Degradation and resegmentation : social and technological change in the East Midlands hosiery industry 1800-1960
This thesis investigates the usefulness of Braverman's general theory of the labour process in the explanation of social and technological developments in the hosiery industry. Critical accounts of Braverman's work are reviewed and used to construct a more adequate model of labour process change. In addition to the historical tendency to degradation, processes of re-skilling and retention of skills, referred to as 'resegmentation', are integral to the restructuring of the labour process. Many other types of management strategy are utilised in the workplace, though they do not necessarily involve the physical transformation of the labour process; these, referred to as 'local' strategies, may be of a pacificatory or a repressive kind. It is also necessary to consider gender relations as a determinant of the re-organisation of work and technological development. Finally, class relations at a macro level are also relevant to understanding changing workplace relations. All these aspects must be considered for a complete understanding of labour process change. The model is used to study the development of the hosiery labour process between 1800 and 1960. Long-term processes of degradation and resegmentation are discernible, in which the sexual division of labour has played a crucial part. A range of repressive strategies have been employed, while forms of paternalism and of joint consultation have been the dominant pacificatory strategies. Workplace relations over the period have moved from violent confrontation to peaceful collaboration, reflecting national trends to class pacification; major causes of this include the adoption of pacificatory strategies by employers and changes in the local working-class culture, community life and family relations. The extended model of labour process change, thus, makes possible the tracing of the various interlocking processes involved in social and technological change in industry.