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Bureaucracy and the Labor Process: The Transformation of U.S. Industry, 1860–1920


Paperback, 284 pages
ISBN-13: 978-0-85345-543-1
Released: January 1980

This book makes the argument, supported by rich and extensive historical research into original sources, that it is possible to revolutionize work so that it can be, in the author’s words, “satisfying, creative, and stimulating at the same time that it is materially productive: we can have material abundance along with interesting work.”

Rather than argue the issue in the abstract, Clawson investigates the development of industrial management in the late nineteenth-century United States, when inside contracting and the craft system dominated production. If the technology of modern production developed outside the class struggle, “simply because it was the best or most efficient in some objective sense,” the Weberian argument for the inevitability of bureaucracy would be sustained. But if the contrary were shown to be true, if technology and bureaucracy were in fact introduced and developed by capitalists in order to better control the workers and maximize profits, then it would be possible to develop technologies and forms of organization suitable to more human needs.

Clawson has produced a major study of great importance. He has pushed forward the frontiers of empiricism and theory, and drawn new relationships between them. No one seriously interested in Marxism or the vagaries of the labor process can afford to ignore this impressive volume.

Journal of Social History

With Dan Clawson’s book, the Marxist approach [to the sociology of work] has reached a new level of intellectual maturity. The work contains signal qualities. Among these are (1) corroboration of Braverman’s [in Labor and Monopoly Capital, 1974] contention that scientific management was the crucial element in transforming American industry after 1900, (2) the use of rich historical data…, (3) attention to bureaucracy…, (4) a voice that is, at once, politically engaged, yet characterized by dispassionate scholarship… he has provided a new understanding of the genesis of industrial bureaucracy.

—American Sociological Quarterly

Dan Clawson received his Ph.D. from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, and is a professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Publication Date: January 1980

Number of Pages: 288

Paperback ISBN: 9780853455431