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Industrial Transformation and the Decline of Craft: The Decomposition of Skill in the Printing Industry, 1931-1978

Citation

Wallace, Michael & Kalleberg, Arne L. (1982). Industrial Transformation and the Decline of Craft: The Decomposition of Skill in the Printing Industry, 1931-1978. American Sociological Review, 47(3), 307-324.

Abstract

Printers have long been considered the epitome of the skilled blue-collar craftsmen. The complexity and variety of the work process, the state of technology in the industry, and the role of strong unions in maintaining shop floor autonomy have been important factors in preserving high levels of skill, and thus power, among printers. Recently, however, all this has been changing. The steady decline of industrial profit margins after World War II has led many large printing establishments to introduce more sophisticated printing technologies, particularly computerized typesetting processes, which have routinized work tasks and led to a decline of skill among printing craftsmen. In this paper, we provide substantive and empirical evidence for these processes with a time-series analysis of data from the printing industry for the years 1931-1978. We find support for our theory of industrial transformation. Specifically, our data suggest that skill levels in the industry have indeed declined and, moreover, that these declines are largely due to the shift to more capital-intensive printing techniques. Our arguments also support the view that social relations of production between employers and employees influence the nature of technology utilized in an industry.

URL

http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/2094988

Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published

1982

Journal Title

American Sociological Review

Author(s)

Wallace, Michael
Kalleberg, Arne L.