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Alasdair MacIntyre

The Factory

(Summer 1962)

From International Socialism (1st series), No.9, Summer 1962, p.29.
Thanks to Ted Crawford & the late Will Fancy.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The Anatomy of Work
Georges Friedmann

This is a study of the division of labour in modern industrial society, which summarises and comments upon many of the outstanding sociological contributions. It should be required reading for any socialist who supposes that he can hope to communicate effectively with the working-class, while knowing nothing of the structure of factory life. Friedmann is particularly good on those explanations of industrial activity which try to leave the personality of the worker out of account of automation, he asks, how can anyone fail to see that, behind the technical presuppositions upon which alone our mystical prophets of “automation” insist, particularly the training of highly qualified staffs for direction, control and supervision, there are social conditions of vital importance without which the new technology can only be of value in a very limited number of cases?’ And of the attempt to explain the diminishing returns of the division of labour beyond a certain point he insists that ‘Behind the economic and technical causes there are those of a psychological nature ... boredom, dissatisfaction, the desire for some form of real training, for variety, for a feeling of achievement.’

Marxists should attend especially to the way he brings out the slide in Marx’s writings from the demand for the humanization of work and the insights into work as education to the concentration upon liberation work. The belief that man is free when he is at leisure is what underlies the Soviet Union’s equation of the shortening of the working-day with the road to socialism. But what matters is that man should be free at work, not from work. And to understand how this is possible we need much more study of those problems to which Friedmann’s book is an excellent and illuminating introduction.

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