CHAPTER XVII


THE HUMANIZATION OF WORK AND

THE PROBLEM OF VALUES

ERIKA KVAPILOVÁ




INTRODUCTION

This paper has the following aims:

1. to describe, in brief, various views on the humanization of work and show how this term was used in technical and Czecho-Slovak literature;

2. to define positively the term "humanization of work" as it will be used in our considerations;

3. to point at the relation of present day changes in work to the development of technology, the organization of work, and the existing economic system of a particular society;

4. to underline the importance of values in the behavior of people and their attitudes toward work; and

5. to direct attention to the positive and negative aspects of recent political and socio-economic changes in the Slovak Republic with respect to the process of the humanization of work.

This paper does not seek definitive answers, but rather to reformulate basic questions concerning the place of man and his work in the contemporary world, particularly as applied to the transformation of Slovakia. We are convinced that after 40 years of official philosophical and sociological literature, a revival of these basic questions has become necessary.

Although the term "humanization of work" may sound paradoxical, it is used with various meanings and in various relations in specialized literature, newspaper articles and everyday communication. In spite of its paradoxical nature it seems to have many good reasons.

1. First, it is a reaction to the consequences of the industrial revolution, when man began to be treated as an object or thing both in reality and theory. The activity of man soon lost its "human" character and came to be understood as the quantifiable performance of one element in an industrial system (the power of work) comparable to the performance of a machine.

Work as action was reduced to manual labor. The "science of work" concentrated on the search for a law that could define the relationship between the physical energy spent by a worker, his fatigue and a quantifiable physical performance in the course of time. F.W. Taylor, in the Principles of Scientific Management, defined the place of man and work in the process of production, saying that whereas once man held the first place, in the future the system would take his place.

Persons ceased to be the decisive subject of production and became a supplement to the developing technology. The expression, "humanization of work", arose as a reaction to the inhumane exploitation of the work force and as a criticism of Taylor-type methods of "scientific management" aimed at maximizing the worker's physical performance in a limited unit of time.

Hence, the term "humanization" is related neither to labor (an economic notion) nor to work (a cultural notion). We shall return to the differences between these two notions later.

2. Often we come across the term "humanization of work" in relation to: (a) the improvement of the material environment and conditions of work; (b) the creation of a favorable psychological climate in the workplace; or both.

Although there is here a certain shift of interest to man, the main aim is to prove scientifically that the creation of a pleasant work environment, as well as appropriate socio-psychological conditions for work, is an important prerequisite to high productivity, quality, and effectiveness in work. The worker is still considered to be an object of management and not the subject, prerequisite and goal of production. This understanding of humanization of work prevailed since the early 60s in specialized literature in Czechoslovakia.

3. The term "humanization of work" occasionally appears also in psychological and sociological literature, especially that with an anthropocentric orientation. In the Marxist tradition, this term was especially linked with a qualitative change of work into a means of self-fulfillment and self-confirmation, where terms such as dignity, satisfaction and happiness related to questions concerning the relation of man and his work to nature and society. In this tradition, man sustains himself as a subject, as a creative rational being, capable of self-development. "Work" is used here as a cultural notion in a sense later to be explained.

However, there are other conceptions concerning the humanization of work, e.g., the change of work into a game, or the denial of self-fulfillment and the development of character through work, by dividing human activity into a sphere of necessity (work) and a sphere of freedom (non-work), etc.

In the last decades, under the influence of the development of technology as a substitute for manual labor, great emphasis has been placed upon the intellectual performance of a worker, his creativity and inventiveness; what previously had been different conceptions began to converge through, e.g., joining the demand for an increase in productivity with the creativity and self-fulfillment of the worker. In the dynamically changing conditions at this end of the twentieth century there is acute need to explore this relation of man to work.

The fact that this is not just a theoretical problem is proven by government financing of research projects in the field of the humanization of work and its conditions, carried out at the turn of the 70s and 80s in West Germany, Scandinavia and the U.S.A. Recently, in Japan and the U.S.A.,(193) as in some other European countries, so-called human management began to develop within a framework in which one can find various attempts to approach the worker as the subject of production, rather then merely as an object of management.

In this paper the humanization of work will be understood as:

1. the process of the gradual change of a worker from an object of management into a subject of self-management;

2. the process by which the conception of work is transformed into self-fulfillment and/or the development of a human being (where the horizontal relations of cooperation dominate over the hierarchical relations of management, and where cooperation prevails over competition);

3. the process resulting in satisfying the needs of as great a number of individuals as possible and of such social (rather than merely the consumer), needs as the ecology, etc.

This assumes:

1. a great degree of development in socially and ecologically designed technology, substituting tiresome physical and psychic work and allowing for the enlargement of individual creativity and initiative on the part of the worker;

2. acceptance of certain values of society, especially those respecting the individuality of every human being as the greatest value;

3. considering work as an activity by means of which man creates his own human dignity and happiness.

TWO APPROACHES TO WORK IN SOCIAL RESEARCH

Social Research

In the framework of the social sciences, work can be explored from various points of view (some of which are diametrically opposed one to another): different contents, different relations to the social environment, different definitions of functions in social reproductions, etc.

With a certain inevitable degree of abstraction in scrutinizing the phenomena of social life, it can be said that these different conceptions arise from contradictions within two lines of social research, which differ in their understanding of man as either homo economicus or homo sociologicus.

The first direction of social research on work was initiated by Adam Smith. In his view, an individual is an agent whose activity is result-oriented, aimed at future returns; in the interest of the improvement of future returns he is always willing to adapt to changing circumstances. He is an egoist who, by pursuing his own interests, creates the welfare of all.

This attitude requires a certain type of rational instrumental behavior. Its proponents are especially among representatives of liberal economics which they justify as the natural base and most fitting for the capitalist economic system. Work is the construction of an individual who, due to his specific qualities and behavior, and determined by his own interests, becomes a functioning free market. Other qualities unimportant for the function of this element in the system are not taken into account. In this way an individual becomes equivalent to other elements in the industrial system and thereby is deprived of his subjectivity. By means of his result-oriented activity he reproduces the system, but does not reshape it.

In the other direction, represented above all by Emile Durkheim, homo sociologicus is not so future-oriented; his primary orientation is not to outcomes, but to social norms. These social norms can be regarded as the "internal" forces guiding and harmonizing the behavior of man in society. They are generated by society and their task is to create and maintain an habitual social balance. That is why they must be shared by other people and sustained by their approval. Most of them do not pursue direct profit for anyone in particular, though this does not mean that they do not express interests.

Although there are many conceptions and classifications of social norms in recent specialized literature,(194) most authors agree on their negative definition, e.g., that they cannot be identified with ethical, legal and individual norms of behavior. Further, it is agreed that social norms also have a stimulative influence on behavior, and do not stand for some alternative mechanism of result-oriented behavior.

In reality the particular behaviors of people are influenced to an equal degree by instrumental rationality (derived from the specific interest of an individual) and by social and other norms and values, etc. Both homo economicus and homo sociologicus are but abstractions having importance only from the standpoint of research on a particular type of social system.

For our consideration of work, it is important to know which type of behavior in a given system is more accepted and sustained by ethical, political and other means.

The Understanding of Work

The two approaches to understanding man and his place in a social system are the basis for two different conceptions of work. In the case of homo economicus, work is understood as a means for the achievement of individual interests, as a creator of material values, as a means for exchange among free individuals in the market, and as a creator of a specific historical form of wealth. The decisive criterion for judging work is chronological, not historical, time.

When work is looked at from the standpoint of homo sociologicus, it is a social regulating force by means of which man as a subject justifies his relations to his surroundings and to other people. Work is a means to man's self-affirmation and self-fulfillment in society. It is an incessant process that thoroughly penetrates the existence of man. Its criterion is first of all qualitative--the degree of harmonization with the above-mentioned relations and in historical time.

From the standpoint of this abstract division, it can be said that in the first case we must consider work in terms of the economic conceptions of work, while in the other, we must consider work as a cultural notion. Therefore, we suppose that these are not two aspects of work, but rather two different approaches to its understanding. They neither exclude nor complement one another for they deal with work from different standpoints. However, ignoring one or the other approach leads to misunderstandings in the field of the theory of work and also to various social conflicts in reality.

Here, it is necessary to underline that, by introducing just two lines of social research on work and two approaches to its understanding, we purposely simplify in order to stress the contradictory implications deriving from them. This simplification is functional in view of the following consideration.

VALUES

The Importance of Values

Values concentrate within themselves social norms, result-oriented behavior and individual interests. If we want to analyze the changes that took place in the man-work-society relationship in the last decades or even more recently, we cannot ignore the problem of value-orientations and preferences. However, we shall not try to analyze the sources and forms of these various value systems completely, but only to suggest possible problems which can occur in transforming society (the case of Slovakia) when predominant topical value systems are not respected.

The traditional foci in the education of people in values have always been family, community and church. In Slovakia these values have disintegrated to a considerable degree, not only as a result of 40 years of political totalitarianism and the rise of "real socialism", but most of all as a consequence of the historical development of industrialization. The destruction of traditional values is a problem not only of the former "socialist block", but, as will be shown later, for all modern societies (not excluding such a traditional country as Japan.)(195)

It is apparent that the formation and changes of values in the present world have been influenced most of all by the mass media, systems of education and the activities of various official institutions. These form man's notion of the world and his place within it, and they influence to a considerable degree his behavior and hierarchy of values. They form notions of the system of which man is a constitutive part by supporting the formation of values important for the survival and reproduction of a given system.

The preceding socio-economic and political system in Slovakia favored such values as collectivism, duty to work for the welfare of the nation, patriotism and proletarian internationalism. But in reality it led to the suppression of individual abilities and the freedom of the people to choose their own way of life. In the field of work, it led to egalitarianism in job-rewards.

In spite of this, there was a discrepancy between officially proclaimed values and reality. Social equality did not relate to "representatives of the nation" who, at public expense, built their own wealth. This stimulated negative reactions by the people to abstractly formulated values, which became manifest in the Velvet Revolution at the end of 1989. Nevertheless, some of these values became a constitutive part of the value system (e.g., social equality on the basis of work as an expression of social justice).

Although for the majority of Czechs and Slovaks the post-revolutionary changes brought a real "turn for the better", our time is not free of problems and many of these emerge in the sphere of values. In Slovakia nowadays the most highly proclaimed value is freedom. However, due to the political changes in our country, "freedom" is not represented by freedom of movement, freedom of association, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, etc. These are already taken for granted and relate rather to the preceding regime in which these forms of freedom were suppressed. The notion of freedom now is understood as self-assertion and especially as free enterprise. This "liberal" notion of freedom is officially supported as a value which can help in overcoming economic and technological backwardness. This result-oriented behavior (that of homo economicus) which until recently had been suppressed promises positive results and has brought some countries to their leading position in the world. In reality, however, it also causes various value discrepancies and even social conflicts.

Holding to the "objective laws of the market" (e.g., recognizing its superiority over everything so that governmental interventions only smooth over some imperfections within the market) means disclaiming responsibility for social consequences by a government representing a given system. This attitude much resembles the attitude of the preceding regime that talked about "objective laws of social development" inevitably leading to the downfall of capitalism while bringing socialism to the just communist society. Liberalism propagates a very similar "lawful" mechanism, but for a quite differently understood social justice.

Nowadays phenomena such as unemployment, apparent differences in income, social differentiation, and contrasts between wealth and extreme poverty are regarded as natural, whereas but a few years ago our society in building "real socialism" boasted that the "negative phenomena" were unknown in our country.

People living hitherto with a centralized government--with a paternalistic attitude of state to citizen which suppressed freedom in all its forms--are not prepared for the quick turnover in behavior and value systems required by "freedom". The result of this conflict of values is a renewed disbelief by many citizens in officially proclaimed values and in the present representatives of the state and of economic reform. This is a natural reaction of people who do not want to be manipulated any longer, but have not yet decided what to do with the liberty they have gained.

This conflict of values, as a manifestation of changes in the political system, is a matter of time and wide social transformation within a single generation; it is not a matter of one, quick political change. As long as the reformation processes are approached only in terms of the most rapid implementation of the "objective laws of the market", as long as "extra-economic" factors such as values and the will of the people are not taken into account, it can hardly be supposed that this exceptional attempt in history will be successful.

From what was said thus far we support a rather holistic and evolutionary approach to social change and consider present values as important for the development of a social system. This factor is being ignored by the present government as one of the greatest dangers to the reform.

To illustrate an evolutionary relationship between values and the general progress of a society we shall use the example of the U.S.A. We want to draw attention to the following:

1. The development of values and preferences in the U.S.A. is closely connected with the economic development and economic effectiveness of the country;

2. The mechanical transplantation of values developed in the U.S.A. in an evolutionary way during its history can be dangerous ;

3. especially in Slovakia there is a predominately Catholic tradition, rather than a Protestant one, and this has been influenced by 40 years of official propaganda for so-called communist values;

4. The history and present economic level in the U.S.A. and in the Slovak Republic are not comparable one to the other;

5. We are convinced that we would profit by the historical as well as the present day experience of developed capitalist countries, but we should not try to repeat that history in the Slovak Republic.

The Evolution of Values in the U.S.A.

The formation of so-called liberal values in the U.S.A. was greatly sustained by a Protestant work ethics which promoted diligent work habits as a way of better serving God. This was dominated by such values as modesty, virtue, humility, strength and education.

With regard to work, the Protestant work ethic is sometimes reinterpreted as "industrial theology", i.e., as a conscious reflection of the historical realities of rising capitalism. However, some voices doubt this opinion or even reject it, claiming, on the contrary, that the Protestant work ethic arose as a result of a misunderstanding of historical realities accompanying the rise of capitalism, especially the role played by poor towns people in this process. The fact that some people did not work was not understood as a consequence of historical realities, but as an unwillingness to work. This contributed to the formulation of the Protestant work ethic based on God's prescription to work. Man should work as rationally as possible in order to gain as much as possible (self-interest). This was regarded as a realization of God's plan. In this sense work becomes both an aim in itself prescribed by God, and a way of providing for the material needs of people.

No matter what the causes bringing about the rise and development of the Protestant work ethic, undoubtedly its values became an inseparable part of the existence and development of industrial society. They provided the grounds for the "rational" way of life of capitalist societies based on work as diligent toil and seen as a confirmation of the earned position of a person in society. The "rightness" of the rational, result-oriented behavior of an individual was in great measure supported by Adam Smith's conception of the "invisible hand" and by Jeremy Bentham's utilitarian conception of human needs.

In the course of the Industrial Revolution, the scope of the traditional values of the Protestant work ethic was spread by values such as industriousness and thrift, while the accumulation of money became a profession pleasing to God. By the end of the eighteenth century, freedom in all its forms became the greatest value of the "capitalist spirit" (Max Weber) as manifested in such important documents as the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. These guaranteed the right to freedom and the right to the pursuit of individual happiness, once again a realization of self-interest for every individual citizen. Many authors assume that these are the values which helped America to become the leading country of the world and that this American "exceptionalism" is still the bearer of a message of great moral importance in the world.(196)

By the end of World War I economic development supported by the above-mentioned "liberal" values brought about further changes in the value preferences in the U.S.A. It contributed to the formation of so-called "consumerist values", which can be characterized as striving for the universal satisfaction of material needs. Preference for consumerist values was accompanied by a change in relation to work, which no longer was toil on behalf of someone else, but a means for satisfying one's own increasing need to consume. More and more Americans are demanding that work be something more than just earning a living; it must provide an increase in leisure time, satisfaction and self-fulfillment.

Most theoreticians consider contemporary liberal values (e.g., freedom of choice) to be a great achievement in the mutual coexistence of people, and contemporary consumerist values (universal satisfaction of consumers' desires) to be a logical step in the development of western civilization--though they may contain also a threat for the future. Other contemporary theoreticians claim that these changing values have decisive importance for the creation of the social order and consider them as a factor in determining the future of mankind. They take for granted the need to scrutinize the type of behavior preferred in a given society and supported by various ethical, political and other "official" public or state means. They see as leading to economic and ecologic disaster freedom of choice that implies uncontrolled satisfaction of material needs by a system of moral values and social norms, integrated within the activities of official institutions.

Therefore they advocate a return to traditional Christian values (E.F. Schumacher), or pin their hopes on a re-emergence of spiritual values (R. Rubenstein, P. Johnson, A. Toffler), or call for the creation of social control systems that would prevent the expansion of individual freedom. At the same time, they realize the unpopularity of their proposals which can be looked upon as threats to the traditional values of capitalist society, understood in a utilitarian way as freedom of choice (G.R. Funkhouser).





Theoretical Reflections of Value Problems in Economic Literature

The great importance of values for building a socio-economic system is underlined in a great number of books and papers dealing with the problem of the creation of a so-called ethical economy, or conceptions of a "workfare state" appearing in the U.S.A. and Western Europe. This is in reaction to the crisis of liberal political approaches to society, to the negative consequences of joining traditional liberal values with consumerist values, and to the conception of "the welfare state" which leads also to social differentiation and everything connected with it: e.g., unemployment, increased expenditures for the social sphere, and a rise in such pathological phenomena as illiteracy, criminality, etc.

The above-mentioned attitudes call for the creation of a new socio-economic paradigm. This would be based on ethical values, to solve such problems as unemployment, inequality of incomes, and pollution of the environment; it would give priority to moral rather than economic problems.

Nearly all liberal conceptions reduce society to an economic system guided by the market. To some degree they differ among themselves in their attitude toward the functions of the state with regard to the market: elimination of imperfections within the market, breakup of monopolies, creation of artificial markets, etc. This is marked by the static view that movement is just a matter of changing the balance of the system and is caused by extra-economic factors.

It is worth mentioning that needs, as a basis of interests, are understood here in the Benthamian sense, i.e., from the standpoint of usefulness, in relation to man as a consumer (homo economicus). Needs other than those of the consumer are not taken into account; nature and technology also are excluded from economic analyses (the negative results of this exclusion are manifest, e.g., in the devastation of the environment).

This over 300-year-old liberal and mechanistic (R.D. Harmin) paradigm marked the industrial period characterized by an atomized attitude to the social whole in which homo economicus can be isolated as one of its elements in a kind of social physics. As a matter of fact, this paradigm excludes any moral considerations; it approaches the solution of political and economic problems with no ethical basis for solving technological problems. ("There is no dirty or clean money, there is just money" - V. Klaus, author of the Czechoslovak economic reform.) However, it is important to stress that this mechanistic attitude is typical not only of liberal conceptions, but of so-called central planning, as well. They are one and the same paradigm realized from two different ideological and political positions.

Many authors point out that for building a new socio-economic paradigm based upon ethical values it is necessary to reformulate the question from "how much economic growth?" to "economic growth for whom and for what?"(197) To answer these questions presupposes a change in attitude toward treating man as a complex being with various interests, needs, values, etc., transforming man from a servant of the system into its master.

MODERN MANAGEMENT

Some modern solutions in the field of management for practical reasons accept topical values and the wishes of the people in the marketplace, far beyond the limits of F.G. Taylor's "scientific" management. Their common denominator is a shift in preference from the "technological system" to the most progressive element of production--man. We shall look briefly at the development of Japanese and American management as an illustration that the acceptance of topical values in a particular society is closely connected with economic efficiency.

Development of Japanese Management

The development of Japanese management after World War II may be divided into three phases corresponding to the paternalistic, cooperative and active approaches to "human sources" which have coexisted until now.

The first of these was dominant in the first decade after World War II and led to the revitalization of the Japanese economy. Ideologically, it was based on modern family and paternalistic values, the principle of seniority in wages and promotion and life-long employment.

However, the higher training of young workers led to a conflict within the rules of seniority and to the rise of a joint labor-management consultation system as an attempt to overcome the negatives within the principle of seniority.

This intervention in the traditional social value order in relation to work brought about a search for alternative mechanisms for the mobilization and integration of workers: shop-floor, small group activities and such systems of direct participation in management as, e.g., quality control circles, quality circles, jisku kanri.

These forms of direct participation were connected with the so-called transmittable participation at the intermediate level of management and indirect participation at the top level, institutionalized in the labor-management joint consultation system. This gave rise to so-called cooperative management.

At the beginning of the 80s, under the influence of the development of new technologies, patterns of management cooperation began to change toward even greater cooperation between top management and workers. The need for effective adaptation of firms to the changing environment (changes in the structure of industries, changing needs and interests on the part of consumers, the development of technologies and competition, legislative changes, etc.) caused an enrichment of traditional values--the principles of seniority and collectivism were "enriched" by the principle of individualism.

Many authors suppose that for a successful revitalization of Japanese firms it is necessary to accept values related to liberal conceptions of freedom, respecting at the same time traditional paternalistic values, in order to protect the future well-being of firms and the people working in them.

The support of individualism and of the new understanding of collectivism derived from it leads to changes in views on the relation of man to work. Although Japanese management is not unified, it can be characterized by its attempt to respect the needs, wishes and abilities of the individual. This philosophy is: (1) a result of the penetration of liberal values into the value system of the Japanese, and (2) an expression of the discovery of strategies directed at activating human resources in the interest of long-term survival. This is also the core of so-called evolutionary management which virtually does not admit any sudden changes and reforms.

Contemporary American Management

We have said that there is no uniformity as far as Japanese management is concerned, the same holds true of American management. However, some characteristics are distinctive of American management.

Japanese management developed from traditional values stressing "group", subordination and principles of seniority, whereas American management was based from the very beginning on opposite values: individualism and freedom, stressing "the better" not the senior. This manifested itself in different organization, structure and strategies in firms.

In a sense American firms behave as "free individuals" with the

strategic aim of being successful in the market (achieving as great a profit as possible) and in this way standing up to the competition. According to a group of Japanese authors who, since 1979, have been systematically studying the differences and common characteristics in the organization and structure of the American and Japanese firms,(198) Japanese firms try to cooperate for the purpose of survival (they create networks), whereas the American firms behave in the opposite way, that is, competitively, even at risk of a crash or bankruptcy. This kind of behavior is characterized by readiness for quick changes, in distinction to the Japanese model of management which can be characterized as readiness for long-run, gradual changes.

These contrasting preferences result in different ways of formulating strategies. It is typical of American firms that their strategies are formulated in a narrow, specific way by top management, whereas the Japanese strategies are formulated in a broad way by as many workers as possible (middle-up-down management).

However, in the last few years some changes have been taking place in American management. Taylor or Ford patterns of controlling work behavior of workers fit the period of industrialism, are no longer tenable today. People cannot be managed and controlled anymore; they must be given space for self-management and self-control. That is why individualism as a value is sinking from the top management to the "ground floor": people expect the system to enable them to realize their individual needs in work, e.g., self-fulfillment, participation in decision-making, etc. This results in the rise of various approaches to the worker, e.g., the signing of individual contracts which take into account specific situations in the family of the worker (a mother with children, single people, elderly people, etc.), and respect their individual requirements (e.g., various types of working hours, flexible working hours, sharing work hours and work place, training within the organization, etc). These changes reflect also the formation of a new type of worker cooperation where hierarchical relations (superiority and subordination) play an ever smaller role and are being replaced by vertical relations of cooperation. (It is interesting that this process is accompanied by a decrease in the authority of trade unions in the U.S.A.)

Both the Japanese and the American attitudes are marked by interest in people: in the first case by interest in cooperating working groups and in the second by interest in individuals. Having realized the importance of "human resources" as the most progressive sources of production, more and more firms concentrate on satisfying the needs and interest of their employees.

CONCLUSION: THE CASE OF SLOVAKIA

We have dealt with the problems of the humanization of work in the Slovakia only marginally. This was due to the following reasons.

1. Solving problems of the humanization of work does not have any tradition either in former Czechoslovakia, or in present Slovakia, at least in the above sense.

2. Systematic empirical data is lacking from various fields of research, e.g., from studying the development of values and changes in value systems.

3. The present stage of economic and technological development has not yet provided much incentive to theoreticians to deal with these problems and for this reason there has been no proper theoretical management in Slovakia.

4. The present social aim supported by the present governing power in Slovakia is the creation of a liberal market economy; hence problems of ethics, values, humanity, etc., have only marginal importance.

Despite these reasons and some others, we suppose that in the near future Slovakia also will have to solve problems characteristic of the most developed countries in the world, which undoubtedly will include that of the "humanization of work". It is important to study in advance the preconditions and limitations of this process.

The Institute of Social Forecasting, Slovak Academy of Sciences,

Bratislava

NOTES








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