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1 COMMITMENT OF THE

INDUSTRIAL LABOR FORCE

Arnold S. Feldman
Wilbert E. Moore

THE Continuing expansion of market-oriented and often even industrially organized economic activities into "newly developing" areas of the world is a crude empirical fact. However, the speed of transition, its relative success in economic terms, the amount of social disorganization, and the prospective future viability of the emerging social systems are all highly variable. This volume explores the social correlates of economic change, using labor commitment as a convenient focus for the whole complex process of social transformation.

THE CONCEPT OF COMMITMENT

Commitment involves both performance and acceptance of the behaviors appropriate to an industrial way of life. The concept is thus concerned with overt actions and with norms. The fully committed worker, in other words, has internalized the norms of the new productive organization and social system. By implication, therefore, there are degrees of commitment and partial substitutions, as on the part of the external conformist whose performance remains satisfactory only so long as immediately available bribes and discipline suffice to win his compliance.

Any social system can, and does, survive some outright deviance and some external conformity. Of the two, the latter is perhaps more troublesome because it is less easily detected and controlled. It is a fundamental postulate of this volume that full commitment of an industrial labor force is both important for continuous economic development and problematical—for reasons that are explored in some detail. The scope of the discussion of labor force commitment is rather broader than the phrase may imply. On the one hand, the industrial labor force includes not only manual workers in factory operations, but the whole range of occupations appropriate to an industrialized economy-clerical, managerial, and professional. In the broad sense, indus

trial production involves financial and distributive activities, as well as the production and processing of materials. On the other hand, the phrase "appropriate to an industrial way of life" refers to more than the production of goods and services that move through the market and thus acquire economic valuation. For example, adjustment to new residential patterns, ways of assigning status, political orientations, and social goals are critically involved. These processes of social transformation that accompany economic change demand attention and justify theoretical and practical concern for the performance and acceptance of behaviors consistent with that transformation.

Why Is Commitment Important?

A competent answer to this question requires analysis of the problematics of social change, to which the remainder of this chapter, and indeed of this volume, is largely devoted. Because the question is often asked from a practical point of view, in the context of advancing economic growth, a preliminary answer may be put in that context. Labor commitment in any occupation is of practical importance for several reasons: (1) The committed worker requires less supervision, and certainly less disciplinary supervision, and his performance is more likely to be at the upper end of the tolerable range than at the lower. (2) The worker who has accepted the norms appropriate to his particular role behaves more predictably in optional or choice situations than the one who appears to be governed entirely by external circumstances. (3) This reliability of behavior is especially noteworthy in crisis situations, which indeed comprise effective tests for distinguishing the partially committed (or external conformists) and the fully committed. There are, then, tests of commitment that do not require "depth psychology"; the behavioral consequences of commitment presumably are reflected in social systems as well as in the structure of individual personalities.

It is probably true that different levels of commitment are required for different functional positions. However, the cynical position that makes the performer's attitudes unproblematical or unimportant has limits at both extremes-ranging from his negative capacity for sabotage to his positive capacity for outstanding performance.

This preliminary reply to the question concerning importance of commitment has been put in terms of work roles. A little further analysis reveals the fundamental importance of norms in the conduct of a viable social system. Concepts like equity, honesty, trust, confidence in money and credit arrangements, mutuality of contractual obligations, and

many others cannot be taken for granted when they have not previously existed, or have not been specifically applied in the social contexts fostered by economic modernization. Considerable attention will be paid here to these broader contexts of commitment, since they underlie the specific performance requirements of workers and also serve to place work within a system of social relationships.

Criteria of Judgment

Discussion of commitment in terms of performance of work and other roles may seem spuriously easy. Under the fictitious assumption of a "perfectly integrated" society, without conflicts of interests between persons or groups and without role conflicts, expectations of performance might be perfectly symmetrical and reciprocal. In all actual situations the criteria of adequacy of performance are multiple and often inconsistent. This difficulty has continued to plague sociological analysis of industrial organizations.

Since the managerial bias of American industrial sociology has been only partly eradicated, industrial sociologists who study industry in newly developing areas may perhaps not be free of this and other biases of their specialty.

There are additional reasons for the introduction of the managerial bias in the study of labor force commitment in newly developing areas. First, it is the manager who is most clearly and consistently perceived as upholding the goal of industrialization. The research investigator typically enters the situation with an implicit bias in favor of industrialization. Thus there is a kind of value-affinity between them. Second, many newly developing areas are characterized by exceedingly great social distances between their various social strata. The investigator is almost always in a stratum equivalent to that of the managers and, because of the tremendous gulf between the strata, he has little accessibility to the workers and easy accessibility to the managers. Problems of language also enter the situation. The investigator's reliance on selected bilingual informants frequently results in an overrepresentation of management. This source of error is being corrected by recent research based on adequate cross-sectional samples, for example, by Gregory (Chapter 9 infra). Third, the problem of commitment is frequently seen as one faced by managers. Thus the investigator finds himself sliding into the position that his task is to provide the kind of information that will allow management or other social engineers to design programs that will reduce unproductive behavior by the work

force. Questions concerning commitment are consequently perceived as within the field of applied research.

The result of the promanagement bias deriving from these various sources is that the investigator is likely to confuse, or fail to distinguish between, commitment to industrial labor and commitment to managerial practices. For example, various kinds of labor unrest are frequently interpreted as evidence of low levels of commitment. It is quite possible that exactly the reverse is the case. A strike, a slowdown, or other demonstration may be evidence of high levels of commitment, in that only a committed labor force would undertake and be able to carry out effective antimanagement organization and activity. One view is that an antimanagement ideology is part of the tradition and culture of industrial labor, and that commitment includes the acceptance of such an ideology. At the very least, the committed worker (manager, distributor) is alert to special as well as common interests.

The Unit of Observation

The focus of this volume is on the effects of industrial labor force commitment on programs of social and economic change in newly developing areas or, more specifically, on the extent to which low levels of labor force commitment impede efforts to industrialize newly developing areas. It should be clear, then, that the relevant unit of observation is the labor force viewed as a collectivity. The individual worker becomes a valid unit of observation only if two conditions obtain: if his commitment level is additive with that of other workers so that they can be averaged; and if such an average of the commitment levels of individual workers is a valid expression of the commitment level of the labor force as a collectivity.

Determining whether individual levels of commitment are, in fact, additive is a technical problem. Presumably one way of solving this problem is through the construction of scales. Although a number of factors-for example, problems of language, radically different cultural milieux, and sampling difficulties-make the construction and use of attitude scales in newly developing areas technically challenging, the difficulties can be resolved, given a favorable balance of economic resources and ingenuity.

Ascertaining whether an average of individual commitment levels is a valid measure of the level of commitment of the labor force viewed as a collectivity is methodologically much more intricate. First, there is the question of the predictability of the behavior of the collectivity

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