March 30, 1979
Are all those bosses really necessary? To most people, the present hierarchical and authoritarian organization of work seems inevitable, an unavoidable consequence of industrial technology without which modern factories and offices would come to a standstill.
It is the controversial but fully documented thesis of this important book by one of the nation’s leading young radical economists that there is nothing inevitable about this process, that, on the contrary, the middle managers and foremen who “supervise” us and the personnel officers who test, hire, fire, and promote us are there not because technology requires them “… but because they enhance the power of employers over workers, and therefore increase their profits.”
In this major work, Professor Edwards traces the revolution in the social relations of the workplace brought about by the rise of the modern corporation. Focusing on such large corporations as Polaroid, GE, IBM, International Harvester, and AT&T, he draws on hitherto unpublished company records, as well as on the latest historical and economic research, to show in fascinating detail just how the replacement of the individual employer capitalist by complex and interpersonal bureaucracies threatened to undermine the power of the managers and eventually forced them to devise new and more sophisticated means of controlling their workers. Just what these new control mechanisms are, how they are integrated into the economic structure of U.S. capitalism – and most important, what the possibilities for genuine social democracy in the workplace really are – is the subject of this pioneering work.
Richard Edwards is Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Massachusetts. The author of numerous articles in scholarly journals, he is the editor, with M. Reich and T. E. Weisskopf, of The Capitalist System (2nd ed., 1978) and author, with David Gordon and Michael Reich, of Labor Market Segmentation (1975).