Harry Braverman

Harry Braverman (9 December 1920 – 2 August 1976) was an American Socialist, economist and political writer. He sometimes used the pseudonym Harry Frankel. Braverman was born on the 9th December 1920 in New York City. He became active in the American Trotskyist movement in 1937 and soon joined the newly founded Socialist Workers Party. Braverman's neo-marxist criticism of work has had a lasting impact on the sociology of work. In his book Labor and Monopoly Capital, he extended Marx's writings on the impact of capitalist industrial growth on the labor process, and thus on the experience of work. Marx saw that the emergence of machinery and the increasing automation as removing workers' control over the labor process since workers' skills shifted into tending the machines. This was as seen as strengthening the owners of capital since they controlled the knowledge and skills needed to operation the factory, run the machines, and employ the workforce. This argument was furthered by Braverman who contended that such a labor force was defined by de-skilling and the degradation of work. Work became transformed from being a utilization of skills and experience into a mindless, machine-based, and powerless activity. He believed that the application of scientific management developed by Frederick Taylor that argued for the responsibility of management to decide how work is to be done was to blame. Braverman's attack on the capitalist labor force was simultaneously an attack on the class inequality inherent in worker-manager relations. While managers were not necessarily the owners of capital, they did act act on behalf of capitalist interests. He also pointed out that all occupational groups, including white-collar management, were subject to the same process of de-skilling and control, as capitalism sought ever better efficiency in all aspects of the labor processes. In the 1950s, Harry Braverman was one of the leaders of the so-called Cochranite tendency, a current led by Bert Cochran within the broader Socialist Workers Party. The Cochranites rejected revolutionary agitation under the dual pressures of relative post-World War II capitalist prosperity and the accompanying McCarthy-era anti-communist witch-hunt. They argued that the current capitalist expansion would last for an extended period, which precluded renewed revolutionary struggles by working people. Eventually the Cochranites, including Braverman, were expelled from the SWP. They formed the American Socialist Union, to whose journal Braverman was a regular contributor. During the early 1960s, Harry Braverman worked as an editor for Grove Press, where he was instrumental in publishing The Autobiography of Malcolm X. Braverman's most important book was Labor and Monopoly Capital: The Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century, which examines the degrading effect of capitalism on work in America. The book was published in 1974. He died from cancer in Honesdale, Pennsylvania on 2 August 1976. Continue Reading »

Labor and Monopoly Capital: The Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century

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