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Control, Technology and the Social Efficiency of Traditional Production : A bargaining Model of the Capital-Labour Relationship


  • Cable, John


It has long been recognised that one of the most important features of a production technology lies in its implications for managerial control over the production process. Amongst early writers, Charles Babbage observed : "One great advantage which we may derive from machinery is from the check which it affords against the inattention, the idleness, or the dishonesty of human agents." (1832, p19). His contemporary, Andrew Ure, likewise remarked : "This invention (the self-acting mule) confirms the great doctrine already propounded, that when capital enlists science into her service, the refractory hand of labour will always be taught docility." (1835, reprinted 1963, p.54). In more recent times, the literature of scientific management after Taylor (1911) has built heavily on the principle of technological control, as its radical critics have stressed. Many current examples involve the extended use of computers, as in the use of robotics in place of man-based technology in car assembly ; the introduction of computerised machine tools whose programmes are locked away from their operatives ; and the displacement of traditional printing skills by direct-impute technology in newspaper production.

Suggested Citation

  • Cable, John, 1987. "Control, Technology and the Social Efficiency of Traditional Production : A bargaining Model of the Capital-Labour Relationship," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 279, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:wrk:warwec:279

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