THE ASSEMBLY LINE NAREK GRIGORIAN & NETHAL HASHIM

The Background

  • The author joins the Citroen factory at Choisy (Paris) incognito
  • He was a member of the ''Establishment''-the educated class
  • His aim is to persuade the workers to join the revolution
  • The book takes place in the context of the volatile 1960s and 70s
THE STORY
  • Linhart arrives at the factory and at first struggles to find a job he can do
  • He quickly realises that ''the working class'' is actually very heterogeneous group and that it is significantly more difficult to entice them to action
  • A recuperation scheme however allows for enough resentment to build to start a strike (17th of February at 17:00 hours)
  • The strike is effective for two weeks after which it is put down by Citroen
  • Silver lining: Citroen learnt from the strike and was more cautious with the workforce
METHODOLOGY
  • The Assembly Line appears as atheoretical and without any particular methodolical concerns
  • The book is not a book of theory but a book heavily influenced by ideology
  • The objective of the author is not to provide a basis for generalization
  • The idiosyncratic circumstances, the individual stories, the motives and the affective states of the workers are highlighted
  • Places the individual and the human in its substratum
  • Weber's vision of sociology as a science of human action and the hermeneutic approach
  • Linhart refers to the role of the intellectual-philosopher in a way that resembles Plato's allegory of the cave
  • ''for me, the employment of intellectuals has no meaning outside the political one'' (p.159)
  • Philosophy should not be constrained to ''methods of thinking, the tools and the training for thought'' as Weber suggested
  • Positive contribution to practical and personal life, the question of ''what shall we do and how shall we live?'' (Weber 1919 p. 143).
  • Marx and the philosophy of Praxis-the significance of revolutionary activity
  • Marx saw philosophy as an active factor in the fight for emancipation
  • Is praxis possible without theory? Castoriadis and the importance of theory (1975)
DURKHEIM AND THE DIVISION OF LABOR (1893)
  • Each worker in the assembly line has a special task to perform
  • Mass production of 2CV's takes place in a coordinated way
  • Mutual interdependence among workers to achieve production targets
  • The relationships between the workers and the directors are of contractual nature
  • Contractual relationships are primarly shaped by need rather than desire and free will
  • Individuality and self-interest: directors and workers have conflicting interests
  • Given the political-historic context, doubtfull it is from the group that they (the chiefs) draw their strength
  • ''Everywhere that societies exist there is altrusim because there is solidarity'' (p.145)
  • The potential of initiative and the problematic of resistance at an individual and collective level
MARX-CASTORIADIS AND THE ROOTS OF THE CRISIS
  • Antagonism of the oppressing directors and oppressed workers
  • Citroen's workers are replaceable
  • Work has lost all individual character, all charm for the workman
  • Workers are daily and hourly enslaved by the machine and the overlooker
  • Economy and rationalization are the main aspects of the work in Citroen's factory
  • The strike is not ''the self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority, in the interest of the immense majority''
  • Capitalism still imposes its conditions of existence upon society
  • Capitalist structure of society and production exists in the absence of those directly concerned and against their aspirations and interests (Castoradis, 1997)
  • Capitalist production should not be based on organizing people as mere objects, systematically ignoring the creativity of the workforce and suppressing initiative
  • The individual and collective creativity, the speciallised skills and knowledge are vital to capitalist organization and production
  • The whole organization of modern society both ignores and seeks to suppress these abilities to the utmost
MARX-CASTORIADIS AND THE ROOTS OF THE CRISIS
  • The capitalist society is split into two forces: the directors and the executants
  • The directors have managerial authority and decide that the others should just be cogs
  • The creative faculties that workers are not allowed to exercise on behalf of the social order that rejects them engenders conflict and enormous waste
  • The managers' task cease to be merely organizational and icorporates coercive elements
  • The proletarian is tied to work only by a thin thread: the need to earn a living
  • The system can only survive only through the self-organization of people (work councils)
  • ''The final outcome of this struggle is socialism, namely, the elimination of all externally imposed norms, methods and patterns of organization and the total liberation of the creative and self-organizing capacities of the masses'' (Castoriadis 1997, p. 54).
CALLERO AND POWER THEORY
  • Callero describes how personalities are formed coercively through the social institutions
  • People can however break free through self-emancipation
  • Within the Choisy factory this was very evident
  • The social structures within the factory coerced the workers into adopting personalities
  • When they left the factory the workers would change not only their clothes but it would seem their whole personalities
  • The strike gave them a chance of self-emancipation
HIGHLIGHTS
  • Giving the working class a face and a story
  • Highlighting the power structures within a company
  • Pronounces the practical obstacles to Marxism
  • Showing the discrepancy between the assembly line floor and the management
REFERENCES
  • Castoriadis, C. 1975. The Imaginary Institution of Society, Cambridge-Massachusetts: The MIT Press
  • Curtis, D.A. 1997. The Castoriadis Reader-Cornelius Castoriadis, Oxford: Blackwell Publishers Ltd
  • Callero, P.L. 2003. The Sociology of the Self. Annual Review of Sociology. 29, pp. 115-133
  • Durkheim, E. 1984 [1893]. The Division of Labour in Society. London: MacMillan
  • Engels, F. Preface to the 1888 English Edition, pp. 7-9
  • Linhart, R. 1981. The Assembly Line. London: John Calder Publishers Ltd
  • Marx, K. and Engels, F. 1848. The Communist Manifesto
  • Marx. K. 1888. Theses on Feuerbach. Peking: Foreign Languages Press
  • Weber, M. 1919. Science as a Vocation. From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology. New York: Oxford University Press
  • Weber, M. 1922. Basic Ontological Terms & Three Types of Legitimate Authority. Economy and Society. Los Angeles: University of California Press

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