intellectual labour

intellectual labour

(especially MARXISM) all those forms of labour in which the work is by the brain rather than by the hand. The claim is made that in modern capitalist societies (and perhaps in all modern societies) the tendency is for these forms of nonmanual labour to grow in importance, and to do so as the result of a DESKILLING of manual labour as well as some forms of routine nonmanual labour. In this way, knowledge and skills that were previously possessed by workers as a whole (e.g. craft skills) become displaced, and are replaced by the new concentrations of skills that constitute intellectual labour. The growth of a number of distinct types of intellectual labour is said to occur in this process, especially supervisory workers and management, and new technical workers,

the designers and repairers of advanced machines. Among Marxist sociologists (e.g. Sohn-Rethel, 1978), the suggestion is that much of the growth of such forms of labour serves the purpose of more effective EXPLOITATION of labour, and that noncapitalist planned economies will be able to dispense with some parts of such labour, reuniting intellectual and manual labour within the single worker. However, two points can be made against this view: that the growth of intellectual labour may be more a consequence of general advances in knowledge and the division of labour, which are only partly connected with CAPITALISM and which lead to general efficiency as well as to exploitation; and that deskilling may be occurring generally to a much lesser extent than suggested, and for different reasons in that it is restricted to some occupational groups. Thus, a general increase in the knowledge and skills of the workforce overall may be a consequence of the importance of intellectual labour in modern economies, exemplified by an overall increase in nonmanual labour (see also INFORMATION SOCIETY, Daniel BELL). However, the fact that intellectual labour expands in importance, for whatever reasons, does mean a loss of skills and power for some groups, and an increasing fragmentation of working-class interests may be one consequence of this (see CLASS CONSCIOUSNESS).

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