deskilling

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deskilling

a process of job degradation in which work is progressively fragmented, and stripped of its complexity, discretionary content and knowledge base. The most important exposition of this concept (degradation of work thesis) is found in Braverman's theory of the LABOUR PROCESS based upon MARX. Deskilling is seen as a result of capitalist control of the labour process, in which management, using the principles of SCIENTIFIC MANAGEMENT, separates conception from execution and increasingly takes control of the labour process away from workers, leaving them with mundane, repetitive tasks. The argument that SKILL levels fall with the development of CAPITALISM and TECHNOLOGY is based upon 19th-century craft work as the model for skilled labour. In this theory, deskilling is a major cause of PROLETARIANIZATION in the class structure, reducing both skilled manual and clerical workers to a homogeneous working class.

In sharp contradiction to theories of the labour process, the thesis of POSTINDUSTRIAL SOCIETY posits a general upgrading of skills based upon INDUSTRIALIZATION. New technology is seen as creating the need for new skills, multi-skilling (polyvalency) and higher levels of qualification and technical expertise to replace the older craft skills of the 19th-century Much of the debate about changing skill levels involves different definitions of skill and different types of evidence. For example, the evidence for skill upgrading has relied upon formal job classification and qualifications, whereas evidence for deskilling has analysed actual skills required in a job.

The deskilling argument has been criticized as deterministic and reliant upon a romanticized picture of the craft worker. Comparative research using CONTINGENCY THEORY has found evidence of both job upgrading and deskilling in different industrial sectors and societies, reflecting different managerial strategies, labour markets and other contingent factors.

At the societal level, it is difficult to assess overall changes in skill levels, since economic restructuring may displace skills in old industries and create new skills in expanding sectors. In addition, whilst certain jobs may be deskilled, workers may not, since they may either be upwardly mobile (e.g. male clerical workers), or move into new jobs requiring higher levels of skill. Nevertheless, widespread empirical evidence for deskilling has been found in both the manufacturing and service sectors with mechanization and computerization. See also SKILL, NEW TECHNOLOGY, INTELLECTUAL LABOUR, FORDISM AND POSTFORDISM, CRAFT APPRENTICESHIP.

Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000
References in periodicals archive ?
Peter McLaren (1994) also argues a prescriptive curriculum deskills teachers.
If their jobs could be deskilled or eliminated, so could those of skilled manual labour generally.
The result is that many largely female jobs requiring high levels of training and ability are routinely and inaccurately designated as unskilled or deskilled.(7) It also obscures the ways in which skill, gender, and power intersect; in some cases "skill" may be as much a way of excluding and/or subordinating female workers as it is an inherent property of a job or a protection against managerial control.
The problem is that many artists during the '60s first turned to slide projection precisely to escape medium specificity: It offered a way to deskill and homogenize production (through the embrace of the cheap slide format) and to incorporate forms of distribution within the artistic structure.
The two jigs helped deskill the process, reducing the labour effort on the operation by one third and allowing labour equivalent to pounds 5,000 to be deployed elsewhere.
For example, as part of the introduction of new Computer Numerical Control (CNC) systems, machinists resisted management's efforts to deskill them by negotiating job content not only with first line managers, but also directly with programmers of the new systems.
An increase in skill requirements that cannot be met by the current supply of skills will create a new equilibrium in the labor market with potentially undesirable consequences for public policy: delays in filling positions, increased wages for skilled jobs that damage competitiveness, or efforts to deskill jobs in order to increase the supply of applicants.(6)
He argues that N/C inventors hoped to deskill craft workers, but his comments about the effects of N/C on the shop floor are brief and ambiguous.
I draw attention to the entrepreneurial ideology that underlies both venture labor and several manifestations of digital labor, defined as deskilled and underpaid/unpaid work performed for online platforms.
If you are not working on stuff that is relevant to the company then you will become deskilled. And when you become deskilled nobody wants to hire you."
Having chosen an academic path focusing on teaching, I had inadvertently ventured into a subordinate stream where I was gradually being deskilled and pulled away from my own critical consciousness and research initiatives.
In fact, 35 percent of firms that deskilled workers rehired people because the technology didn't work out, according to the research.