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.

References in periodicals archive ?
Taken from 19th-century industry, Kincheloe (2004) explains the similarity between the phenomenon of deskilling the industrialized worker and deskilling an educator.
These are also the most over-stretched with huge issues of unsustainable overtime, deskilling of jobs and funding problems.
In looking at the role of states in promoting deskilling as linked to time allocation in social services, she recognizes that measurement has replaced the notion of a caring service.
All this represents a further indicator of processes of precarization and deskilling pertaining intellectual production.
Kostadinova emphasized that a two-year withdrawal from the labor market during the maternity leave would entail deskilling.
Moving those babies means deskilling nurses and putting the babies that remain in North Wales at greater risk.
In his recent book The Intangibilities of Form, art theorist John Roberts attempts to bring artistic and economic deskilling into closer proximity.
Anti-beauty or anti-aesthetic gestures, abjection, deskilling, lack of finesse and formlessness have been aligned with thinking art in order to reveal the disturbing concerns that lay beneath social and cultural power structures.
Considering current industry needs for deskilling and full development of the potential of sewing technology, the organizers arranged exhibits in Japan ingenuity corner to show technology and products independently developed by dealers and customizers to meet customer needs.
Inevitably, many of them, through whatever route they enter, experience deskilling, a situation which has begun to attract more attention from international organisations, such as the OECD.
On the problem of programme manuals deskilling professionals, he distinguishes between being highly skilled--which enables improvisation--and becoming so--which demands discipline to master skills displayed by others.
The reason for focusing on quantitative evidence at this point is that it has always been the weaker of the two traditions in the deskilling debate.