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June Nash

Committee Members

Edvard Hanson

Gaye Tuchman

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Using a framework drawn from recent social science discussions of the labor process and from the anthropological literature on culture as the generative basis through which people adapt to or transform their social circumstances, this dissertation analyses the changes occurring in the occupational subcultures and political organization of printers, journalists, and computer service workers in the New York City newspaper industry since the introduction of computerized typesetting in the mid-1970s. One consequence has been a restructured labor force, entailing a shift of skilled, traditionally male, manual craft jobs to, on the one hand, clerical "women's work," and, on the other, professional-technical jobs, filled by both sexes, with an accompanying shift from a "residual" cohesive occupational subculture to an "emergent" one based on attenuated relationships, and an individualistic ethic of "professionalism" replacing a collective identity expressed through trade unionism.

"Cold type" is the first major composing room innovation since the introduction of the linotype machine about a century ago. Although there has been considerable continuity from then until now in the issues of class and gender definition that animate the newspaper workplace–articulated in struggles between craft workers and their employers, and between "skilled" (male) and "unskilled" (female) workers–these changes in the underlying social relationships at work make their political resolution different this time around. In the new, depersonalized automated workplace, with its fragmented social ties, communal issues become particularly important, because they build on or sometimes create an ongoing interpersonal community, a necessary precondition for collective action, but one that is no longer a necessary condition of production. This finding is illustrated by the issues–affirmative action and video display terminal safety–that motivated newspaper activists during my field work, and by the feminist and health-and-safety networks which gave them support.


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