Skip to main content


de-skilling A term which summarizes the central ideas of Harry Braverman's Labour and Monopoly Capital: The Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century (1974). His thesis was that capitalist forms of production reduce the cost of labour by breaking down complex work processes into smaller, simpler, and unskilled tasks. This continuous fragmentation process replaces the skilled craft worker by unskilled labour requiring little training, so that jobs in the secondary sector of the labour-market are substituted for jobs in the primary sector. In consequence, wages and employment conditions are pushed down to the lower levels typical of the secondary sector; unemployment and insecure employment become widespread; and people in the de-skilled jobs become alienated from their work.

The thesis has attracted a lot of interest among academic social scientists, especially in Britain, and it has provided the framework for case-study research on work organization and change within workplaces, particularly in the declining manufacturing sector (see P. Thompson , The Nature of Work: An Introduction to Debates on the Labour Process, 1983
, for an overview). Studies based on nationally representative statistics on the workforce tend not to substantiate Braverman's conclusion about the direction of change in the occupational structure and the consequences of a shift away from manufacturing to service-sector industries: while certain skilled occupations are disappearing, others experience skills upgrading, and newer occupations, such as computer programming and systems analysis, expand rapidly. See also DEGRADATION OF WORK THESIS; INDUSTRIAL SECTOR; LABOUR PROCESS; PROLETARIANIZATION; SCIENTIFIC MANAGEMENT; SKILL.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"de-skilling." A Dictionary of Sociology. . 21 Mar. 2019 <>.

"de-skilling." A Dictionary of Sociology. . (March 21, 2019).

"de-skilling." A Dictionary of Sociology. . Retrieved March 21, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.