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date: 28 September 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Labor process theory has produced important typologies of managerial control and a rich body of empirical case studies. However, it has struggled to deal with genuine cases of upskilling and worker empowerment. This chapter revisits Marx to show that he theorized economic development, technological change and the capitalist labor process as contradictory processes evolving across distinct stages. While Marx saw deskilling as dominant in the earliest stages of capitalism, he also theorized tendencies for upskilling. The chapter then reviews the early debates within labor process theory over deskilling versus responsible autonomy and coercion versus consent. It highlights how labor process research has, with a few important exceptions, neglected to systematically consider the contradictory nature of labor process dynamics. Finally, the chapter proposes that a central contradiction within the labor process is between management-as-coordination versus management-as-discipline. It suggests that this contradiction has become intensified in the current stage of capitalism: post-Fordism.

Keywords: labor process, valorization process, contradictions, deskilling, upskilling, empowerment, employee involvement, Fordism, post-Fordism, division of labor

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