« PreviousContinue »
social relations present are functionally interdependent. Thus, if this position is adopted, all these relations should be included in any analysis of the place of work as a locus of commitment. Since so much occurs within the factory, it would appear that the work place becomes the most salient locus of commitment.
Attributing primary salience to the place of work as a locus of commitment is quite unpalatable to us. In the preceding chapter it was argued that the commitment process involves many areas of a person's life and that no single locus is intrinsically more important than any other.
The analytical problem then is as follows: if the place of work is to be treated as a locus of commitment equivalent in rank to the other loci, certain acts and norms present in the factory must be excluded. Moreover, the exclusion should not be capricious, but based on principle. The principle basic to the present analysis is that the factory is a concrete structure whose boundaries are never coterminous with any single analytical system; aspects of different analytical systems manifest themselves within the factory. In the terminology used here the factory is a physical place where elements from the various loci of commitment are found, but the factory itself is not a locus of commitment. The factory is more than a place of work; it is also a market place for labor, a place where some of the actions of different occupational and union groups occur, and where the norms of the communal or societal status systems influence people's behavior.
As the physical place where parts of the different loci of commitment intersect, the factory has great situational relevance for any study of labor force commitment. Parts of the processes of commitment for almost all the loci may be observed in the factory. As a theoretical entity, however, the factory is less significant and less relevant for the study of commitment. Indeed, treating the factory as if it were a single theoretical system is an error.
In specific factories, elements from the different loci of commitment may be so closely connected as to appear indistinguishable. Since the foreman may also be the employer, the norms of the work place and of the market place may be combined in a single status. But it would be an error to deduce from this the theoretical proposition that the respective
• Arensberg and Tootell, op. cit., pp. 315-321, 334-337.
Marion J. Levy, Jr., The Structure of Society (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1952), pp. 88-89; Talcott Parsons and Neil J. Smelser, Economy and Society (Glencoe: Free Press, 1956), pp. 14, 42, 79–81.
norms and acts must be so integrated. The considerable and increasing separation of these two statuses suggests that they should be regarded as parts of separate analytic systems.8
"Naturalness" of Conflict
The failure to distinguish between a concrete organization and its component analytic systems leads to a number of conceptual errors. Prominent among these is the manner in which conflict within the factory is treated. This error is quite apparent in the analysis of differentiation between line and staff, that is, between coordinating functions and informational functions.
The empirical observation that separation of line and staff is associated with conflict frequently evokes the interpretation that such conflict is unnatural, the result of artificial barriers to communication and thus of a lack of mutual understanding. In turn, the barriers to communication are attributed to the artificial division of hierarchical positions necessitated by an increase in the size of an organization. Thus if communication channels were maximally efficient, the common interests would become apparent to those involved. It is argued that separation makes efficient communication difficult. The social distance separating the newly created positions is said to introduce a sense of conflict where none should exist.
An alternative interpretation is that conflict between line and staff is a "natural" consequence of the interaction between two distinct and sometimes opposing systems of action that simultaneously exist within the same concrete organization. Indeed, there is evidence that the conflict is present whether or not the positions are separated.10 The separation allows the conflict between the market place and the work place
8 Melville Dalton, "Conflicts Between Staff and Line Managers," American Sociological Review, 15:342-351 (June 1950), and "Unofficial Union Management Relations," ibid., 15:611-619 (October 1950); Wilbert E. Moore, Industrial Relations and the Social Order (New York: Macmillan Company, 1955), pp. 74-84; Eugene V. Schneider, Industrial Sociology (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1957), pp. 81-83.
• Keith Powlison, “Explaining the Facts to Employees," Harvard Business Review, 25:145-157 (Winter 1947); Roethlisberger and Dickson, op. cit., pp. 448-458.
10 Robert K. Merton, "The Role-Set: Problems in Sociological Theory," British Journal of Sociology, 8:106-120 (June 1957); F. J. Roethlisberger, “The Foreman: Master and Victim of Double Talk," Harvard Business Review, 23:283–298 (Spring 1945); Donald E. Wray, "Marginal Men of Industry: The Foremen," American Journal of Sociology, 54:298-301 (January 1949).
to be external to any one person and thus manifest itself as organizational (or status) conflict rather than personal (or role) conflict.
Conflict and Commitment
This view of conflict within the factory has some implications for the process of commitment. First, if it is correct that much of the conflict internal to the factory is "natural," it is possible that the process of commitment may generate as much conflict as it dissipates. The extent to which different statuses in the factory conflict with one another may become increasingly apparent to workers and managers as their levels of commitment increase. The conflicting issues will, of course, change quite radically. In any case the sheer presence or absence of conflict by itself should not be made the test of commitment. A committed labor force (managerial and operative) is not necessarily a docile one: the opposite is more likely to be the case.
There is a high probability that the newly industrialized worker and manager will have a distorted perception of the factory quite similar to that held by the plant sociologist. They may expect a much more unitary and integrated system than can ever exist. If the worker comes from a preindustrial economic organization, his initial socialization to work occurred within a system in which many different statuses (and thus different systems) were combined in the same concrete position. The classic example of this is the integration of family and economic status in the peasant economy. The preindustrial work norms are then bolstered by the outward appearance that statuses in the factory duplicate the unitary character of nonfactory work statuses.
The sociological consequence is that the newly created industrial labor force perceives a single set of norms, when actually the situation is structured by sets of diffierential norms. The inability to perceive the full extent to which norms are differentiated within the factory may severely inhibit the ease of commitment.
THE THREE INTRINSIC WORK FACTORS
From the totality of elements present in a factory, the elements intrinsic to work may be isolated by considering the three primary aspects of any industrial job: any factory worker must typically interact with machines, other workers, and bosses.
The effects of mechanization on the nature of industrial work and workers remains a controversial issue for the social sciences. Analyses of
relationships of workers and machines have tended to be argumentative, value-laden, and extreme—thus obscuring the considerable heterogeneity that now characterizes machine work.11 Both machines and workers have experienced extensive specialization, and mechanized labor is quite variable with regard to number of workers and levels of skill and knowledge required for a given operation. The relation between men and machines is a truly interactive one, always involving the physical instrument, the unit of labor, and the required levels of skill and knowledge. All are, in a basic sense, the tools of production.12 The proportions in which they are combined impart a typical pattern of behavior to any process of production.
"Fetishism" of Machines
The relations between worker and machine in a factory system of production are frequently misrepresented, particularly in the popular finding that workers' acts are machine-determined.13 Technological determinism frequently results from an artifact in the collection of data. Specifically, whether the behavior patterns are determined by men or machines is a function of the particular point in the process of production at which the investigator makes his observations. If observations are made at the point where machines are designed, one type of determinism can be found. Men design machines in accordance with their own criteria, as well as estimates or assumptions regarding the physiological, psychological, and social capabilities of potential workers.
Even after the machines are designed and installed, such decisions as the speed of the assembly line and the rate of production are made by men. A curious and perverse romanticism of the machine frequently colors analysis of this part of the relation between man and machine. Writers allude to the evils of machines, the speeds they force on workers, etc.; they do not seem to recognize the anthropomorphic character of such judgments.
11 Perhaps the most complete treatment of these factors is in Georges Friedmann, Industrial Society (Glencoe: Free Press, 1955).
12 Herbert S. Frankel, The Economic Impact on Underdeveloped Societies (Oxford, England: Basil Blackwell, 1953), pp. 1-17.
13 The term "fetishism of machines" is, of course, copied from Marx's analysis of the fetishism of commodities. See Karl Marx, Capital (New York: Modern Library), pp. 81-96. For analyses of machine determinisms see Daniel Bell, "Work in the Life of an American" in William Haber and others, eds., Manpower in the United States (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1954), pp. 9–14; Friedmann, op. cit., pp. 42-43.
Once machines are designed, installed, and in operation, the reverse determinism can be observed. At this point in the cycle of relations between man and machine, the immediate "lead" comes from the machine. Since we are here concerned with the latter stage of these relations, the following presentation deals with an essentially machinedetermined pattern of behavior. It may be noted that the men whose acts determine the machine are never the men whose acts are determined by it.
The Rhythm and Pace of Factory Work
The principal behavior patterns common to factory workers can be described as acts whose pace and rhythm are set by the machine. Within the restrictions just described, the worker typically reacts to leads initiated by the machine. Thus he is paced by the machine, in the sense that he is led through the day's work activities. It is important to avoid the hyperbole common to descriptions and analyses of machine pacing. The worker's role is not completely passive; he does not become a literal automaton. However, for the newly industrialized labor force, factory work will mean an increase in the proportion of acts wherein the machine paces the worker, rather more frequently than it means the
One consequence of machine pacing is a particular rhythm in the worker's activities. The extent to which a machine, once designed, can vary the periodicity of its acts is limited. The worker pays a penalty for his greater flexibility at this stage of the man-machine cycle. He adjusts and thus conforms to the rhythm of the machine. Although many different and varied motions may be combined into a pattern, which could be called a "stanza," succeeding stanzas will be almost exact duplications of each other.14
It is important to locate with some precision the commitment problems associated with the initial exposure to a work pace and rhythm determined by the machine. Too often the problems associated with factory labor in industrialized societies are assumed to exist also in the newly developing areas, without sufficient regard for differences in the standards of comparison and in the criteria of evaluation. This is particularly true of the physiological and psychological effects of highly
14 For a more detailed description of pacing and rhythm see W. Baldamus, "Incentives and Work Analysis," University of Birmingham Studies in Economics and Society, Monograph A-1 (University of Birmingham, England: Research Board, Faculty of Commerce and Social Science, 1951), pp. 42-49.