Labor scholars and organizers need to consider workplace aesthetics including the design of technology to better understand the micro-mechanisms that facilitate capital’s domination of labor, eliciting effort at work and affective attachment to capitalism and other exploitative institutions.
In the tradition of previous labor ethnographies, my forthcoming book – Playing to Submission: IT Industry and Game Capitalism – takes on an ethnographic adventure into the heart of a U.S. tech company, to observe its front stage and behind the scenes, and to uncover the logic behind a fun game-playing cooperative environment.
Job design is indeed important for understanding worker bargaining power and workplace-level inequality. It really matters how organizations assemble tasks into jobs. But, it is trickier than Braverman's classic theory implies. Less complex jobs are exposed to more competition. But jobs that are more unique within a workplace also accumulate leverage. The workplace division of labor affects bargaining power by reducing job complexity but increasing job turf. These effects typically impact different jobs, which drives workplace-based inequality.