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Ways in Which Work Has Been Understood By Various Theorists Essay (Critical Writing)

Karl max and the concept of alienation

On his part, Karl Max understood work as alienating. His argument was based on the capitalistic mode of production which has its roots in the industrial revolution of 1600. This mode of production is characterised by two groups of people namely the capitalists and the proletariats. According to Karl max, the proletariats own nothing except their labour, which they sale at cheap price to the capitalists (Wharton 44).

The concept of alienation simply means the existence of some dividing forces between things which are essentially supposed to be in harmony with each other.

For example, man created and discovered religion, but the same man subjects himself to uncomfortable religious beliefs or practices like refusing to take medicine due to religious beliefs. In this situation, religion makes man to be uneasy, yet it is the same man who creates the religion (Wharton 45).

Max argued that the ideal purpose of work was to make man happy by enabling him move towards the actualization levels in his life. But due to the capitalistic economy, work is no longer playing its primary function in man, but rather, it is alienating him.

According to Max, man can be alienated in three major ways namely the alienation from the results of labour, alienation from the other workers and alienation of the worker from him or herself (Wharton 45).

Alienation from the results of labour happens when man works but he does not have a stake in the products of his labour and only gets his wages, which are way below the worth of the products of his labour. This is what Karl max calls exploitation, which creates profits in form of surplus. Paradoxically, the surplus is not attributed to the workers but rather to the capitalists (Wharton 49).

Alienation from other workers takes place when the worker is transformed into a commodity to be used in the competitive capitalist economy. In this situation, the worker is not viewed as a social being but is tied to his or her work, in which he or she is paid as per his or her output.

Alienation of the worker from himself takes place when the worker is robbed of his ability or opportunity to enjoy the intrinsic value of work. In the capitalistic economy, personal lives are separated from work, meaning that the worker is transformed into a machine. This makes him or her to work for the sake of working, but not as a way of serving other humanity or quenching his passion to work in a certain field (Wharton 51).

Max weber and bureaucracy

This theoretical approach was formed by Max Weber in 1947.The approach conceptualizes organisations as being guided by hierarchical chains of command, in which decisions were made based on the top down approach.

Those who are at the top management positions are responsible for making the decisions while their juniors are responsible for the execution of those decisions. In the hierarchy, each position is composed of specific roles and responsibilities as well as some amount of authority to make decisions or to command other workforce down the hierarchy (Wharton 51).

Weber conceptualizes organisations as being characterized by division of labour and specialization. Each position in the hierarchy is held by specialized individuals or bureaucrats who have acquired education and training on that particular position. The specializations are accompanied by some powers and authorities depending on the position in the hierarchy (Wharton 51).

Weber views organisations as being guided by formal regulations and rules which are formed and communicated well within the organisation.

There are the rules of conduct in the workplace which govern things like working hours, holidays, offs, the language to be used, communication protocols within the organisation based on the hierarchy, and the communication channel regarding assignments for specific positions in the hierarchy.

These rules and regulations govern the procedures and the processes of the organisation so as to give it an identity as well as stability and make it possible to predict it’s because everything is planned in advance and followed to the letter without failure or compromise (Wharton 52).

Weber views organisations as being characterized or guided by rationality. Employees are selected not on the basis of friendship but on merit and their qualifications. Weber’s approach does not encourage the mixing of friendship or family issues with organisational business.

All employees are therefore selected in a transparent and competitive process which is free from any form of bias. The same applies to employee remunerations. Each and every employee is remunerated as per his or her position, qualifications and rank in the organisation, meaning that those who are at the top get higher remunerations than those who are at the bottom in the hierarchy.

In terms of responsibilities, those at the bottom are more involved with organisational activities while those at the top are mostly concerned with policy issues and public relations activities and are less involved in the daily running of the organisations (Wharton 54).

Weber’s approach recognizes positions in the hierarchy by their designations but not by the individuals who hold them. This is to say that there is no personification of ranks within the organisation which ensures that authority is respected and reduces subjectivity as it increases objectivity in the organisational undertakings (Wharton 56).

Frederick Winslow Taylor and scientific management

The theory of scientific management was developed by Taylor in the year 1947.The theory focuses on the importance of planning of work. Taylor argued that planning of work was very important for organisations to achieve standardization, efficiency, simplification and specialization (Wharton 57).

According to Taylor, increased productivity is brought about by mutual trust between the management and the workers, which is possible to be increased through: eliminating or minimizing anxiety and physical stress in the work as much as possible; ensuring that the merits of increased production of the organisation go directly to the workers; developing the capabilities of workers through training and elimination of the old age “boss” concept in management of organisations (Wharton 62).

Taylor’s approach is characterised by the following principles: the scientific selection, teaching and development of workforce for organisations; scientific training of workforce done by experts using scientific methods or criteria; scientific constructions or compositions of all elements of employees’ work and the collaboration of all organisational members or workforce in their work, based on the principles of organisations so as to increase coordination and uniformity in their work (Wharton 65).

Who defines the parameters of work?

The parameters of work are the boundaries or limitations of work. They may include things like job design, descriptions and remunerations. In a capitalistic mode of production, the guiding principle is that of extraction of wealth. What this means is that a person should maximise on the savings and minimise on the expenses irrespective of the costs or side effects (Wharton 71).

As mentioned earlier in the discussion, the two key players in the capitalistic mode of production are the capitalist and the proletariat. The capitalist owns the means of production while the proletariat owns nothing other than his or her labour, which is exploited by the capitalist for his or her own benefits with the proletariat receiving insignificant remunerations in form of wages (Wharton 72).

What this means is that the capitalist, who is also known as the bourgeoisie is the one who defines the parameters of work. This is because he owns the means of production majorly in form of capital. The bourgeoisie designs the work by coming up with job designs, descriptions and terms and conditions of employment.

The reason why it is the capitalist who defines the parameters of work is because the capitalistic mode of production requires the capitalist to spend as little as possible in terms of capital, but derive as much output as possible. They do this mostly to maximise on the productivity of their employees, which leads to surplus and consequently the exploitation of the proletariat (Wharton 78).

The key historical conceptions about work and how the new workplace is organised

Historically, wok was conceptualized as being rigid, individualized and aimed at attaining maximum efficiency. The organisations were vertically structured with strict chains of command. Decisions were made based on the top down approach and employee flexibility was not encouraged. Organisations did not value employee creativity or innovativeness nor did they invest in human resource development.

Organisations concentrated in going it alone so as to beat the others and did not consider creating cohesive organisational cultures. Work was therefore greatly mechanized and employees perceived as robots to be manipulated by the management to bring certain results for the organisations (Wharton 80).

On the other hand, the modern workplace is organised in a different way. First of all, many organisations have matrix and less rigid organisational structures which encourage flexibility in one’s job. Decision making is also highly decentralised to teams, which come up with their own schedules and team leaders.

The new workplace is also characterized by complex relationships and cooperation between various departments of organisation as well as the creation of a cohesive organisational culture for the organisations. Many organisations are investing in human resource development as a competitive strategy (Wharton 89).

How technology and flexibility on the job have changed the social organisation of work

One of the key drivers in the transformation of the workplace is technology. Technology has revolutionized the way organisations execute their business as well as the social organisation of work. Nowadays, it is very easy to pass a communication to a massive number of employees through a click of a mouse.

This has led to the liberalization of work, in which employees are given the leeway to work at their conveniences, meaning that it is not a must for them to be at the workplace all the time in order for them to be considered to have worked. This has reduced social conduct between the employees (Wharton 122).

The tasks performed by the employees have also been influenced by technology. Of main concern is that technology has enabled employees to access a lot of information which they were not able to access before. This has increased the levels of understanding of the employees’ tasks hence improved their performance and productivity (Wharton 124).

How understandings of human relations has shifted as a result of these transformations in the workplace

The classical management approaches viewed employees as objects to be managed or manipulated by the management to produce certain results.

The approaches did not have room for employees’ creativity, innovativeness or flexibility in their duties, but rather, employees were supposed to work under strict guidelines and time so as to produce specified results within a specified period of time, with dire consequences for not meeting the specified requirements or standards.

However, the modern approaches are characterized by a radical departure from scientific management to the human relations approach (Wharton 145).

This approach views employees as social beings complete with feelings, emotions and needs. The approach pays attention to employee motivation (intrinsic and extrinsic). The approach is based on the systems theory, which looks at organisations as being made of various subsystems, which work in harmony with each other for the benefit of the whole.

The employees are one of the many subsystems and therefore there is need of having in place a culture which fosters employee commitment and dedication to organisational objectives and goals (Wharton 168).

The features of the new economy

The new economy is characterized by lean and flexible production, emphasis on human capital as opposed to financial capital, change management, continuous innovation, research and development, liberalized organisational structure, emphasis on market capitalization instead of profits, e-business, building of alliances for success, short life cycle of products, customer driven, differentiation as a competitive strategy, unpredictable markets, human resource development and employee empowerment, on-going learning, and a culturally diverse workforce (Head 125).

Ways in which information technology has shifted the kind of work done by lower and upper level employees

As mentioned elsewhere in this discussion, information and communication technology has brought radical changes in the workplace, which have changed the kind of work done by both lower and upper level employees. The upper level employees basically work at managerial or supervisory ranks.

With the advent of information and communication technology, the upper level employees may use information and communication technology to communicate and supervise their employees. This has reduced their presence in the organisations. They can also use electronic systems to evaluate or appraise the employees, thus coming up with new information from the employees within a very short time (Head 129).

The lower level employees are the ones who perform most of the organisational work. They are supposed to be present at their workplace at all times. But with the advent of information and communication technology, many lower level employees are embarking on team networking, which has made it possible for them to be flexible through development of their working schedules.

The team members may easily communicate with each other in the organisation and coordination of their work, making them achieve better results (Head 146).

The impact of these changes on workplace relationships

The above changes have increased understanding between the upper level and lower level employees. This is because of enhanced ability to pass any form of communication from either level. This has also reduced the number of conflicts between the two levels thus contributing to a cohesive organisational culture.

The upper level employees and the lower level ones are also able to interact as frequent as possible, both physically and virtually. This has led to increased coordination, control and planning of organisational functions.

The lower level employees are also able to interact with each other more freely thus leading to strong bonding, given that they share both work related information as well as personal related information (Head 155).

Works Cited

Head, Simon. The New Ruthless Economy: Work & Power in the Digital Age. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.125-155.

Wharton, Amy. Selected Material From Working In America: Continuity, Conflict, and Change, (3rd Ed.).New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Learning Solutions, 2006.44-168.

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1. IvyPanda. "Ways in Which Work Has Been Understood By Various Theorists." May 15, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/ways-in-which-work-has-been-understood-by-various-theorists-critical-writing/.


IvyPanda. "Ways in Which Work Has Been Understood By Various Theorists." May 15, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/ways-in-which-work-has-been-understood-by-various-theorists-critical-writing/.


IvyPanda. 2019. "Ways in Which Work Has Been Understood By Various Theorists." May 15, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/ways-in-which-work-has-been-understood-by-various-theorists-critical-writing/.


IvyPanda. (2019) 'Ways in Which Work Has Been Understood By Various Theorists'. 15 May.

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