materials. But labelling a society "industrial" tells us little about the relationships among the individuals involved in the productive process. In a capitalist system of production, a relatively small number of individuals own and control the means for creating goods and services, while the majority have no direct ownership stake in the economy and are paid a wage to work by those who do. Studying the rise of capitalism requires us to make sense of large, complex processes spanning generations and leaving no aspect of daily life unaffected. The theoretical writings of Adam Smith, Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, and Max Weber help us to explain, rather than simply describe, the causes and consequences of capitalist development. As we will see, the sociological concepts of power, control, inequaliy, and conflict that these early social scientists used to analyze changes in their times continue to be central to today's debates about the nature of 21lst-century post-industrial society. Therefore, this chapter provides vital history that we can build on in subsequent chapters to address questions such as these: Has the rise of knowledge-based, high-tech economies benefited some groups more than others? How are new digital technologies and gig platforms such as Uber transforming the content and organization of work? Is economic globalization increasing the power of transnational corporations at the expense of national governments? And with global economic changes, such as the rise of China and India and other market-based economies, do we need to rethink long- accepted explanations of capitalist development? NEL Chapter 1: Historical 1erspectives on Work 3
THE ORIGINS OF INDUSTRIAL CAPITALISM Capitalism and industrialization dramatically reshaped the structiss plains European society economically, socially, and spatially. As Jeremy Black evnl.." in Why the Industrial Revolution Happened Here (see Work at the Movies: Movies at the rent end of the chapter), these changes occurred over centuries, with a differe. ered pace and pattern in cach country. While the details of these changes diff internationally, and regionally within countries, the result was profound chanoe in how, where, for whom, and under what conditions individuals worked ange The emergence of capitalism in Europe consisted of two basic periode. mercantile or commercial capitalism, which began in the 1500s, and indutrial capitalism, which evolved somewhat later.' In the mercantile period, merchants ts and royalty in Spain, Holland. England, and France accumulated huge fortune by trading internationally in a variety of goods, including spices, precious stone and metals, sugar, cotton, and slaves. An elaborate trading network evolved unes linking Africa, Asia, and the North and South American colonies with Europe. This global trade and pillage of cultures (slaves from Africa, for example, and vast amounts of gold and silver from Central and South America) provided wealth that would subsequently fuel the growth of industrial capitalism in Europe (Beaud 1983). Colonization, aimed at the control of other people's land, resources, and autonomy was thus central to these early processes, with disastrous consequences for Indigenous peoples in many parts of the world (Dubinsky et al. 2016; Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada ITRCC] 2015). These early signs of capitalist commercial activity emerged out of a feudal society-the Industrial Revolution had not yet begun. Most people still lived in the countryside. The class structure of these agrarian societies consisted ot a relatively small aristocracy and merchant class, most of whom lived in the cities; a rural landowning class; and a large rural peasantry. Work rypically involved peasants farming small plots of land they did not own. Landowners received rent, usually in the form of agricultural produce, little of which was sold tor cash. Generations of peasant families lived and died on the same feudal estates Thus, feudal lurope was predominantly a pre-market economy in whict ich the producer was also the consumer. It was also a pre-capitalist economy becu wage labour was rare and a business class had not yet become dominant. Feu eudal lords accepted rent and expected services in the form of manual labour requ uired ause NEL Capter 1: Historical Perspectives on Work
for the upkeep of the estate. In return, they allowed historical tenancy telation- ships to continue and provided some protection, if necessary. for their ten- ants. Feudalism was thus built upon a system of mutual rights and obligations, reinforced by tradition. One's social position was inherited. The society was relatively stable, but it stifled economic progress. Did the decline of feudalism lead to the rise of capitalism, or was it the other way around? Scholars are divided on this question. Some argue that factors internal to feudal society, such as growing rural populations, deterioration of land, and landlords demanding more rent, forced people off the land and into the cities where they could form an urban working class. Others counter that as mercantile capitalism developed in urban areas and as the market economy slowly began to make an impact on rural life, cities began to attract landless serfs. This debate is ditficult to resolve, since the two processes intluenced each other (Hilton 1976). What is undisputed is that capitalism brought with it an entirely new social order. Early Capitalism Industrial capitalism began to emerge in the carly 1700s, taking hold first in Britain. A potent mix of new technologies, innovative ideas, and abundant energy (in the form of coal and steam power) spurred this change (Black 2015). Over time, the production of goods by artisans, or by the home-based putting out system in which merchants distributed work to peasant households, led to larger workshops (manufactories) that made metal, cloth, glass, and other finished goods (Beaud 1983). By the late 1700s, various inventions were revolutionizing production techniques. James Hargreaves's spinning jenny transformed work in textile industries. Growth in trade and transportation, the construction of railways, and military demand for improved weapons encouraged new techniques for processing iron and other metals. Inventors also were devising ways of harnessing water and steam, as exemplitied in James Watt's steam engine (Black 2015). These early inventions facilitated a new form of work organization: the industrial mill. A technical breakthrough that involved harnessing many machines to a single inanimate energy source, the mill also had immense social implications, centralizing production and consolidating many workers under one roof and the control of managers (Beaud 1983: 66-67; Burawoy 1984). Chupter 1: Historical Perspectives on Work NEL
A growing class of impoverished urban wage-labourers endured horrific . their orking artisans, such as bootmakers and tailors, who previously had controlled own labour. Episodes of destroying textile machinery occurred berwcen 1 and 1816 in a number of British communities. I he unemployed crafrwo conditions in carly industrial mills. Some workers resisted this trend. partice tween 1811 ogical involved (callcd Luddites) were not unthinking oPponents of technolt their innovations, but skilled workers frustrated by changes that were deskillino work and bringing it under the control of managers and industrialists, Th ese rted, uprisings were quashed by the state; some participants were jailed or deDorr. while othcrs were hanged (Bcaud 1983: 65; Grint and Nixon 2015). ender- The emergence of industrial capitalism in Britain also changed the gende. based division of labour. While women, men, and children had done differene types of work in feudal times, much of it at home, they were otten engagedin parallel work activities (Middleton 1988). The putting out system, particular in the textile industries, brought many women into the paid labour force alone with men, since they could work out of their home and still carry out domestic work and childcare. Early textile factories also employed men, women, and children (Berg 1988). But as manufacturing developed and expanded, it became the preserve of men. While a gendered division of labour had long existed, it became more pronounced with the rise of industrial capitalism (Grint and Nixon 2015). The Great Transformation In only a matter of decades, factory production dominated capitalist societies. The urban landscape also changed as manufacturing cities in Britain, such as London, Manchester, and Birmingham, grew to accommodate the new wage-labour force. Mechanization and the movement to factory-based production proceeded even faster in the 1800s than it had in the previous century. Manufacturing surpassed agriculture in the value of its annual ourput. Jndustrial production in Britain, for example, increased by 300 percent betwee 1820 and 1860. The portion of the labour force employed in agriculture in Britain, France, Germany, the United States, and orher industrializing countnies declincd, while employment in manufacturing and services rose rapidly. By tne end of the 19th century, industrial capitalism was clearly the dominant syo of production in Western nations. Chapter 1: Historial Perspectives on Work NEL 6
According to Karl Polanyi, the great transformation that swept Europe With the growth and integration of capital, commodity, and labour markets-the foundation of capitalism-left no aspect of social life untouched (Polanyi 1957). The struggle for democratic forms of government, the emergence of the modern nation-state, and the rapid growth of cities are all directly linked to these economic changes. Along with new technologies, the replacement of human and animal sources of energy with inanimate sources, and the emergence of an integrated market system for tinance, commodities, and labour, this era also saw dramatic changes in how work was organized. Over time, the relatively stable landlord-serf relationships of feudalism were replaced by wage labour relationships between capitalists and labourers. Employers paid for a set amount of work but also determined exactly how, and under what conditions, work would be done. Previously independent artisans lost out to the factory system. In the end, the result was a higher standard of living for many citizens of industrialized countries. But the interrelated processes of change that created a market economy also led to new problems of controlling, coordinating, and managing work-central themes in this book. Equally crucial, the rise of capitalism was intertwined with processes of colonialization, as Britain and European countries sought control of other people's lands, resources, and autonomy (Loomba 2007). Such forces had profound negative outcomes for Indigenous people, which persist to the present day (TRCC 2015: 16). CANADA'S INDUSTRIALIZATION The process of industrialization in Canada lagged behind that in Britain, Europe, and the United States, and can be traced back to the mid-1800s. As a British colony, Canada had been expected to provide raw materials, rather than to produce finished goods that would compete on world markets with those of the mother country. Canadian economic elites focused on traditional activities, such as exporting stafple products, including timber and fur, to sell on world markets, and developing transportation networks (particularly railways) that could link the resource-producing regions of the country with the port cities involved in export tradc. NEL Chapter 1: Historical 1erspectives on Work
Work in Preindustrial Canada The first half of the 19th century, then, was a pre-industrial economic era in Canada. Canada still had a pre-market economy, since most production and consumption took place in households. In fact, given the peculiarities of a colonial cconomy dependent on Britain, land was not a marketable commodity. By the mid-1830s, less than one-tenth of the vast tracts of land that had been given by the French, and later British, monarchy to favoured individuals and companics had been developed for agriculture. Land settlement was strongly intertwined with industrialization processes, with the Canadian state negotiating 11 numbered treaties with Indigenous peoples between the late 1880s and early 1900s. These treaties would have profound consequences for Indigenous peoples. As the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (2015: 17) observes: The mere presence of Indigenous people in newly colonized lands blocked settler access to the land. . . . To gain control of the land of Indigenous people, colonists negotiated Treaties, waged wars of extinction, eliminated traditional landholding practices, disrupted families, and imposeda political and spiritual order that came complete with new values and cultural practices. Immigration played a critical role in pre-industrial Canada, with significant numbers of people from Europe arriving. Shortages of land for small farmers, potato famines in Ireland, and dreadful working conditions in many British factories fuelled immigration to the New World. Large numbers of immigrants landed in Canada, only to find shortages in urban factory jobs and little available agricultural land. As a result, most of these immigrants sought employment in the United States, where factory jobs and land were more plentiful (Tecple 1972). Some of the immigrants who stayed in Canada were employedin building the Welland and Rideau canals-the first of many transportation megaprojects-in the first half of the 19th century. The influx of unskiled workers created a great demand for such seasonal jobs, which often involved 14 to 16 hours a day of lhard and poorly paid work. Consequently, poverty was widespread. In the winter of 1844, the St. Catharines Journal (Bleasdale 1981: 13) reported that 8 Chapter 1: Historical Perspectives on Work NEL
the greatest distress imaginable has been, and still is, existing throughout the entire Iline of the Welland Canal, in conscquence of the vast accumulation of unemployed labourers. There arc, at this moment, many hundrcds of men, women, and children, apparently in the last stages of starvation, and instcad .of any relief for them. . . in the spring. . . more than one half of those who are now employed must be discharged. The Industrial Era By the 1840s, Canadas economy was still largely agrarian, even though the two key ingredients for industrialization-an available labour force and a transportation intrastructure-were in place. Before Confederation in 1867, some of Canada's first factories were set up not in Ontario or Quebec, as we might expect, but in Nova Scotia. Shipbuilding, glass, and clothing enterprises were operating profitably in this region before the Maritime provinces entered Confederation (Veltmeyer 1983: 103). After 1867, manufacturing became centralized in Ontario and Quebec, resulting in the deindustrialization of the Maritimes. A larger population base, easy access to U.S. markets, and railway links to both Eastern and Western Canada ensured that the regions around Montreal and Toronto would remain the industrial heartland of the country. At the time of Confederation, half the Canadian labour force was in agriculture. This changed rapidly with the advance of industrialization. By 1900, Canada ranked seventh in production output among the manufacturing countries of the world (Laxer 1989). The large factories that had begun to appear decades earlier in the United States were now springing up in Montreal, Toronto, Hamilton, and other central Canadian cities. American firms built many of these factories to avoid Canadian tariffs on goods imported from the United States. This initiative began a pattern of direct U.S. foreign investment in Canada that continues today. These economic changes brought rapid urban growth and accompanying social problems. Worker exploitation was widespread, as labour laws and unions were still largely absent. Low pay, long hours, and unsafe and unhealthy conditions were typical. Workers lived in crowded and unsanitary housing. Chapter 1: Historical Perspectives on Work 9 NEL
Health care and social services were largely nonexistent. In short, despite economic development in the decades following Confederation, poverty remained the norm for much of the working class in major manufacturing centres such as Montreal and Toronto (Copp 1974: Piva 1979). Industrialization in Canada also decply affected Indigenous populations. To aid the settlement of immigrants and the building of a national railway, the Canadian state negotiated a series of numbered treaties between 1871 and 1921 beginning with Treaty 1 between the Crown and the Anishinabek and Swampy Crec in what is now southern Manitoba. Indigenous peoples ceded vast tracts of lands and faced significant restrictions on their economic activities. For instance, under the federal Indian Act of 1867 those with "Indian status" were prohibited from selling crops and taking out loans (TRCC 2015). Racism a prejudice also kept Indigenous people out of many occupations, except the most dangerous and menial jobs in fishing, forestry, mining, and other resource sectors (High 1996; Knight 1996; Patrias 2016). In Lost Harvest, Sarah Carter (1993) shows how the efforts of the Plains Indians to farm were undermined by government policies that limited their land to one or two acres (less than one hectare), and denied access to new technologies thus necessitating seeding and harvesting by hand. The Decline of Craftwork One of the most important changes in the industrial era was the decline of craftworkers' control over their own labour. Traditionally, skilled craftworkers had the advantage of being able to determine their own working conditions, hire their own apprentices, and frequently set their pay. Some worked individually, while others arranged themselves into small groups in the manner of European craft guilds. But this craft control declined as Canada moved into the industrial era. Factory owners were conscious of the increased productivity in American factories, where new technology and "modern systems of management were applied. Dividing craft jobs into many simple tasks allowed work to be performed by less skilled and lower-paid employees. Mechanization further cut costs while increasing productivity. These changes in work processes, known as scientific management, are discussed further in Chapter 8. 10 Chapter 1: Historical Perspectives on Work NEL
Such changes reduced the job autonomy of craftwork in Canada, resulting in considerable labour unrest. Between 1901 and 1914, for example, more than 400 strikes and lockouts occurred in the 10 most industrialized cities of southern Ontario (Heron 2012). Although these conflicts may look like working-class revolt, they are more accurately seen as a relatively privileged group of workers resisting efforts to reduce their occupational power. While large numbers of skilled workers experienced the "crisis of the craftsmen (Heron 2012), there were larger numbers of unskilled manual labourers-often immigrant or Indigenous peoples-whose only alternative to arduous factory work was seasonal labour in fishing, canning, agricultural and transportation job, or unemployment (Gautor 2011; Patras 2016) Indeed, thousands of such workers were employed in the resource extraction industries throughout Canada, and many others worked constructing essential intrastructure, such as canals and railways. In The Bunkhouse Man, Edmund Bradwin estimates that up to 200,000 men living in some 3,000 work camps were employed in railway construction, mining, and the lumber industry during the carly 20th century. These workers were from English Canada and Quebec, as well as from Europe and China. Employers considered immigrants to be good candidates for such manual work, as they were unlikely to oppose their bosses. This hiring strategy often did ward off collective action, although immigrants sometimes were the most radical members of the working class." The creation of a transcontinental railway led to a high demand for coal. Mines were opened on Vancouver sland and in the Alberta Rockies, with immigrants quickly taking the new jobs. Mine owners tried to extract a lot of work for little pay, knowing they could rely on the military to control unruly workers. It has been estimated that, in the early 1900s, every 1 million tons of coal produced in Alberta took the lives of 10 miners, while in British Columbia, the rate was 23 dead for the same amount of coal.? These dangerous conditions led to strikes, union organization, and even political action. In 1909, Donald McNab, a miner and socialist, was elected to represent Lethbridge in the Alberta legislature. The same year, the Revolutionary Socialist Party of Canada elected several members to the British Columbia legislature (Marchak 1981: 106). Nonetheless, although the labour movement took root in resource industries, it never had the revolutionary spark that some of its radical leaders envisioned. NEL Chapter 1: Historical Perspectives on Work 11
THEORETICAL PERSPECTIVES Now that we have some historical background on industrialization and capi- talism, we can examine major explanations of the causes and consequences of these changes. The next sections discuss four key thinkers, beginning with the ideas of economist Adam Smith (1723-90), followed by early sociologists and political economists Karl Marx (1818-83), Emile Durkheim (1858-1917), and Max Weber (1864-1920). In Chapter 2, we explore contemporary theo- ries. After we have acquainted ourselves with the theorists and their analytic concepts, we can apply their insights throughout the book when considering specitic work issues. Adam Smith: Competition, Not Conflict Adam Smith (1723-90) wrote The Wealth of Nations in 1776, during the early Industrial Revolution in England, extolling the wealth-producing benefits of capitalism. Thus, he is often portrayed as the economic theorist whose ideas outlasted those of Karl Marx, who, writing some time later, predicted the eventual downfall of capitalism. Even today, Adam Smith's ideas are frequently used to call for less government intervention in the economy, the argument being that what Smith famously termed "the unseen hand of the market"is best left alone. In The Wealth of Nations, Smith identified the division of labour-how tasks are organized and distributed amongst workers-as a key to capitalisms success. Using the example of a pin actory, he described how productivity could be greatly increased by assigning workers to specific tasks such as stretching wire, cutting it, and sharpening it. Whereas individual workers might produce 20 pins a day each by doing all the operations themselves, with a well-defined division of labour, 10 people could make 48,000 pins a day. The greater pro- ductivity, Smith reasoned, came from the increased dexterity a worker could master in repeating a single task over and over again, the time saved in not having to change tasks and shift tools, and the added savings obtained from designing machines that workers could use to repeat the single task (Smith 1976; Braverman 1974:76). The real advantage of this form of work organiza tion would be realized only when factories nmade large quantities of a product precisely the goal of industrial capitalism. 12 Chapter 1: Historical Perspectives on Work NEL
In 1832, Charles Babbage translated Smiths principles into practical cost- tting advice tor business owners. By subdividing tasks, he argucd, less skill was required of any individual worker. Consequently, employers could pay less for this labour. Workers with fewer skills cannot demand as high a reward for their work (Braverman 1974: 79-83). The early history of industrialization is full of examples of this basic economic principle at work. The advent of factorics with detailed divisions of labour invariably replaced skilled crafrworkers with unskilled factory workers who were paid less-just the sort of outcome that Karl Marx and other early thinkers criticized. lt is important to note, however, that Adam Smith did not condone the exploitation of workers. He recognized that working conditions in the industrializing British economy were far from satisfactory and argued that higher wages would increase the productivity of workers and the economny as a whole (Weiss 1976; Saul 1995: 150). But Smith was clear about what he saw as a key underlying principle of capitalism. Competition among individuals and enterprises, each trying to improve their own position, led to growth and the creation of wealth. As he put it, "It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self-interest" (Smith [1776] 1976: Book 2, Chapter 2: 14). For Adam Smith, the profit motive was a beneficial driving force of capitalism. Individuals and firms in aggressive competition with each other produced the "wealth of nations." Where Marx, some decades later, would see conflict, exploitation, and growing inequality, Smith saw competition leading to greater wealth. Karl Marx on Worker Exploitation and Class Conflict Karl Marx (1818-83) spent a lifetime critically examining the phenomenon of industrial capitalism. His assessment of this new type of society was presented within a very broad theoretical framework. He called the overall system of economic activity within a society a mode of production, and he identified its major components as the means of production (the technology, capital investments, and raw materials) and the social relations of production (the relationships between the major social groups or classes involved in production). NEL Chapter 1: Historical Perspectives on Work 13
Marx focused on the manner in which the ruling class controlled and exploited the working class. His close colleague, Friedrich Engels, documented this exploitation in his 1845 book, The Condition of the Working Class in England. Engcls described one of London's many slum districts, noting that other industrial cities were much the same (63): St. Giles is in the midst of the most populous part of the town, surrounded by broad, splendid avenues in which the gay world of London idles about The houses are occupied from cellar to garret, filthy within and without, and their appearance is such that no human being could possibly wish to live in them. But this is nothing in comparison with the dwellings in the narrow courts and alleys berween the streets, entered by covered passages between the houses, in which the filth and tottering ruin surpass all description.. Heaps of garbage and ashes lie in all directions and the foul liquids emptied before the doors gather in stinking pools. Here live the poorest of the poor, the worst paid workers with thieves and the victims of prostitution indiscriminately huddled together. It was from such first-hand observations of industrializing Europe that Marx developed his critique of capitalism. Class conflict was central to Marx's theory of social change. He argued that previous modes of production had collapsed and been replaced because of con- Hicts among class groups within them. Feudalism was supplanted by capitalism as a result of the growing power of the merchant class, the decline of the tradi- tional alliance of landowners and aristocracy, and the deteriorating relationship between landowners and peasants. Marx identified two major classes in capi- talism: the capitalist class, or bourgeoisie, which owned the means of production, and the working class, or proletariat, which exchanged its labour for wages. A third class-the petite bourgeoisie-comprising independent producers and small business owners, would eventually disappear. Marx argued that capitalism would eventually be replaced by a socialist mode of production. The catalyst would be revolutionary class conflict, in which the oppressed working class would destroy the institutions of capitalism and replace them with a socialist society based on collective ownership of the mecans of production. Marx also focused on the negative consequences of an excessive division of labour. For him, capitalism itself was the source of the problem. The div sion of labour was simply a mcans to create greater profits from the lad0 14 Chapter 1: Historical Perspectives on Work NEL
of the working class. The development of huge assembly-line factories in the carly 20th century epitomized this trend. Henry Ford, the inventor of the assembly line, took considerable pride in recounting how his Model T factory had 7,882 specific jobs. Ford calculated that about half the jobs required only "ordinary men and 949 required "strong, able-bodied men the rest, he reasoned, could be done by women, older children, or men who were physically disabled. These observations do not reflect a concern tor workers with disabilities; instead, they highlight the extreme fragmentation of the labour process, to the point that even the simplest repetitions became a job. 10 Marx sparked ongoing debate on the nature of work and of class conflict in capitalist societies (Zeitlin 1968; Coser 1971). Ever since, social, political, and economic analysts have tried to reinterpret his predictions of a future worker- run socialist society. No capitalist society has experienced the revolutionary upheavals Marx foresaw. And the collapse of the Soviet communist system in Eastern Europe ended speculation that communism would evolve into true socialism. In fact, Marx probably would have been an outspoken critic of the oviet communist system, given its extreme inequalities in power distribution and harsh treatment of workers. He would also have condemned the inequalities in today's capitalist Russia. Marx's critique of capitalism has also shaped research in the sociology of work and industry, as analysts try to retine or refute his ideas. First, Marx emphasized how the capitalist profit motive is usually in conflict with workers desires for better wages, working conditions, and standards of living. Second, Marx argued that the worker-owner relationship led to workers losing control over how they did their work and, hence, to the dehumanization of work. Third, Marx predicted that the working class would eventually organize to more actively oppose the ruling capitalist class. In short, Marx wrote about incquality, power, control, and conflict. His enduring legacy for sociology was this more general conflict perspective. He recognized that the relations of production in industrial capitalist society typically are exploitative, with owners (and their representatives) having more powe, status, and wealth than. those who are hircd to do the work. Almost all the debates about better ways of organizing workplaces and managing employees, the need for unions and labour legislation, and the future of work in our society stem from this basic inequality. Chapter 1: Historical Perspectives on Work 15 NEL
Emile Durkheim: Interdependence and Social Cohesion Emile Durkheim (1858-1917), an early French sociologist, provided an alter. native, conservative assessment of capitalist employment relations, particu- larly the division of labour. Human societies have always been characterized by a basic division of labour. In primitive societies, work roles were assigned mainly according to age and gender. But with economic development, these roles became more specialized, and the arrival of industrial capitalism further intensified this process. After a certain scale of production was reached, it w much more efficient to break complex jobs into their component tasks. Durkheim noted that industrial societies contained diverse populations terms of race, ethnicity, religion, occupation, and education-not to menti differences in beliefs and values. He noted evidence in European industrialia tion of group differences creating conflict over how scarce resources should be distributed, over rights and privileges, and over which beliefs and values set the standard. Given this, Durkheim viewed the division of labour as a potential source of social cohesion that could operate to reduce conflict." He reasoncd that individuals and groups working together, and engaged in different tasks in a complex division of labour, would recognize their mutual interdependence. In turn, tolerance and social harmony would be generated. Durkheim believed that individuals in modern society are forced to rely on one another because of the different occupational positions they fill. In simple terms, lawyers need plumbers to fix their sinks while plumbers need teachers to educate their children. By the same logic, capitalists and their employees are interdependent. Without cooperation between the two groups, the economy would grind to a halt. We will see in later chapters how Durkheims positive assessment of the division of labour shaped management theories that assume shared interests in the workplace. While Marx has influenced conflict perspec- tives on work in modern society, the conservative assumptions of Durkheims general model are the backbone of the consensus approach. Max Weber on Bureaucratic Organizations Max Weber (1864-1920), a German sociologist writing in the early 20th century, addressed yet another major change accompanying capitalist industrialization: bureaucracy. Weber noted that Western societies were 16 Chapter 1: Historical Perspectives on Work NEL
becoming more rational, a trend most visible in the burcaucratic organization of work. Informal relationships among small groups of workers, and between workers and employers, increasingly were being replaced by more formal, impersonal work relations in large bureaucracies. Rules and regulations were now determining workers' behaviour. Although Weber was concerned about the resulting loss of personal work relationships, he believed that this devclopment was far outweighed by greater organizational efficiency. For Weber, bureaucracy and capitalism went hand in hand. Industrial capitalism was a system of rationally organized economic activities; bureaucracies provided the most appropriate organizational framework for such activities. What defined Weber's "ideal-type" bureaucracy were formal rules, with a precise division of labour, within a hierarchy of authority (Weber 1946: 196-98). Each job had its own duties and responsibilities, and each was part of a chain of command in which orders could be passed down and rewards and punishments used to ensure that the orders were followed. But the power of the employer could not extend beyond the burcaucracy. The employment contract linking employer and employee was binding only within the employment relationship. Also necessary for etticiency were extensive written records of decisions made and transactions completed. Recruitment into and promotion within the bureaucratic work organiza- tion were based on merit-that is, demonstrated competence, performance skills, and qualifications such as educational credentials. Individual employees could make careers within the organization as they moved as far up the hier- archy as their skills and initiative would carry them. Employment contracs assured workers a position so long as they were needed and competently performed the functions of the office. In short, for Weber, rationality, imper- sonality, and formal contractual relationships defined the bureaucratic work organization. Yet bureaucracies were not new to 19th-century capitalism. A somewhat similar form of centralized government had existed in ancient China, and European societies had been organizing their arnmies in this manner for centuries. What was unique, however, was the extent to which workplaces became burcaucratized under capitalism. At the beginning of the 20th century, increascd competition and the development of big, complex industrial systems demanded even more rationalized production techniques and worker-control systems. Large bureaucratic work organizations would become the norm NEL Chapter l: Historical Perspectives on Work 17
throughout the industrial capitalist world. But bureaucracy also becamc th norm during the 20th century in industrialized communist countries of the former Soviet bloc. So, while closely intertwined, bureaucracy and capitalism are, in fact, separate phenomena. ne CONCLUSION From feudalism to carly capitalism to the rise of industrialization in Canada, we have covered a lot of ground in this chapter. We began with a historical overview of the origins and development of industrial capitalism, focusing first on Europe and then on Canada as a late industrializing nation. We also con- sidered various theories that explain and evaluate the causes and consequences of this complex process. As economies and societies continually evolve and the nature of work is transformed, new social theories have emerged, as we will see in Chapter 2. In this chapter, we have highlighted the most important social and economic changes unleashed by the Industrial Revolution in Europe. As feudalism gave way to capitalism, markets grew in importance. From the standpoint of work, the emergence of a paid labour market was key. A new class structure evolved, and a predominantly rural society became urban. Factory-based wage labour became the norm, while craftwork declined. Larger workplaces demanded new organizational forms and, in time, bureaucracies evolved to fill this need. And while industrial innovations led to substantial increases in productivity, it was some time before the standard of living of the working class began to reflect this increase. These far-reaching social and economic changes were the focus of early sociologists such as Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, and Max Weber, as well as economists like Adam Smith. Many of the key questions they raised- especially over capitalism's capacity to generate inequality and conflict, or greater prosperity and interdependence-continue to be debated today. Although late to industrialize, compared to Britain and the United States, Canada faced many similar concerns. Having had a brier look at the changing worlds that these thinkers were observing, we are now better equipped to understand how their concerns and conclusions carry in the present day. 18 Chapter 1: Historical Perspectives on Work NE
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS 1. What is industrial capitalism, and how did it differ from previous ways of organizing work? 2. How did industrial capitalism develop in Canada? In what ways did Canade follow the path of other countries. such as Britain? In what ways was the Canadian experience unique? 3. How did Karl Marx, Adam Smith. Emile Durkheim, and Max Weber believe industrial capitalism would afect workers? What are some of the main differences in their ideas? 4. How does the nature of work in early industrializing Canada compare to work today? Thinking broadly, what would be some of the essential similarities and differences? ADDITIONAL RESOURCES WORK AT THE MOVIES Why the Industrial Revolution Happened Here (produced by Charles Colville, 2013, 57:55 minures). This BBC documentary examines the eco- nomic, social, and political conditions that sparked the Industrial Revolution in Britain and led to a massive transformation of the British economy. Margarets Museum (directed by Mort Ransen, 1995, 114 minutes). Adapted from the book The Glace Bay Miners Museum by Canadian Sheldon Currie, this film explores the impact of mining on individuals, families, and com- munities in 1940s Cape Breton, as seen through the eyes of Margaret MacNeil (played by Helen Bonham Carter). The Grapes of Wrath (directed by John Ford, 1940, 129 minutes). Based on John Steinbeck's novel, this film follows the Joad family who lose their Oklahoma farm during the Great Depression and become migrant workers in search of new opportunities. The Voyageurs (directed by Bernard Devlin, 1964, 19:50 minutes). This short historical film re-creates scenes of 19th-century fur-trade work in Canada. It is available through the National Film Board of Canada: http: I/ NEL Chapter 1: Historical Perspectives on Work 19