Page images

agriculture or hunting and gathering. Although factory labor there does not dilute industrial skills, it results in a "lamentable" loss of nonindustrial skills. However, the extent to which the Indian or Egyptian village peasant is "debased" by factory labor is certainly debatable. If the current accounts of lower-class life in these areas are at all accurate, further debasement and increased squalor is hardly possible. Laments for the "poor but noble savage" about to lose a life of hunting and root-gathering freedom are unnecessary.29

The second process of specialization leading to the division of labor, the creation of new combinations of skill, can occur either when new elements of skill are introduced by themselves or in conjunction with a new product economy. This process is likely to be more typical of newly developing societies, where industrialization simultaneously involves both the reorganization of the social structure of work—which by itself might be a process of skill dilution-and the introduction of new products. The agricultural peasant moving into the factory does not experience a dilution of his skills. His social status may or may not suffer from the switch to factory labor; when status degradation does occur, it is not importantly attributable to the loss of skill. On the contrary, the agricultural peasant or the tribal native moving into the fac tory must learn new skills, even though they may not be valued as a source of status in his culture. When these new skills are so valued in the culture, however, the move to factory labor may represent upward status mobility.

In many newly developing areas the status norms of industrial societies are adopted before the industrial labor force is of any importance. At the same time, a low value is placed on the status of factory hand. This low prestige is not necessarily the result of any rejection of industrial prestige norms; it frequently is the result of a premature but extreme identification with them. Factory labor is devalued relative to white-collar, administrative, or managerial jobs within the industrial or commercial sector of the economy. In newly developing areas the father does not desire his son to return to peasantry but to achieve high white-collar status within the new prestige system. Thus, lack of

20 For extensive discussion of these points see Feldman, "Men and Machines"; also Wilbert E. Moore, “Technological Change and Industrial Organization,” and Arnold Feldman, "The Interpenetration of Firm and Society,” papers prepared for the Conference on the Social Implications of Technological Progress, held in conjunction with the Fourth General Assembly of the International Social Science Council, Paris, March 18-25, 1959. These papers are to be published in a symposium edited by Georges Balandier for the Council.

commitment to factory labor may be the result of overcommitment to industrial prestige norms rather than of their rejection.

The Process of Flow

Interdependence is the obvious counterpart to specialization. Increasing specialization and interdependence eventually create a complex system of organizational interaction. In the productive process the primary function of such a system is the maintenance of flow-the performance of the necessary acts upon the product at the appropriate times.

Most analyses of flow have stressed the participants' functional contribution to the over-all organization. The analysts have incorrectly extrapolated from the functional concern the proposition that maintenance of flow depends on the participants' assumption of the goals of the over-all organization. Actually, this does not follow at all. Flow may also be analyzed as a structure of activities. The structure imposed on any single participant by flow is a highly specialized or limited interdependence. Although the entire organization is dependent on every part, any one part within the process of flow directly interacts with but few other parts.

Because the primary emphasis is on the system of production within the factory, the following analysis is limited to a segment of the occupational types and their patterns of action. Among those occupations and patterns of action omitted because of this limitation are those that relate the organization to its external environment. The limitation is, of course, consistent with the importance of distinguishing between the concrete organization and the analytical systems applicable to it.

Specialized interdependence means that the ability of any single work position adequately to perform its task within the flow of production depends immediately on adequate performance in the preceding adjacent work positions, and in turn makes possible adequate performance in the subsequent adjacent work positions. Thus the performance of each worker's task can be conceived as a service provided the immediately adjacent workers. A complex network of services evolves from the specialized, interdependent character of industrial production. For each worker, the network is not so visible or pertinent as the particular service he receives from the man who precedes him on the line, and the service he performs for the man who follows him in the flow process. Indeed, it is most important that these services never transcend certain rigidly defined limits.

The limited character of these service acts frequently appears arbitrary and dysfunctional. Limitation requirements may demand at times more energy and effort from the worker than the actual service performed, for it may be easier to perform a succeeding act than to refrain from performing it. The full importance of limited service acts can be seen if one imagines the situation that would result from violating the limits. The worker who for some reason decides to impinge on the service performed by his neighbor, or voluntarily increases the scope of his own service, would soon cause a chaotic situation. Even if the worker decided to enlarge the scope of his services because of an identification with the over-all goals of the organization, the results of such expansions would be catastrophic for orderly flow of the production process.

If it is not necessary for the production worker to identify with the over-all goals of the organization and if such an identification sometimes has negative consequences for the organization itself, the appropriate normative orientation must be a combination of specificity and affective neutrality.30 The norm is that of recognizing the requirements of a limited number of fellow workers and accepting fairly rigid boundaries for the acts assigned. The specificity and “minimal” character of the acts and norms to which commitment is required, however, may represent a major barrier to the commitment process.

It was argued above that the socialization for work in developing societies predisposes the workers to seek out or impose unitary statuses and norms in the factory situation. The new recruit to factory labor may be more than willing (perhaps, anxious) to identify with the goals of the entire organization. He may be quite willing to accept paternalistic treatment from management and establish "primary" relationships with his co-workers. However, the resulting social organization would not be very efficient for industrial production. This kind of overcommitment may represent a much more serious obstacle to the development of an industrial labor force than the undercommitment found in many newly developing areas.

Patterns of Deference and the Evaluation of Performance

The division of labor has here been conceived as leading to a system of limited service acts. However, the division of labor also results in an

80 For Talcott Parsons' treatment of affective neutrality and the evaluation of performance see his The Social System (Glencoe: Free Press, 1951), pp. 59–66.

ordering of positions, invidiously differentiated. Ordered ranks accompany the division of labor because of differences in training periods and in the ascribed functional importance of the specialized positions, if for no other reason. The training period and the functional impor tance of a position may be culturally determined in part, although it is difficult to imagine a situation in which these factors are not highly correlated with the required amounts and kinds of skill.

The differentiation that results from the division of labor within the flow of production is not an authority rank system, but rather a rank system that may be labeled a "pattern of deference." The workers in the positions at the lower ranks of the system defer to the acts emanating from the higher. In this sense, organizational interaction involves asymmetrical service relationships, in that the lower positions provide services but do not receive a commensurate number of services in return. For example, the skilled worker interacts asymmetrically in the service sense with the sweeper, accepting the services offered by the latter without the expectation of any return. Clearly, this is not an authority relationship since both the skilled operator and the sweeper are under the same authority figure, the unit foreman. The relation is one of deference by the unskilled to the skilled; it is not a worker-boss relationship.

The normative orientation underlying the deference pattern concerns the evaluation of performance. To understand this normative orientation, the concepts of deference and authority must be clearly distinguished. The deference pattern is based on the evaluation of performance, not on the evaluation of status in the organization. Using these two concepts synonymously obscures a distinction that is crucial in analysis of industrial work. It is quite possible to value and differentially reward types of performance on a functional basis without setting up an authority system. Indeed, this distinction lies at the heart of line and staff problems.

Although the deference system and the authority system frequently come into conflict in the organization, there is little evidence that such conflict can be avoided by giving authority status to positions in the deference system. Any attempt to merge the two systems would probably increase the amount of conflict. Specific amounts and types of skill or knowledge bring about a deference pattern, where the positions involved are not arranged in a formal hierarchy.31

31 For a distinction similar to that made here between deference and authority see Dubin, op. cit., pp. 47–54.


The development of mechanized and rationalized systems of production involves some relatively sharp breaks with the norms and acts of preindustrial labor. The magnitude of the discontinuities between factory and prefactory labor ensures their high visibility to the worker as well as to the analyst. Moreover, avoidance of such sharp breaks is contingent on avoidance of the factory system of production. One might argue that a development pattern stressing cottage industries minimizes such discontinuities and their correlative commitment problems, but if the emphasis is on the creation of a factory system, sharp breaks inevitably will accompany the transition process.

The following analysis of changing patterns of authority examines the commitment problems associated with the transition from a “traditional" normative system to a normative system that sanctions authority on the basis of task performance, or function. Unfortunately, a number of factors complicate the analysis of authority systems.

The basis of authority is itself normative in that its allocation is always normatively sanctioned.32 Thus, allowance must be made for possible divergence between the ideologies of authority and its functional role. The functions performed by managers do not determine the systems of belief that legitimize their authority. Rather, managerial rights and prerogatives are often assigned on the basis of certain "moral" qualities.

Even in industrial societies managers of factories have inherited and thus enjoy some of the moral sanctions applied to their occupational ancestors the owner entrepreneur of early industrialism. It is no longer de rigueur for managers to affirm their "God given" rights, but they and many others may still think in these terms, though perhaps in a more irreligious vein.

The incomplete character of the transition from a traditional type of authority to a functional administrative model is especially clear in the case of managers at the apex of the organization. Weber makes this point: "There is no question but that the 'position' of the capitalistic

82 For a general discussion of authority and economic development see Reinhard Bendix, Work and Authority in Industry (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1956); Moore, Industrialization and Labor, pp. 119–147; Feldman, "The Interpenetration of Firm and Society," and Moore, "Technological Change and Industrial Organization"; Herbert A. Simon, "Authority," and Solomon Barkin, "Commentary on Mr. Simon's Chapter" in Conrad M. Arensberg and others, eds., Research in Industrial Human Relations (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1957), pp. 103–118.

« PreviousContinue »