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this future because the motto of the future is e pluribus unum and unum (the new industrial society) is fairly well known. Labor forces have been, are being, and will be created and committed by one process or another.

The more interesting, but also the more passing, question is how commitment will take place; for there is no one way. However, commitment is not really very hard, impossible as the transition in some cases might seem at first glance. The Bantu of Central, Eastern, and Southern Africa, to give one illustration, are currently being taken straight from the "bush" and being turned into mine and factory workers and "townsmen" almost overnight. New industries and new towns often rise where even maize had never grown before; and these "work" albeit not altogether smoothly. They "work" because the Bantu work.

The Bantu work, although they move between highly contrasting ways of life. As subsistence agriculturalists, they enter a society that emphasizes specialized skill. As members of small tribal units, they submit to the rules and the discipline that take the place of custom and personal decisions. Raised in a traditional system with a high degree of security and equality, they enter a life noted for its insecurity, inequality, and constant change. Responsibility comes to be toward the job and themselves instead of the tribal or family community, which loses its significance. The new government is remote and impersonal and belongs to somebody else; and group action, instead of being the normal response to problems, is always suspect and often prohibited. Even the ethics governing personal conduct are quite different. Despite all this, production goes on.

The secret of the Bantu and other rapid and largely successful transitions to industrialism is the great adaptability of man. It is not the resistance to change but the acceptance of change that is the more remarkable. The real problem is not in the adjustments to be made by men, but in the effectiveness of social processes and the suitability of institutions. Individual man is generally better at making his adaptations than society is in adapting processes and institutions to the new requirements of the emerging industrial order.


Commitment may be looked at as a current process, as well as an assured fact of the future. As a current process, the comparative uniformity of the future dissolves into the complexity of the present. Yet

there is a certain "normal" pattern in the process of commitment of workers to industrial life. Four stages may be distinguished, or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that four points may be identified in the continuum of behavioral change which marks the transition of the worker from traditional society to full adherence to the industrial way of life. These four stages may be designated as follows: (1) the uncommitted worker, (2) the semicommitted worker, (3) the committed worker, and (4) the overcommitted worker.

Stages of Commitment

The uncommitted worker is well represented by the "target worker" of the South African gold mines. He has no intention of entering industrial life on any continuing basis. He goes to the gold mines for a specified period of time, usually a year, and may set as his goal the saving of a certain sum of money, often the price of a bride. At the end of his sojourn he returns to his native area where his family has remained. The South African gold miner maintains his tribal contacts while on the job through the influence of the induna. He is a tribal member temporarily away from his tribe. But the sojourn marks a break from the tribal background and is frequently the first step into industrial life. He is in industry but not yet of it.

The semicommitted worker is a man on the margin of two civilizations. He works more or less regularly in industry but maintains his connection with the land. He has a foot in both camps. The "bachelor" worker in Nairobi is an illustration. His wife and family remain on the tribal land where she largely supports herself and her children. The "bachelor" will send her small amounts of money and return home periodically to help plant or harvest a crop or build or repair the family hut. He gets cash and a more interesting life from his industrial employment; he gets security and a larger total family income from his connection with the land. In South Africa the semicommitted worker may have his family with him in the city, but the children are often sent back to the tribal area to be raised. The whole family returns there periodically, sometimes for extended stays, and retirement normally takes place in the tribal area.

The committed worker has severed his connection with the land and with his tribal background. He is fully urbanized and never expects to leave industrial life. His family is permanently resident in an urban area, and it is not unusual for the wife also to enter the labor market. In fact, one good test of the degree of commitment of a labor force is

the percentage of it comprised by women. An uncommitted or semicommitted labor force is predominantly male. The committed worker depends for his security on his employer and on the state, not his tribe. His way of life is industrial.

The overcommitted worker is committed not only to industrial life but also to his particular occupation or his particular employer by training, by seniority rules, and by pension and welfare programs. He is not just a member of a permanent labor force, but of a small and closely prescribed segment of it. He is back in the closed circle of the "tribe," subject again to custom and to duty to the group.

The first two of these stages are clearly transitional ones and the workers involved in them are subject to considerable adjustments in their patterns of life, to divided loyalties, and to sharp jolts from their environments. They bear the personal costs of the transition.

Commitment, the Labor Market, Protest, and the Wage Structure Workers in the four respective stages of commitment behave quite differently in the labor market. The first type is on a work schedule of planned and frequent turnover. The second type usually experiences either a heavy turnover or heavy absenteeism, or both. As a consequence, these two types of workers accumulate little skill or seniority to protect them in industrial life, and their low productivity is rewarded by low wages. Between the second and third types, a great drop normally takes place in both turnover and absenteeism, and the opportunity to acquire skill is vastly improved. The overcommitted worker has largely lost his mobility; turnover is low and security is high as industrial life becomes bureaucratized and feudalized.

The nature of the labor market changes as commitment increases, but so does the pattern of expression of protest. Protest is inevitable in industrial life, perhaps in any form of group life, but varies both in its level of intensity and in its means of outlet. The level of protest rises and then falls again as the process of commitment advances. At first, the worker is so little connected with industrial life and so bereft of power and the basis for organizing power that he has neither a great desire nor sufficient means to protest. As his involvement in and experience with industrial life increases, his power to influence the industrial environment also increases, and his tendency to protest rises. Industrial life is now his life, and he wishes to mold it closer to his heart's desire. Later on, as machinery is established to meet his grievances and as the cost of conflict begins to bulk larger, industrial protest may tend to fade

away. The surrounding industrial environment comes either to be accepted or, at least, to be acknowledged as inevitable. What protest remains tends to be highly structural and formally expressed. Finally, in the overcommitted worker, organized protest tends to disappear.

The form of protest also shifts from the individual's protest expressed through turnover and absenteeism, to the guerrilla warfare of the quickie strike or boycott over immediate dissatisfactions, to permanently organized economic or political action or both, and finally to the petty and covert sabotage of the trained bureaucrat whose chains can be rattled a bit but never lost. This is the normal life cycle of protest and it is closely related to the normal life cycle of the process of


A word may be added on the behavior of the wage structure in the course of commitment and partly as a result of the process of commitment. In the first stage, that of the uncommitted worker, wage differentials will be very wide. The uncommitted worker will receive just enough to draw him from the rural pool, and this wage usually will be at about the subsistence level for a single man. At the other end of the scale a small number of skilled workers and supervisors will receive particularly high wages if they are paid at an expatriate level. In the South African gold mines the European workers average ten times as much as the Africans. Differentials will begin to narrow for the semicommitted worker, but particularly for the committed worker. The committed worker can more readily attain skill so that the premium paid for skill goes down and at the same time the pool of rural workers often starts to dry up. Differentials, when allowed to operate without restraints such as a "color bar," close very fast, and in industrialized economies the premium for skill will range from 10 to 50 percent instead of 1,000 percent. At the overcommitted stage many and perhaps most wage rates are not subject to the direct influence of the market forces of supply and demand but go their own ways, largely directed by custom.

Thus labor force commitment affects the operation of the labor market, the nature of labor protest, and the character of the wage structure. The committed labor force means a labor market active principally at the relatively few ports of entry where new workers are hired, a low or moderate level of organized protest which is expressed through formalized procedures, and a narrow wage structure which is responsive to the maintenance of customary relationships.

Although it has been suggested that the process of commitment normally progresses through four stages, it need not follow this path. It is

highly unlikely that what has been suggested as a later stage has preceded, or will ever precede, one of the suggested earlier stages; but stages have been and can be either entirely omitted or at least so greatly shortened in their life span as to make them of little importance. For example, it is possible to enter stage two, semicommitment, without ever going through the stage of the uncommitted worker and to shorten greatly the duration of this second stage.

Factors in the Commitment Process

The process of commitment can be aided or impeded, accelerated or delayed by developments in several important areas, five of which may be noted here:

Agricultural policy and practice. Developments affecting life in rural areas can have a major impact. The enclosure system in England, the collective farm system in Russia, and erosion in the Ciskei of South Africa all drove people from rural areas into the cities and helped break the connections with traditional life. The successful perpetuation of the family homestead, as in Uganda (cf. Chapter 13 supra), serves to maintain contact with the old society.

The role of the family. The wider the family and the longer it is preserved unchanged, the less rapid will be the transition to a committed labor force. The extended family removes much of the incentive for individual initiative and much of the basis for savings and investment, as in Ghana. If the family is held in the tribal reserves, as in the case of the native gold miners in South Africa, the adherence to industrial life will be made more difficult. The family, however, can also be used to commit an industrial labor force. In the Belgian Congo, generally, and the Copper Belt of Northern Rhodesia, specifically, workers are encouraged to settle down with their families from the very beginning of industrial employment. In Russia and China women are put to work early as part of the process of committing the labor force.1 In Japan primogeniture pushes the younger sons out into industrial life.2 Labor market policy. The policy of the employers or of the state, or both, in organizing and operating the labor market can have a major impact on the process of commitment. In the Belgian Congo the policy is to commit the worker as fast as possible. He is encouraged to bring

1 H. F. Schurmann, “Organization of Response in Communist China," unpublished manuscript.

2 James C. Abegglen, “Subordination and Autonomy Attitudes of Japanese Workers," American Journal of Sociology, 63:181-189 (September 1957).

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