Automation and Alienation
A Study of Office and Factory Workers
This study explores the following question: Does a worker's relationship to technology and degree of job specialization influence in a predictable way his integration into or alienation from work? The book shows that the degree of differentiation in the division of labor is related to technology in a similar manner in both the office and factory and that automated technology reduces the levels of alienation among both office employees and factory workers.
The author samples three man-machine relationships in the office and factory: (1) workers in nonmechanized production systems; (2) machine operators in mechanized production systems; and (3) operators or monitors in automated production systems. In addition to separate chapters on office and factory workers, one chapter compares degrees and types of alienation among office employees as compared with factory workers.
This book is one of the last in a series or research studies on the impact of computers completed by the Industrial Relations Section of the Alfred P. Sloan School of Management at MIT. In a foreword to the book, Charles A. Myers, Sloan Fellow and Professor of Management, notes that “This important study puts to rest extreme fears about the alienation of workers as a consequence of automation. Professor Shepard's study provides new insights about the impact of advanced mechanization and automation in offices, which computers and allied information technology are invading at a rapid rate.... As a sociologist among economists, [he] has brought fresh perspective to this series or research reports.”