In Forces of Production, David Noble examines the transformation of the machine-tool industry as the industry moved from reliance on skilled artisans to automation. Noble writes from a Marxist perspective, and his central argument is that management, in its decisions to automate, conspired against labor: the power that the skilled machinists wielded in the industry was intolerable to management. Noble fails to substantiate this claim, although his argument is impressive when he applies the Marxist concept of “de-skilling”—the use of technology to replace skilled labor—to the automation of the machine-tool industry. In automating, the industry moved to computer-based, digitized “numerical-control” (N/C) technology, rather than to artisan-generated “record-playback” (R/P) technology.
Although both systems reduced reliance on skilled labor, Noble clearly prefers R/P, with its inherent acknowledgment of workers’ skills: unlike N/C, its programs were produced not by engineers at their computers, but by skilled machinists, who recorded their own movements to “teach” machines to duplicate those movements. However, Noble’s only evidence of conspiracy is that, although the two approaches were roughly equal in technical merit, management chose N/C. From this he concludes that automation is undertaken not because efficiency demands it or scientific advances allow it, but because it is a tool in the ceaseless war of capitalists against labor.
1. The author of the passage is primarily concerned with
(A) reexamining a political position and defending its validity
(B) examining a management decision and defending its necessity
(C) analyzing a scholarly study and pointing out a central weakness
(D) explaining a trend in automation and warning about its dangers
(E) chronicling the history of an industry and criticizing its development
2. According to information in the passage, the term “de-skilling” refers to the
(A) loss of skills to industry when skilled workers are replaced by unskilled laborers
(B) substitution of mechanized processes for labor formerly performed by skilled workers
(C) labor theory that automation is technologically comparable to skilled labor
(D) process by which skilled machinists “teach” machines to perform certain tasks
(E) exclusion of skilled workers from participation in the development of automated technology
3. Which of the following best characterizes the function of the second paragraph of the passage?
(A) It develops a topic introduced in the first paragraph.
(B) It provides evidence to refute a claim presented in the first paragraph.
(C) It gives examples of a phenomenon mentioned in the first paragraph.
(D) It presents a generalization about examples given in the first paragraph.
(E) It suggests two possible solutions to a problem presented in the first paragraph.
4. The passage suggests which of the following about N/C automation in the machine-tool industry?
(A) It displaced fewer skilled workers than R/P automation did.
(B) It could have been implemented either by experienced machinists or by computer engineers.
(C) It was designed without the active involvement skilled machinists.
(D) It was more difficult to design than R/P automation was.
(E) It was technically superior to R/P automation.
5. Which of the following phrases most clearly reveals the attitude of the author of the passage toward Noble’s central argument?
(A) “conspired against” (line 6)
(B) “intolerable to management” (line 7)
(C) “impressive when he applies the Marxist concept” (line 9)
(D) “clearly prefers” (line 16)
(E) “only evidence of conspiracy” (line 21)
6. The author of the passage commends Noble’s book for which of the following?
(A) Concentrating on skilled as opposed to unskilled workers in its discussion of the machine-tool industry
(B) Offering a generalization about the motives behind the machine-tool industry’s decision to automate
(C) Making an essential distinction between two kinds of technology employed in the machine-tool industry
(D) Calling into question the notion that managers conspired against labor in the automation of the machine-tool industry
(E) Applying the concept of de-skilling to the machine tool industry
7. Which of the following best characterizes Forces of Production as it is described in the passage?
(A) A comparison of two interpretations of how a particular industry evolved
(B) An examination of the origin of a particular concept in industrial economics
(C) A study that points out the weakness of a particular interpretation of an industrial phenomenon
(D) A history of a particular industry from an ideological point of view
(E) An attempt to relate an industrial phenomenon in one industry to a similar phenomenon in another industry