The Body in Late-Capitalist USA (Post-Contemporary Interventions)


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Humor sellers 22, items Shop. Gardening sellers 22, items Shop. But more immediately, I want to discuss here how flexible production has led to a resegmented and more flexible labor market in sorting out laboring bodies. The employment of the labor force occurs not in a freely competitive market, but in a segmented labor market, reflecting the diverse demands of the different sectors of the economy.

Edwards , and Gordon, Edwards, and Reich have shown two dimensions of segmentation which resulted in a tripartite division of the postwar labor market. One dimension was the distinction between primary and secondary jobs. Primary jobs were defined and organized by the large core corporations that controlled key industrial sectors, whereas secondary jobs laid outside of core corporate control, mostly in the smaller firms and in the peripheral industries. The other dimension was the division within the primary sector between the non-union, independent jobs which required education in general skills, and the subordinate jobs which required mostly on-the-job training and were negotiated by collective bargaining with trade unions.

Thus, the postwar labor market was divided into the independent primary, the subordinate primary, and the secondary segments. The independent primary segment included middle-level corporate employees, skilled craft workers, and professionals in both the corporate and public sectors. Independent primary jobs in both the corporate and public sectors had professional standards governing work performances. The workers here usually obtained formal skills at the college level, internalized the formal objectives of their firms, and were usually given greater discretion in their work situations.

In return for education, responsibility, and experience, they could usually expect greater returns, high job ladders, and greater job mobility both within and between firms. The subordinate primary segment included industrial workers, lower-level unionized sales, clerical, and administrative workers, and production-type workers in large transportation, retail and wholesale, and utility industries. These were semi-skilled, blue-collar, and white-collar union jobs. The work was usually routinize, typically machine-operated, with repetitive tasks governed by specific supervision and work rules.

Workers here needed some formal education, but acquired most of the necessary skills on the job, within the firm. Controlled by company rules and union regulations, subordinate primary workers often lacked job mobility, but have job ladders, advancement, and security. The secondary segment consisted of the non-union jobs in the peripheral industries. They included low-skill workers in the non-union and smaller firms, in the services, in retail and wholesale trades, as well as the lowest-level clerical workers, and migrant farm workers.

Unlike primary jobs, these jobs were casual and dead-end, requiring little formal education, lacking stable employment, opportunity for job advancement, and security. Workers in the secondary segment typically earned, for comparable work, from two-thirds to four-fifths of the wages in the primary segments.

In , the independent primary segment accounted for a third of the total nonagricultural employment of Forty-three percent of working males were in the independent primary segment, 25 percent in the subordinate primary, and 32 percent in the secondary segment. On the other hand, only 18 percent of women were in the independent primary segment, while 40 percent were in the subordinate primary, and 42 percent in the secondary segment.


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As for minorities, 60 percent of all African-American workers and 50 percent of all Hispanic workers, both male and female, were in the secondary segment. Thus, women and minorities were underrepresented in both of the primary segments, and over-represented in the secondary segment. In , 95 percent of all women were employed in the lower-paying jobs in the peripheral manufacturing industries, retail trade, clerical occupations, and the health and educational sectors.

Gordon, Edwards, and Reich , pp. The postwar segmented labor market was based upon a revision of the capital-labor accord developed between management and unions in the mids, under the sponsorship of the New Deal. That revision, as Bowles, Gordon, and Weisskopf pointed out, included a purge of militant union leaders and the passage of the Taft-Hartley Act in The result ensured US management's control over mass production, technology, plant location, investment, and marketing. In return, and as long as they did not challenge these managerial controls, unions could bargain for the workers' immediate economic interests.

In effect, "unions would help maintain an orderly and disciplined labor force while corporations would reward workers with a share of the income gains made possible by rising productivity, with greater employment security, and with improved working conditions. However, by the late s, signs appeared to indicate problems in the existing postwar pattern of capital accumulation—a pattern based upon mass production and mass consumption, with the revised capital-labor accord and the welfare state playing important supporting roles.

The growth of US productivity, which averaged 3. By the mids, Western European and Japanese economies began to grow faster than America's. Reich , p. The economic crisis of the s accompanied and worsened the fiscal crisis of the state.

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In the last two decades, corporations had to learn to move away from mass production to flexible production. And the Reagan-Bush administrations tried to help by dismantling the capital-labor accord, deregulating industries, and privatizing certain governmental services. The domestic labor market has been very much affected by the international competition in non-union labor supply, and the promise of special tariff reduction and tax write-offs.

With advances in cybernetic systems and information technology, transnational corporations are able to rediscipline American workers with the threat of overseas manufacturing. They have dismantled the New Deal capital-labor accord by asking union workers in the subordinate primary segment to give back wages and fringe benefits, and to invest union pensions in the company. In addition, they are closing union plants, subcontracting more in the cheaper secondary labor segment, and employing greater numbers of temporary workers. Finally, corporations are consolidating and eliminating some independent primary jobs, especially the more expensive, middle-level managerial positions.

Instead of a segmented labor market, the new labor market conforms much more to the Flexible Patterns of Work characterized by the London-based Institute of Personnel Management. Besides this core are two peripheral groups. One group consists of clerical, secretarial, routine, and lesser skilled manual jobs.

Workers for these jobs are readily and cheaply available. They can be easily hired and discharged in tune with the needs of the company. The second group consists of the even cheaper, less secure, part-time, casual, temporary, fixed-term contract, subcontract, and publicly subsidized trainee jobs.

The Body in Late-Capitalist USA (Post-Contemporary Interventions) The Body in Late-Capitalist USA (Post-Contemporary Interventions)
The Body in Late-Capitalist USA (Post-Contemporary Interventions) The Body in Late-Capitalist USA (Post-Contemporary Interventions)
The Body in Late-Capitalist USA (Post-Contemporary Interventions) The Body in Late-Capitalist USA (Post-Contemporary Interventions)
The Body in Late-Capitalist USA (Post-Contemporary Interventions) The Body in Late-Capitalist USA (Post-Contemporary Interventions)
The Body in Late-Capitalist USA (Post-Contemporary Interventions) The Body in Late-Capitalist USA (Post-Contemporary Interventions)
The Body in Late-Capitalist USA (Post-Contemporary Interventions) The Body in Late-Capitalist USA (Post-Contemporary Interventions)
The Body in Late-Capitalist USA (Post-Contemporary Interventions) The Body in Late-Capitalist USA (Post-Contemporary Interventions)

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