Translated by John Mepham and Mike Soneuscher
The analysis of the historical development of the labour process and of the complex forms of its current organisation, as well as any attempt to foresee possible future developments or devise alternative scenarios for the future, presuppose an initial definition of the labour process as well as an account of its position within the productive system and the movement of capital.
The labour process may be defined as that process by which raw materials or other inputs are transformed into products having a use-value. This process is a combination of three elements:
— human activity, or labour, which is set to work as labour power,
— the object (raw materials, unfinished products etc.) upon which labour acts,
— the means (means in general, usually in the form of tools or of ever more complex machinery) by which labour acts. Continue reading
In time, immutable rules of conduct enforced under progressively changing conditions should logically result in a muddle.
There are immense changes under way in our social economy, as everybody senses; but through this whole earthquake alteration of circumstance, our ideas about the structure of our society have hardly mellowed, much less developed in a rough tandem with events. The muddle is upon us, and the days grow shorter.
The approaching crisis has been occasioned by the awful advance of technology; for the technology which has not been prepared for (or is not soon accommodated socially) is no blessing at all, but the deepest ironic disaster of the human race. The human being today stands poised to be destroyed by his primary biological blessing—his propensity to develop and his capacity to use technique: there is a direct line from the prehensile thumb to the nuclear bomb.
The political essence of the approaching crisis is that we have not been able to make our great power felt by non-military means, either at home or abroad. The domestic source of this impotence derives, for example, from such ritualistic activities as budget-balancing, devotion to the supposed stability of the dollar, fear of inflation (or federal action to forestall it), and accompanying under-use of productive facility and talent. Under-use and mis-allocation of our great industrial and technological power, except under and by virtue of military purpose, flow directly from the predominant bookkeeping considerations which go by the names of money, profit, price, return on investment, etc.—that is, existing property rights, all of which and the system comprising which, I will here call “paper.” Taken as seriously and devoutly as it has been and still is today, the paper system is inadequate to insure full production at home and to fight the cold war on non-military terms. So this is the nature of the domestic crisis: we must achieve a political posture whereby we can take the Paper Economy less seriously in order to be able to modify it according to non-paper considerations. If we fail to do this, we will surely forsake the promise of the future and also fail in the cold war. Or worse, we will trap ourselves into fighting it out on military grounds, which could well be the end of all of us. Continue reading
The numerous and elaborate discussions of the origins and nature of war that began after the World War have contributed little or nothing to an intelligent understanding of the thing itself. The politicians talk about the elimination of war only to persuade their fellow citizens that if war results from their “peaceful” policies it will be necessarily “defensive”. The paciﬁsts seem to be interested chieﬂy in depicting the horrors of the battleﬁeld, and the Socialists in condemning capitalism. From the social scientists we receive little more than dismal repetitions of absurd political propaganda. In all the discussion the chief preoccupation seems to be with the concoction of artful paper schemes to prevent war. Very little attention is given to the primary question, which should logically precede all others, namely, What is the real cause of war?
The result of this false emphasis on peace panaceas and on the horrors of war has been the propagation of many perverted notions about the origins of war, and they place almost insuperable obstacles in the way of understanding it. It seems worth while, therefore, to analyze some of these false ideas and thus clear the ground for a saner discussion. One of the most serious of them involves an unwarranted exaggeration of the difference between peace and war. According to the usual view, the whole world, at ease and in luxury, is imagined as thrown into sudden turmoil by “the rolling of the iron dice”. Yet everyone knows that much upsetting of individuals, families and nations also occurs in times of peace. Could anyone mistake the warlike character of the French withdrawal of cash from Britain in the Summer of 1931? Could any attempt at a French invasion have caused more misery than that ostensibly peaceful manoeuvre? Exactly similar manteuvres stud the history of peaceful times. They are supposed to be beneﬁcent, whereas the direct killing of men is wicked. But killing and destruction actually go on quite as well in time of peace. The chief difference is simply that war speeds up the process. To obscure this fact is to make of war something extraordinary, something beyond the social norm. It is not. Continue reading
By an industrial relations system I mean the whole pattern of rules and relationships which have been developed by a society to get its work done. Such a system exists to deal with those basic “labour” problems that any society must solve reasonably well if it is going to survive. These are the problems of getting and keeping a labour force, of training it in appropriate skills, of organizing it efficiently and motivating it effectively. These requirements amount to the same basic problems as the economic theorist’s: the allocation of scarce resources among possible uses in such a way as to maximize some conception of income or welfare. The industrial relations approach is more operational than the economist’s, however, in the sense that it points towards the complex of human groups and group interests that are involved rather than impersonal forces.
An important component of an industrial relations system is the relevant legal system — the laws and the way that courts apply them. However, an industrial relations system must be understood to include much more than this. As well as laws it is governed by customs, and the attitudes and habitual behaviour of various categories of workers, of employers or managers, and of those who administer government policy. By the same token, the letter of the law can give a thoroughly false conception, since it is notoriously subject to great differences in interpretation and enforcement, depending on public and judicial opinion.
Though the concept of an industrial relations system is applicable to any kind of society, it was devised essentially (about 15 years ago by some American scholars) as a means of viewing and comparing contemporary industrialized countries. Thus, since the technical requirements of industrial production are much the same in the United States and the Soviet Union, and the life styles and outlooks to which the industrial labour forces are conditioned must therefore also be similar, the two countries are forced to have far more in common because of their industrial relations systems than differences because of their ideologies. Personally, I do not ﬁnd this view very convincing. I do think it valid, however, to compare the industrial relations systems of Canada, the United States, and Britain, in view of the large amount of common background. Continue reading
GAETANO MOSCA, in his work which has been translated as The Ruling Class, engaged in an extensive criticism of the democratic theory that stems in particular from Rousseau. In the light of the historical evidence which he considered important he concluded:
Among the constant facts and tendencies which are to be found in all political organisms one is so obvious that it is apparent to the most casual eye. In all societies — from societies that are meagerly developed and have barely attained the dawnings of civilization, down to the most advanced and powerful societies — two classes of people appear — a class that rules and a class that is ruled. The first always the less numerous, performs all political functions, monopolizes power and enjoys the advantages that power brings, whereas the second, the more numerous class is directed and controlled by the first….
This paper has been written in the belief that a bad handling of Aboriginal rights and Native self-government questions could lead to severe setbacks and perhaps tragedy not only for Native peoples but also for wider Canadian society. Since this paper will be rather critical of current tendencies in the Aboriginal rights movement, let it be clear at the outset that the author wholeheartedly supports all those Native groupings that seek political dignity and economic self-reliance through the strategy of Aboriginal rights settlements. The author supports the struggle to regain land that has been pilfered, fishery rights that have been eroded by large canning companies, hunting resources that have been depleted by sport hunters, as well as the quest for entrenched health care and education. This paper will, however, be pointing out some dangerous shortcomings in the Aboriginal rights/Native government strategy—the strategy of “decolonization.” Continue reading
This discussion of capital grows out of investigation of the history of labour in Canada. Four major systems of organizing labour for the production of goods may be distinguished in the course of Canadian history. Each of these involved its peculiar methods of production, of organizing the labour market, and its characteristic attitudes of employers and employees. The change from one system to another is what is meant by economic development in this paper. The questions inevitably arise, why a period features one type of labour organization rather than another and why one system is displaced by another. These questions have led to concern with capital accumulation, importation, and investment, for it would appear that the availability and uses of capital are crucial to the answers. The role of capital is important, no doubt, to other fields of study as well. Many useful things about capital have been said by Canadian scholars, but no broad and coherent review of the whole subject appears to exist. The present is an exploratory paper, covering approximately two of the stages of development remarked above, and the change from one to the other. Continue reading