Labour and Deskilling: A Critique of Managerial Control in the Glass Industry

  • John Black
  • Fiona Neathey

The approach taken to the issue of control in this paper is one which is in marked contrast to other contributions to this monograph. Otley, as an example, accepts ‘a broad view of control as involving both the selection of ends to be attained and means to attain them’. His approach ignores the economic context of organisations whose dynamics he attempts to explain, thus he neglects the possibility that fundamental conflicts of interest may exist within organisations, which would make the selection of ends and means a far more problematic process than he suggests. The fact of this conflict is a key assumption in our analysis. Thus we see control in capitalist organisations as inherently conflictual since its aim, we suggest, is the effective utilisation of factors of production to the end that outputs are optimised whilst costs are minimised. Hence control is focused on labour utilisation and unit costs. This is the source of conflict in the control process: control of labour as a resource is in direct conflict with workers’ interests to maximise income and maintain some control over their activity at work. The definition of the nature of control implied in this approach could be criticised as overly simplistic. However a key purpose of this paper will be to examine the details of control relationships in capitalist organisations, and thus to demonstrate that the processes underlying such a definition are, in fact, highly complex. We are concerned, for example, with the implications which changes in technology have for managerial control and how the feasibility, and potential impact of these changes is mediated by other factors. Thus in this paper we will explore the issue of managerial control, its relationship to the logic of capitalist realisation of profit,and how this relates to a general dynamic of the deskilling and control of work.


Managerial Control Product Market Labour Process Managerial Control System Glass Industry 
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Copyright information

© Wai Fong Chua, Tony Lowe and Tony Puxty 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Black
  • Fiona Neathey

There are no affiliations available

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