Page images
PDF
EPUB

his family along, to buy a house, to acquire skill, and to rise in the occupational hierarchy. Excellent medical services are provided. A benevolent paternalism is directed toward quick commitment. In Kenya, under the "bachelor" system, the worker keeps his family in the tribal area, has no chance to buy a house, and receives little encouragement either to acquire skill or to attempt to move upward occupationally or socially. In South Africa every effort is made to force the African to maintain his tribal contact-this is the essence of "apartheid."

These policies have quite different results. For workers with the same general background in Sub-Saharan Africa, depending on the policy, absenteeism may be 2 percent or 40 percent, and turnover 10 percent or 300 percent per year. Absenteeism and turnover rates relate more to labor market policy than to the chronological age of the process of industrialization. Heavy absenteeism and turnover are not an inevitable aspect of early industrialization (see Chapters 9 and 10 supra). In the United States, in early times, slavery and the indenture system were developed in part to offset tendencies toward heavy turnover.

Race and class structure. When there are barriers to upward social mobility, the incentive to identify oneself with industrial life can be much reduced. The “job reservation" program in South Africa and the "color bar" in the Copper Belt of Northern Rhodesia set limits to the occupational advancement of the Africans which can only serve to discourage their permanent attachment to industrial life. In Kenya and Natal the Indians form a layer of craftsmen and merchants into which the Africans find it difficult to penetrate. They bump their heads on this low ceiling. In the Congo, on the contrary, there is no formal "color bar" and the immigration of Indians is actively discouraged. On the positive side, efforts are made to elevate Africans into skilled work and middle-class pursuits. They are pulled up into some of the choicer spots in industrial society.

The management of protest. The basis for protest exists in any industrializing society (see Chapter 16). This protest can be incited or channeled or submerged. How it is managed depends largely on who is managing it. Protest can be used by "political entrepreneurs" (to use Apter's phrase) to excite the workers, or it can be controlled by "economic entrepreneurs" to permit greater productive effort. How protest is managed depends on whether it is managed by opponents of the society or by its supporters. A revolutionary union can heighten protest measurably; a “job conscious" union can channel it into specific gains instead of the attempted destruction of the system; a "partner in

progress" union, like Histradut or the sindicato of Mexico, can turn the energy of protest into constructive effort; an "agent of the state" union can help suppress protest in its organized forms.

Political parties with a mass base can also affect the ebb and flow of protest and the operating effectiveness of the system. While unions and political parties of workers generally serve to commit workers to the industrial way of life and subject them to disciplined action, it makes a great difference whether these organizations are oriented toward protest or toward production. Generally a "protest approach" impedes full commitment to and acceptance of industrial life, whereas a "production approach" can aid commitment and acceptance.

Through control of agricultural policy, the family system, labor market operations, the class and racial social structure, and the management of protest, the process of commitment can either be accelerated or substantially prolonged. In particular, stage one (the uncommitted worker) can be largely or even entirely eliminated, or continued, if not forever, at least for a very long time. In South Africa this stage has already lasted more than 70 years. If pressure is to be applied to the commitment process, the attempt can be made in five strategic areas.

Some Additional Conditions

The process of commitment involves more than the four stages and five critical pressures noted above. Three additional considerations are especially important. First, commitment is much more difficult when industrialization is being fought by the workers, as in England at the time of the Luddites, than when it is avidly desired, as in most of the world today. England is not the standard case, but the exception. Workers no longer revolt against industrialization; in general, they favor it. Second, a nationalist interlude in the economic development of a nation is almost bound to hold up the commitment process in the days before independence, and may well accelerate the process in the early days after independence. Such an interlude will almost certainly affect the rate of flow of commitment of the labor force. Third, wherever the state controls the economic and political systems or largely influences them, the conscious guidance of the commitment process is both more possible and more probable. This guidance may be directed toward a negation of the normal tendency toward commitment, as in South Africa, or toward a rapid acceleration of it, as in Russia.

3 Wilbert E. Moore, Industrialization and Labor (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1951), pp. 283-284.

THE DIVERSITY OF THE PAST

The shadow of the past lies over the commitment process but is usually a surprisingly soft shadow. The commitment process, as we call it from the vantage point of industrial society, is an uncommitment process when viewed by the traditional society. People not only arrive in the new world; they also leave the old. The new world is in a roughly fixed position, and the old worlds may be located fairly close to it or quite far away. Also, their holding power may be strong or weak. The nature of the old world affects both the social distance to be traveled and the likelihood that the trip will be undertaken at all. The Yoruba of Nigeria with their established town life are much closer to the new world than are the cattle herding Masai of East Africa. The Indians, with their long-established traditions of craftsmanship and commercial pursuits, are much closer than the Zulu subsistence farmers. The social distance to be covered varies enormously.

But does it make much difference how great the social distance is? The Zulus adjust to town life in Durban or Johannesburg with such alacrity that the social distance they travel has only a temporary effect. It may be argued that the greater the distance traveled, the faster will complete commitment to the new way of life be achieved. The old has so little to offer, once the journey has been made, that it can less readily pull the traveler back and hold on to him. Even geographical distance may have this effect. The Uganda African, whose industrial place of work is close to his ancestral home, maintains more connections between his two worlds than does the Congo native who undertakes a long journey to Elisabethville. Social and geographical distance may hasten full commitment more than social and geographical proximity.

The holding power of the traditional society has an impact of quite a different order. Aristocratic tribes, such as the Masai and the Watusi, seem to be able to hold their members better than the less aristocratic, such as the Kikuyu; the aristocratic tribes may thus condemn their members to lesser progress. The greater the holding power of a traditional society, the fewer of its members will slip away from it and the greater will be the group and personal disruption caused. The holding power is probably related more to the strength of the social web of the old society, which is based in part on its successful operation in its environment, than to the distance it lies from the industrial world.

On the basis of the most casual observations, it seems that the imIbid., Chapter 10.

portant influence of a traditional society on the commitment of a labor force to industrial life is not how far that society is situated from industrial life, for the journey can be made so quickly over social space, but rather the holding power of that society. This would suggest that the components of holding power are the items crucial for further study. Some societies have substantial rejecting power-as in the case of the younger son in Japan or the young hunter or warrior in some Bantu tribes.

The disruption caused by the transition is a somewhat different phenomenon than the process of commitment of the labor force. A textile factory fitting into a receptive community in Guatemala (see Chapter 17) or miscellaneous plants in Puerto Rico entering into village life conditioned by plantation agriculture (see Chapter 9) will cause less social disruption than the creation of a new commercial and manufacturing center drawing in people from many tribal backgrounds, as in the case of Jinja in eastern Uganda (see Chapter 13). Adapting old forms to the new social situation, as in the substitution of the induna or the shop steward for the tribal chief (see Chapter 8), may ease disruption. Commitment of an industrial labor force, however, can go along more or less independently of the amount of disruption in traditional patterns of behavior, important as such disruption may be to individuals and to groups.

How nearly alike the old and the new societies may be generally does not seem to be a crucial factor. Rather, regardless of how far apart they may be, it is a question of the magnetic power of each. In the tug of war over individuals, which has the greater strength? Holding power can slow the development of an industrial labor force quite substantially; social distance cannot. The similarity of the two worlds is much less important than the comparative strength of the old world and the new.

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, two generalizations about the commitment of an industrial labor force may be emphasized. They apply to the employee labor force and not to the development of a managerial elite, which is quite a different and in some ways almost an opposite kind of problem. First, the future into which workers are going is much more determinative of what happens to them than the past from which they are drawn. This particular history gets written mainly from the future into the present-what is currently happening comes from what is to be. The future is the cause and the present is the effect.

Second, the real problem is not the adaptability of man, which is almost infinitely greater than we once supposed, but the suitability of institutions and their policies. The contact of civilizations, the traditional and the industrial, can be managed well or managed badly. The social management of this contact, not the adjustability of individual men, is the heart of the matter. This management can greatly ease or greatly hinder the commitment of an industrial labor force. Beyond commitment, it can vastly affect both the liberty and the welfare of the new industrial man.

« PreviousContinue »