Harry Braverman (9 December 1920 â€“ 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.
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 of time, 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 2nd August 1976.
In 1974, Harry Braverman wrote Labor and Monopoly Capital: The Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century, which provided a critical analysis of scientific management. This book analyzed capitalist productive relations from a Marxist perspective. Following Marx, Braverman argued that work within capitalist organisations was exploitative and alienating, and therefore workers had to be coerced into servitude. For Braverman the pursuit of capitalist interests over time ultimately leads to deskilling and routinisation of the worker. The Taylorist (see Frederick Taylor, Scientific Managementwork) work design that is the ultimate embodiment of this tendency.
Braverman demonstrated several mechanisms of control in both the factory blue collar and clerical white collar labor force.
Braverman's key contribution is his "deskilling" thesis. Braverman argued that capitalist owners and managers were incessantly driven to deskill the labor force to lower production costs and ensure higher productivity. Deskilled labour is cheap and above all easy to control due to the workers lack of direct engagement in the production process. In turn work becomes intellectually or emotionally unfulfilling; the lack of capitalist reliance on human skill reduces the need of employers to reward workers in anything but a minimal economic way.
Braverman's contribution to the sociology of work and industry (i.e., industrial sociology) has been important and his theories of the labor process continue to inform teaching and research. Braverman's thesis has however been contested, notably by Andrew Freidman in his work "Industry and Labour" (1977). In it, Freidman suggests that whilst the direct control of labour is beneficial for the capitalist under certain circumstances, a degree of 'responsible autonomy' can be granted to unionised or 'core' workers, in order to harness their skill under controlled conditions. Also, Richard Edwards showed in 1979 that although hierarchy in organisations has remained constant, additional forms of control (such as technical control via email monitoring, call monitoring; bureaucratic control via procedures for leave, sickness etc) has been added to gain the interests of the capitalist class versus the workers.
* Harry Bravermanâ€™s Writings on Marxists Internet Archive: http://www.marxists.org/archive/braverman