Sociology Index


Deskilling is the process by which division of labor and technological development has led to the reduction of the scope of an individual's work to one, or a few, specialized tasks. In deskilling, work is fragmented, and individuals lose the integrated skills and comprehensive knowledge of the craftspersons. There is a view that capitalism leads to degrading and deskilling of work creating in the process an unskilled proletariat.

The Deskilling Controversy
The thesis that capitalism continues to degrade and deskill work in the twentieth century, creating an ever more unskilled proletariat, has been forcefully argued by Harry Braverman and his colleagues.

This article presents a series of theoretical, empirical, and methodological criticisms of the deskilling position, drawing upon a diverse literature, and upon original research.

Particular attention is given to the application of the deskilling thesis to contemporary trends in the computerization of clerical work, as a way of highlighting methodological weaknesses in the deskilling approach. - PAUL ATTEWELL, State University of New York.

The Deskilling Debate, New Technology and Work Organization - Stephen Wood, London School of Economics and Harvard Center for European Studies - Acta Sociologica, Vol. 30, No. 1, (1987)
This paper discusses some of the developing ideas within what the author charactenzes as its third wave. In particular it focuses on the question of alternatives to Taylorism and the concept of skill.

Deskilling: myth and reality - Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Management Development Review, Volume 10, Number 4, 1997
Abstract: The idea that companies should provide their employees with less training, not more, is about as fashionable as the beehive hairstyle. Explores the link between training and a quality culture.

The deskilling of social work: Turning the tide - Patrick Ayre, University of Luton
Leaning particularly on examples drawn from developments in recent years within the field of child protection, this paper seeks to engage practitioners, managers and educators in identifying the processes which have come to bear within their own fields of work. It will encourage the development of alternative responses to these processes which build the capabilities and confidence of social workers rather than undermining and deskilling them.

Deskilling and reskilling within the labour process: The case of computer integrated manufacturing - Andrew Agnewa, Paul Forresterb, John Hassardc and Stephen Procterd 
Abstract: The deskilling and reskilling controversy within the labour process debate is considered within the context of the implementation of Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM). Deskilling and reskilling issue is worthy of analysis within the CIM context and aspects of the labour process debate are examined.

Numerical Control Machining and the Issue of Deskilling - An Empirical View - Gilbert Zicklin, Work and Occupations, Vol. 14, No.3, (1987)
Empirical research and analytic thinking about the effects of numerical control (NC) machining on the skills of machinists present a mixed view of the issue. Some researchers and analysts report that the operation of NC equipment requires more overall skill than that of conventional machines, while others suggest that only the types of skills may be different. Still others claim that a radical deskilling of machinists has been taking place. Interviews with a small group of machinists experienced in both conventional and NC matching suggest that seven major factors affect whether the introduction of NC machining leads to a change in overall skill level or in the skill mix. The interview data do not support the deskilling hypothesis.

Patterns of Skill Change: Upskilling, Deskilling or the Polarization of Skills? 
Duncan Gallie, Nuffield College OXFORD, Work, Employment & Society, Vol. 5, No. 3, 319-351 (1991)
The debate about the long-term direction of skill trends has occupied a central place in economic sociology, but there has been a virtual absence of relevant representative data. Using a number of different indicators of skill, it examines whether changes in the occupational structure do reflect an expansion of higher skilled jobs. It then considers the extent to which people have experienced upskilling or deskilling within occupational classes. It concludes that, while there is little evidence of extensive deskilling, there has been a marked tendency towards the polarization of skills in the 1980s.

Social Class and the Changing Nature of Work: Testing Hypotheses of Deskilling and Convergence among Swedish Employees 
Jan O. Jonsson, Swedish Institute for Social Research, Stockholm University 
Work, Employment & Society, Vol. 12, No. 4, 603-633 (1998)
The changing nature of work is often supposed to be of consequence for interest formation and political alliances between social classes. Three hypotheses are tested: classes converge due to the deskilling of white-collar work or the upskilling of blue-collar work; lower white-collar workers essentially share the conditions of manual workers; the gender dimension cross-cuts the class dimension. There are signs of class convergence, e.g., in wages and authority, but sharp differences remain.

Toward a New Focus in the Study of Changing Skills - GERARD J. GRZYB 
Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, Vol. 19, No. 2, (1990)
Insufficient attention has been paid to the social dimensions of skill in the ongoing investigation of deskilling. This article seeks to stimulate critical analysis of the impact of skill changes on work-based social relationships among workers by presenting a case study of the effect of dieselization on locomotive engineers.

Gifted Education and the Deskilling of Classroom Teachers 
Mara Sapon-Shevin, University of North Dakota, Journal of Teacher Education, Vol. 41, No. 1, 39-48 (1990)
Teachers' satisfaction with the selection process, their interactions with parents about the gifted program, and the ways in which the gifted program affected their conceptions of giftedness and of their own classrooms were examined. The article explores the extent to which the labeling process required teachers to accept, interpret, and justify a largely externally made decision that affected teachers' classrooms. The article concludes with a discussion of the ways in which discrete gifted programs and teacher education programs that prepare gifted teachers may contribute to the deskilling of regular classroom teachers and a diminished sense of their ability and responsibility for meeting the educational needs of all children within heterogeneous classrooms.

NVQs: Training for Competence or a Process of Deskilling? - Marshall, K. S. 
Source: International Journal of Lifelong Education, v13 n1 p 43-49 Jan-Feb 1994 
Abstract: Compares the National Council for Vocational Qualifications model for assessing skilled performance with traditional British approaches. Concludes that the model is rigid and inflexible and can lead to deskilling.