Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Theory of the Lump of Labour: "not as simple as it has been supposed to be"

Eleventh Special Report of the Commissioner of Labour. Regulation and Restriction of Output, reviewed by David F. Schloss, The Economic Journal, Vol. 15, No. 60 (Dec., 1905), pp. 558-564.
In the concluding chapter it is stated, that "it will probably appear to one who has read the foregoing Report that a study of the question of restriction of output in Great Britain is not as simple as it has been supposed to be." This is a conclusion which the brief analysis of the Report contained in the preceding pages will, it is believed, explain and justify.  -- David F. Schloss
In his 1891 article, "Why Working Men Dislike Piece Work," David F. Schloss, reported a conversation with a laborer making washers on piece work. "I know I am doing wrong," Schloss quoted him. "I am taking away the work of another man. But I have permission from the Society." It was to those italicized passages that Schloss assigned the name, "the Theory of the Lump of Labour."
In accordance with this theory it is held that there is a certain fixed amount of work to be done, and that it is best in the interests of the workmen that each shall take care not to do too much work, in order that thus the Lump of Labour may be spread out thin over the whole body of work-people. As the result of this policy, it is believed that the supply of available labour being in this manner restricted, while the demand for this labour remains (as it is supposed) unchanged, the absorption into the ranks of the employed of those who are now out of work will follow as a necessary consequence. 

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