Geiger, T.J. (1929), Zur Soziologie der Industriearbeit und des Betriebs, in: Zeitschrift für Gewerkschaftspolitik und Wirtschaftskunde, Issue 11, Berlin: Theodor Leipart.
Summary - In "Zur Soziologie der Industriearbeit und des Betriebs," Theodor Geiger examines the impact of the capitalist economic system on businesses and industrial work. He discusses the ways in which businesses are shaped by the larger system and the power dynamics within them, and the challenges faced by individuals who oppose capitalism but are forced to work within it. Geiger also explores the concept of "berufsethos," or an individual's sense of purpose and fulfillment in their work, and the role of community and social connections in shaping it. He argues that efforts to improve working conditions and increase job satisfaction through technical means are ultimately limited without a fundamental change in the societal system. Geiger ultimately advocates for a more equitable economic system, such as socialism, to address these issues.
Theodor Geiger writes about the sociology of industrial work and businesses. He discusses the concept of a business or "Betrieb" in the context of the economy. Geiger argues that a business is not a neutral entity but is shaped by the larger economic system in which it operates. He also notes that the structure of a business is influenced by the relationships between individuals within it, including the hierarchy of positions. Geiger suggests that understanding these dynamics is important for studying the sociology of industrial work and businesses.
Geiger discusses the conflict that can arise for individuals who are opposed to capitalism within a capitalist society. These individuals may be forced to work within the system and support those who represent it in order to survive economically. This can be particularly challenging for industrial workers, whose work is directly influenced by the economic system. Geiger notes that many industrial workers, regardless of their political affiliations, are anti-capitalist. He argues that the current (1920s) society does not have a well-functioning economic system that serves the needs of all members and that ethical considerations and demands for social justice should not be ignored in favor of maintaining the status quo. Instead, he suggests that a more equitable economic system, such as socialism, should be pursued.
Geiger discusses two approaches to restoring a sense of professional ethics in the face of the "dissolving factors" of capitalist society.
1. A combination of education and practical training that aims to teach individuals about the demands of the economy and help them find satisfaction and potential for advancement within the system. This approach is motivated either by religious or Enlightenment ideals, and may also involve efforts to make work more appealing by increasing the worker's technical skills and understanding of the production process.
2. Instead of the increasing rationalization of production, the value of craftsmanship and the importance of the worker's relationship to the object being produced is emphasized. There is a return to more traditional methods of production. This approach is influenced by romantic and anti-technological ideals. However, even within this perspective, the economy is seen as a collective system of creation and the individual business is viewed as a specific arena of economic activity.
Anti-capitalists living in capitalist societies face difficulties;particularly industrial workers whose livelihoods are directly affected by the capitalist system. The conflict between an individual's personal beliefs and their economic necessities can be tragic for the anti-capitalist psyche, and the majority of industrial workers, even those who are not politically organized, are anti-capitalist. The idea of a "duty to sociality," in which individuals are encouraged to contribute to the maintenance and provision of goods for society regardless of their beliefs about the societal system, can be upheld in two ways, as mentioned above: through a focus on economic education and practical training that aims to increase job satisfaction, or through a romanticization of pre-industrial production methods and a rejection of technological progress. This "duty" however cannot be fully realized until the societal system itself is changed, and efforts to educate and influence the individual will ultimately be limited by their own fundamental opposition to the existing system.
Geiger discusses the importance of community and social connections in shaping an individual's sense of purpose and fulfillment in their work, or their "berufsethos." He argues that attempts to improve working conditions and increase job satisfaction through technical or practical means, such as better working conditions or job training, are ultimately limited in their effectiveness. Instead, the key to fostering a strong sense of purpose and fulfillment in work lies in ensuring that individuals feel connected to and valued within their community and society. Geiger also critiques the capitalist system for promoting individual gain over the common good and for perpetuating social inequality, which undermines the sense of community and purpose that is essential for a healthy "berufsethos."
Geiger argues that the liberal belief in a natural harmony of interests between individuals acting in their own self-interest (see Adam Smith) is a flawed justification for the capitalist system. Instead, he asserts that economic activity is based on social cooperation, but under capitalism, the means of production are controlled by a small group of people who dictate what goods are produced, how they are produced, and how they are distributed and used. This, Geiger argues, means that there is not true cooperation in the capitalist system, as the majority of people are merely tools in the production process, lacking agency and a sense of belonging in society. Geiger also asserts that the economic system cannot be considered separately from the larger social system in which it operates, as the organization of society determines the types of goods that are produced and the needs they are intended to meet. Geiger also asserts that the dehumanization and meaninglessness often associated with industrial work under capitalism is not solely due to the mechanical nature of the work, but rather the lack of a sense of community and belonging among the workers.
Finally, Geiger describes the different perspectives of the owners (or shareholders) and the management, as well as the technical and non-technical staff within the organization. There is a tension between the profit-driven perspective of the owners and the goal of meeting societal needs through production.