Re: [xmca] Material cognition

From: Martin Packer <packer who-is-at>
Date: Tue Oct 30 2007 - 09:16:09 PDT


The workers on an assembly-line come to see themselves as cogs in the wheel,
in a system that is natural and inevitable.


On 10/30/07 11:50 AM, "Worthen, Helena Harlow" <> wrote:

> Martin, could you give a concrete example of how "participation in the
> practices of modern society leads to MISunderstanding how that society works
> (false consciousness, alienation, etc.)?
> I don't disagree but I don't want to respond unless I think I know better what
> you're talking about.
> Helena
> Helena Worthen, Clinical Associate Professor
> Labor Education Program, Institute of Labor & Industrial Relations
> University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
> 504 E. Armory, Room 227
> Champaign, IL 61821
> Phone: 217-244-4095
> -----Original Message-----
> From: [] On
> Behalf Of Martin Packer
> Sent: Tuesday, October 30, 2007 10:01 AM
> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> Subject: Re: [xmca] Material cognition
> Once again a thread on XMCA has intersected with something I'm currently
> working on. I'm feeling stupid, so let me just throw out a question, perhaps
> provocative, perhaps dumb. How do we reconcile the fact that tacit knowledge
> is undoubtedly important but neglected by much mainstream research (and
> devalued in society) with the suggestion that participation in the practices
> of modern society leads to MISunderstanding how that society works (false
> consciousness, alienation, etc.)?
> Martin
>> All of these hover around my central interest, which is the often unspoken
>> (sometimes called "tacit") knowledge that people working develop and share
>> about how to get the work done. For example: a class which we have been
>> asked to teach in November will take place at a plant where the workers are
>> represented by the grainmillers' union. This is an old plant. Under the
>> original management, the workers essentially ran the plant -- they had the
>> knowledge and the means to run the plant efficiently and safely. Then the
>> plant was sold and new management came in. This new management took an
>> adversarial position against the union and attempted to take over control of
>> the work without fully understanding how it was done (without exploring the
>> social practices related to the working knowledge of the plant?). A bitter,
>> non-productive culture developed. Now another new management has taken over,
>> and this new management has gone to the union and together they have
>> approached us to teach a class to the supervisors that is essentially about
>> getting them to respect the working material knowledge that the workers have
>> developed. "Leave us alone and we'll run the plant better than you can ever
>> do it," the union is saying.
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Received on Tue Oct 30 09:22 PDT 2007

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