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Georges Friedmann

(1902—1977)


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(1902–77)

A French sociologist, originator, and the driving-force behind the Sociologie du Travail in early post-war France; also a trenchant critic of the scientific management movement. Sociologie du Travail developed out of Friedmann's seminars on the nature and evolution of the labour process; several leading investigators (including Michael Crozier and Alain Touraine) were strongly influenced by him; and much of the subsequent research programme was shaped by his way of selecting and posing problems.

The major part of Friedmann's huge published output was his critique of fragmented labour and technicism. His studies of work fragmentation and the destruction of craft skills prefigure the much later (and more widely known) critique of de-skilling in the work of Harry Braverman. Fragmented work, according to Friedmann (and Braverman), is a characteristic of capitalism, produced by the drive to separate execution from control, and thus de-skill workers. By comparison, skilled craft work is not only more interesting, but results in a moral and ethical transformation of the individuals so employed: its technical features exercise an educational and humanizing force on practitioners. Friedmann, who was rather obsessed with skilled work and the craft, believed strongly enough in this thesis to take an apprenticeship himself as a metal-worker. He is best known to sociologists as the author of The Anatomy of Work (1961) and Industrial Society: The Emergence of the Human Problems of Automation (1964). See also degradation-of-work thesis.

Subjects: Sociology.


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