The Power of Knowledge: Comments on Marglin’s ‘Knowledge and Power’

  • Maxine Berg


In the preceding chapter Stephen Marglin makes two main points:
  1. (1)

    The source of the capitalist hold over the production process while in open competition with other forms of enterprise was knowledge — that is organizing ability. In order to claim a reward for this knowledge the capitalist had to impose a hierarchical form of organization on the production process so that he could claim an essential part in it on a continuing basis.

  2. (2)

    The means by which the capitalist maintained control over knowledge, that is, the division of labour and hierarchy, becomes itself a limit on the size of the enterprise. When the enterprise exceeds the span of the manageable personal intervention of the capitalist, then new organizing problems arise which must be solved by the creation of a new group of mediators — a techno-structure.

In the space available here, I shall confine my comments to the first point, discussing this in relation as well to Marglin’s original paper ‘What Bosses Do’ (Marglin, 1974).


Eighteenth Century Factory System Moral Community Corporate Control Capitalist Control 
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  1. 7.
    Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations (1776) Oxford, 1976, vol 1, Bk I, chap. 10, p.134. This point is fully argued in my ‘Political Economy and the Principles of Manufacture 1700–1800’, in Berg, Hudson and Sonenscher (1983).Google Scholar

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© Frank H. Stephen 1984

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  • Maxine Berg

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