Social Scientist. v 8, no. 86 (Sept 1979) p. 66.

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Factory Workers


THEIR LIFE AND THEIR WORLD, Allied Publishers Private Limited, New Delhi, 1978, pp 158, Rs 25.

ONE distinctive characteristic of many of the sociological studies in the last few decades is that they tend to treat problems in isolation, as if different phenomena—student unrest, status of womem slums, unemployment and so on—are not inter-connected. Mark Holmstrom's book South Indian Factory Workers also belongs to the genre.

The book is a study of workers in four factories in Banga-lore. This case study of 104 workers has been supplemented with material from files kept by the managements as well as interviews with managers and union officials.

The author essentially tries to answer three questions: who the workers are, how they understand their own situation, and what their idea of a "job" and ofj a "career" is. With regard to the first question, the author seems to have understood little of the Indian economy when he concludes that very few of the workers are from the poorest groups. He is also blind to the fact that the workers are becoming increasingly conscious of their position in the productive process and are struggling against their dehuma-nization, when he tries to paint the picture of a passsive and submissive work force. He asserts that the emergent attitude among them is one that is "idealistic, reforming, moderately equalitarian, . . . putting a high value on hard work, consistency, and sincerity and purity of intention" (p 121). The answer to the second question is that the workers see their work as a citadel of security and relative prosperity, offering regular work and predictable rewards. Here again, all the contradictions in a capitalistic labour market

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