The Socio-Economic Law of Labor Change

Directly related to the law of the division of labor is the law of change of labor, which arose somewhat later, in the process of replacing manufactory production with machine production during the industrial revolution of the XVIII-XIX centuries. Production requirements for increasing the mobility of workers are increasing as the pace of renewal of products, equipment and technological processes accelerates.

The development of large-scale industry, which is based on a system of machines and the application of scientific achievements in production, dramatically reduces the time; separating discoveries and inventions from their practical use. For example, 102 years passed between the discovery of the principle of photography and the beginning of its use (1727-1829), the telephone – 56 years (1820-1876), for television this period was reduced to 14 years (1922-1936), for the transistor – up to 5 years (1948-1953), for laser – up to 5 years (1956-1961). In the United States, from 1956 to 1966 (during the NTR period), 1/3 of the companies updated half of the products produced. During the period from 1953 to 1963, the output of the manufacturing industry was renewed by 25%. The products of the chemical industry are almost completely renewed every 15 years. Technical innovations replace each other so quickly that the equipment sometimes becomes obsolete, not having time to get off the drawing board.

Thus, the change of labor under the conditions of capitalist production becomes an objective necessity precisely because of the revolutionary nature of its technical basis. This revolution replaced the conservative material and technical foundations of precapitalist production, when the productive forces developed so much that the possibilities of a temporary decline in labor productivity associated with the assimilation of innovations no longer threatened the existence of society. The industrial (and then scientific and technological) revolution, having ensured a sharp increase in labor productivity and creating a world market with competition, made revolutionary changes in the material and technical basis an indispensable condition for social reproduction.

Upheavals in the technical basis of production cause a need for a change in labor for the following reasons. First, by radically changing the technique, technology and organization of production in a particular industry, they lead to the disappearance of some professions and the emergence of new ones associated with the use of higher-level equipment. Secondly, by creating more progressive branches of production, revolutions in the technical basis dramatically change the proportions in the balance of the labor force. The curtailment of industries leaving the historical arena makes hundreds of professions unnecessary, and the development of new industries requires people of new professions.

If at the first stages of the development of large-scale industry during the labor activity of one generation, changes in the professional structure were little tangible to see the tendency to change labor, then at the present stage during the life of one generation there is a need to change professions two or three or more times. From the old profession, only the name is often preserved, leading its origin from the subject of labor and not expressing the new content of labor functions. For example, by the late 1980s, 75% of the staff of American industry was engaged in the production of goods that were not yet on the market in the late 70s. This means that more or less major changes in the content of labor for only one decade affected the vast majority of US industrial personnel.

The nature of large-scale industry constantly revolutionizes the division of labor within society and continuously throws masses of capital and masses of workers from one branch of production to another. Therefore, the nature of large-scale industry determines the change of labor, the movement of functions, and the comprehensive mobility of the worker. On the other hand, at a certain level of economic development, it reproduces the old division of labor with its relatively established professions. This contradiction constantly arises and is resolved in the course of scientific and technological progress and reflects the essence of the relationship between the laws of division and change of labor. The revolutionization of the division of labor entails radical changes in its content, and the latter creates new prerequisites for further changes in the division of labor.

If under capitalism “the change of labor … paves its way only as an irresistible natural law and with the blind destructive force of natural law, which everywhere encounters obstacles, then, on the other hand, large industry itself, by its catastrophes, makes the recognition of the change of labor, and therefore of the greater multilaterality of workers as possible, a universal law of social production…” (Marx K., Engels F. Soc. 2nd ed. Vol. 23. pp. 498 – 499).

The accelerating mobility of labor functions is an indispensable requirement of the law of change of labor. Rapidly changing production leads to the fact that the era of specialists of a narrow profile is approaching the sunset, the worker must become universal … The requirement of the present time is flexibility, versatility, adaptability. The content of the law of change of labor expresses objective, essential, continuously strengthening and expanding connections between revolutionary changes in the technical basis of production, on the one hand, and the functions of workers and social combinations of the labor process, on the other. K. Marx characterized the change of labor as the “all-round mobility of the worker” and as the absolute suitability of man for the changing needs of labor.

At one time, V. Y. Elmeev, V. R. Polozov, B. R. Ryashchenko characterized the content of the law of change of labor as follows: “The law of change of labor causes the mobility of the functions of the worker, the need to change the types of activity and the alternation of various occupations … requires a combination of a variety of activities and functions… Under the conditions of the law of change of labor, there is a constant change of working personnel, social combinations of the production process… The law of change of labor gives rise to a new type of total working personnel, each member of which performs a number of functions peculiar to this collective. The change of labor involves the polytechnicization of the production culture, the maximum expansion of the profile of the employee. The consequence of the change of labor is the comprehensive development of the employee’s personality, the identification and development of his various abilities and talents” (Elmeev V.Ya., Polozov V.R., Ryashchenko B.R. NTR and the Law of Labor Change. L., 1965. pp. 52 – 53).

In this detailed description of the operation of the law of change of labor, objections are raised by the statements that the law of change of labor requires the alternation of various occupations, that each member of the collective must perform a number of functions peculiar to this collective, as well as the characteristic of the comprehensive development of the individual as a consequence of the change of labor. First, the alternation of functions is not necessary, since the law can also manifest itself in the transition from one type of activity to another; the law requires the ability to make such a transition. Secondly, each member of the team should be able to carry out not an arbitrary set of functions, but (after appropriate training, improvement of knowledge and experience) be able to raise their professionalism to the level of modern production requirements. Thirdly, arguments about the comprehensive development of the individual are the illusions of the ideologists of the socialist system. In the context of the requirements of the law of change of labor, we can talk about the universality of the labor force, its flexibility, versatility, adaptability as a condition for its ability to change work.

A detailed description of the objective foundations and content of the change of labor is given by D. P. Kaidalov (Kaidalov D. P. The Law of Labor Change and the Comprehensive Development of the Personality. M., 1978. pp. 74 – 75). He believes:

1. The technical improvement of social production, the development of integrated mechanization and automation of production processes leads to the concentration of various operations in single technological complexes, constantly bringing to life more and more new labor processes and requiring the worker to be able to perform them.

2. The concentration of various production functions in single technological complexes, automatic production lines leads to the combination of various specialties by the same workers, to the expansion of their production and technical profile.

3. The combination of various specialties by one person, the performance of various types of work by him is possible only by alternating them, by changing various types of labor previously performed by separate groups of people.

4. The change of different types of work in the activities of each person and each group leads to the consolidation of the functions of workers and the “expansion of their working space”.

5. The expansion of the complex of combined specialties, types of work performed expands the boundaries of human labor activity and thereby creates conditions for the application of his abilities to change labor.

The main requirement of the law of change of labor in its ideal expression is to replace the part-time worker with an individual who has absolute suitability for changing labor needs. Full implementation of this requirement is unattainable, but almost all civilized, industrialized countries are on the path of its implementation, with greater or lesser success. This requirement is achieved to one degree or another by a significant increase in general and special secondary and higher education, as well as numerous and diverse forms of vocational training and retraining and advanced training.

The change of labor can be carried out in time, in space, as well as in time and space at the same time. When considering the change of labor over time, it is necessary to distinguish between a complete switch from one type of work to another, carried out in large intervals of time, and the alternation of various activities. The change of labor in space is associated with the management of complexes of automatic systems, including various types of work. In domestic production, the law of change of labor has three main forms of manifestation: the change of labor within the boundaries of this profession; transition from one type of work to another; combination of the main work with various activities on a voluntary basis. As science becomes a direct productive force, production requires more and more educated and well-rounded workers. The degree of skill of the available population becomes a prerequisite for efficient production, and consequently, the main condition for the accumulation of wealth, the key to preserving the achievements of previous labor in living labor. Following the principles of the formation of the labor market, general education as such is increasingly becoming the basis of vocational training and it is the knowledge of the basics of science that gives the employee flexibility, adaptability, the ability to get a new specialty, if it is required by a change in working conditions.

The application of science to production entails fundamental changes not only in the functions of workers, but also in the social combinations of the labor process, as a result of which the division of labor in society is constantly revolutionized. In recent decades, the structure of employment in the labour markets of most industrialized countries has changed dramatically. The nature of demand in the labor market is also changing. The significant growth of the service sector (which includes more than 60% of the total labor force in the European, Asian and American labor markets) causes changes in the very nature of labor, adapting it to the diverse needs of consumers, generates fluctuations in the demand for labor. This process can be characterized by a magic word in the modern managerial idiom – flexibilization (increasing flexibility in the use of labor). It means the ability of an organization to quickly and continuously adapt its production to the demand for goods and services of the market, taking into account their quality and quantity, and at the same time develop strategies for replacing or retaining labor for its needs.

Industrialized countries with high levels of wealth have approximately the same level and structure of employment of labor in labor markets. A comparison of their indicators with the corresponding indicators of the Republic of Belarus, which refers to post-socialist states with an average national income and an average standard of living, allows us to draw some conclusions. The main thing that is characteristic of the entire group of states of post-socialist development is the inversely proportional (in comparison with Western economies) ratio of the primary (industry), secondary (agriculture) and tertiary (service) sectors of the economy. If in Western labor markets this ratio is on average 30 : 10 : 60, then in the domestic economy – 60 : 10 : 30. The underdevelopment of the service sector — a legacy of the totalitarian economy — extremely constrains the economic development of post-socialist states and gives rise to significant problems in expanding the functions of the law of change of labor.