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Bell’s Post-industrial Society Theory and Braverman’s Deskilling Theory


The change in social stratification was present during the agrarian and all through to the industrial revolution. These past revolutions brought changes that socialists had to theoretically examine their consequences in the future. Bell and Braverman contributed to theories of the labor process but their ideologies were different and each expressed his learned opinion (Kumar, 1995, p.78).

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The theories of Bell and Braverman examine labor, class and mobility with respect to social stratification and capitalism. This paper will compare and contrast Bell’s theory of post-industrial society with Braverman’s theory of deskilling, review the empirical evidence on existing or changing occupational skill profiles (using a minimum of three empirical sources) and assess Bell and Braverman’s predictions in light of the research.


Bell and Braverman acknowledge education in their theories. While Braverman blames education as the cause of the division of labor, Bell portrays it as the cause of the revolution. Braverman adds the concept of education being used by the concept to eliminate the poor in society thus enhance capitalism while Bell gives education the credits for causing a technological revolution that makes society work towards attaining it to be employed (Webster, 2002, p.92).

Both Bell and Braverman focused on class and society stratification; the theories considered industrialism or post-industrialism in society and both were developed in capitalism and pro-capitalism. Although the theories differed, they focused on the division of labor, class structure, and the paces and blueprint of social mobility in the social status structure.


As much as the theories may be seen to be similar, they have very conflicting ideologies. While Braverman bases his theory on Marxism, capitalism and stratification of society, Bell rejects them and focuses on the deindustrialization of economies thus leading to low manufacturing power (Kumar, 1995, p.103).

Bell focuses on the division of society in different classes of technology, nature, status while Braverman focuses on a holistic society that is united through a single system and follows society’s logic which is dynamic. This means that Bell believes in the division of labor while Braverman totally opposes it.

Bell divides society into social structure, polity, and culture. The divisions are independent and whatever happens, never affects the other; they are all governed by different unique principles (Castells, 2000). Braverman believed that the society capitalist and managers deskill the society especially the workforce in a mission to lower production costs and get high productivity. This ensures that they control the deskilled laborer to get cheap labor since the workers have no direct involvement in the assembly process.

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While Bell believed in the swift increase in the services division, information technology and information revolution, Braverman believed in a post-industrial society that is a rapid shift in manufacturing, from manual to non-manual, and the expansion of education. In addition, Bell bases his theory on the services industry while Braverman bases his on manufacturing.

Braverman describes the division of labor as a capitalist and managers’ mechanism to make work boring, emotional and mundane so that they can control the process of labor. However, Bell saw it as a means to improve the efficiency of services in the labor sector through competition (Hans, & Smelser, 1992 p.123).

Bell’s theory assumes that the services industry developed abstractly. Employment, according to his theory is progressively upgraded and this is contrasted by Braverman which assumes this upgrading as an organized degradation of the industrial sector. This, according to Braverman is deskilling. He argues that labor should be better arranged to attain efficiency in production with no manipulation of the social aspect either through technology or managing labor (Castells, 2000).

Braveman assumes that labor has all the value required to run the economy and what determines the conditions of work is the social and not technical relations while Bell assumes that, with information then one is destined to rule the employment industry and with the further revolution in technology then one increases his social status (Hans, & Smelser, 1992, p.123). Bell is seen to explain the capitalist society of western countries like the USA, UK, Canada, and Japan while Braverman favors the socialism of the eastern countries and states.

While Bell described an industrial society with increased potential of skills coupled together with information and other favoring factors, Braverman described a capitalist society that uses education and other technical changes to cause division of labor and deskill the force so as to control it (Elizabeth, 1975). Braverman mainly bases his theory on the one dimension man, the human capital theory that considers a change in the systems of work, organization and society. Bell bases his theory on the increase in the services sector and information technology that causes the revolution. The two bases depict the cause of conflict since they either base their arguments on capitalism or the information revolution.

Empirical evidence

Liu (2006) in his article “Deskilling Effects on Journalists: ICTs and the Labor Process of Taiwanese Newspaper Reporters” describes how the capitalists accumulate the wealth through deskilling employees in the media sector particularly in Taiwan. The outcomes of the deskilling included intense workload and more managerial manipulation and supervision because there were new technologies present. In addition, it harmed the employees’ working provisions and independence and increased the workload to three times that done before.

The deskilling also devalued the journalist’s experience and acquaintance and led to the hiring of other employees who were paid less than the previous employees. This is a true reflection of managerial control as per Braverman’s theory which is capitalistic and dictatorial and never looks at the social implications of deskilling. The evidence found in deskilling includes turns down of craftsmen, the increased gap in the mental and physical workforce, low levels of training, and high interchanging of the workforce.

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Bell’s theory predicted a world dominated by the capitalist with further technological advancement and innovation. This would ensure that the world develops and different social classes would be ensured. Different classes of employment would emerge and there would be no limit for anyone in any class to move to other independent classes (Hans, & Smelser, 1992 p.125).

Braverman’s theory predicted a managerial and capitalistic influence that would develop cheap labor and a huge division of labor that would bring huge splits in the social classes. The capitalist class would manipulate the poor since they had no technological expertise. This would result in a huge gap between the rich and poor.


Both theories can be said to be true since through technological revolution there is technological innovation and the capitalist has fought to dominate the labor market and ensure cheap labor. Technological advancement has been sought to be advanced mostly by those who have the resources, and as Braverman’s theory predicted, capital would be a factor in technological advancements.

There is a clear division of labor that has engulfed the labor market and this stratifies the people into different classes which in some aspects are independent. Employees have continued being manipulated and controlled by the capitalist through elimination by education, and those who are educated are eliminated through the cost of labor which in turn lowers the costs of production for the capitalists.


Castells, M. (2000). Materials for an Exploratory Theory of the Network Society. British Journal of Sociology, Vol.51, issue.1:5-24. Web.

Elizabeth, C. (1975). A classic of its time. Contemporary Sociology, Vol.5, issue 6. Web.

Hans, H. & Smelser, N. J. (1992). Social Change and Modernity. Berkeley, University of California Press. Web.

Kumar, K. (1995). From post-industrial to post-modern society: new theories of the contemporary world. New York, Wiley-Blackwell. Web.

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Liu, C. (2006). Deskilling Effects on Journalists: ICTs and the Labor Process of Taiwanese Newspaper Reporters. Canadian Journal of Communication, Vol.31, No 3. Web.

Webster, F. (2002). Theories of the information society. New York, Routledge. Web.

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