Section – IV : English Language
Read the following passage carefully and answer the questions given below it. Certain words/phrases have been given in bold to help you locate them while answering some of the questions.
If there’s one thing practically all futurologists once agreed on, it’s that in the 21st century there would be a lot less work. What would they have thought, if they had known that in 2012, the 9-5 working day had in the UK become something more like 7am to 7pm? They would surely have looked around and seen technology take over in many professions which previously needed heavy manpower, they would have looked at the increase in automation and mass production, and wondered – why are they spending 12 hours a day on menial tasks?
It’s a question which isn’t adequately answered either by the right or by the official left. Conservatives have always loved to pontificate about the moral virtue of hard work and much of the left, focusing on the terrible effects of mass unemployment, understandably gives “more jobs” as its main solution to the crisis. Previous generations would have found this hopelessly disappointing.
In almost all cases, utopians, socialists and other futurologists believed that work would come near to being abolished for one reason above all – we could let the machines do it. Oscar Wilde, in his 1891 essay “The Soul of Man Under Socialism”, scorns the “nonsense that is written and talked today about the dignity of manual labor”, and insists “man is made for something better than distributing dirt. All work of that kind should be done by a machine”. He makes quite clear what he means: “Machinery must work for us in coal mines, and do all sanitary services, and be the stoker of steamers, and clean the streets, and run messages on wet days, and do anything that is tedious or distressing”.
Wilde would have been horrified if he’d realized that only 20 years later manual work itself would become an ideology in itself with Labor and Communist parties dedicating themselves to its glorification rather than abolition.
Here too, though, the idea was that this would eventually be superseded. After the Russian revolution, one of the great advocates of the cult of work was Aleksei Gastev, a former metalworker and trade union leader who became a poet, publishing anthologies with titles like “Poetry of the Factory Floor”. He became the USSR’s leading enthusiast for Taylorism, the American management technique usually criticized by the left for reducing the worker to a mere cog in a machine. When asked about this in 1926 by the German leftist Ernst Toller, Gastev replied: “We hope by our discoveries to arrive at a stage when a worker who formerly worked eight hours on a particular job will only have to work two or three”.
American industrial theorists, strangely enough, seemed to share the socialists’ view. The designer, engineer and polymath Buckminster Fuller declared that the “industrial equation”, i.e. the fact technology enables mankind to do “more with less”, would soon eliminate the very notion of labor altogether. In 1963, he wrote: “Within a century, the word ‘worker’ will have no current meaning. It will be something you will have to look up in an early 20th-century dictionary”. If that became true over the past 10 years, it was only in the “we are all middle class now” sense of New Labor – not in the sense of actually eliminating menial work, or the divide between workers and owners. Yet the utopian vision of the elimination of industrial labor has in many ways come to pass. Over the past decade Sheffield steelworks produced more steel than ever before, with a tiny fraction of their former workforce; and the container ports of Avonmouth, Tilbury and Southampton got rid of most of the dockers, but not the tonnage.
The result was not that dockers or steelworkers were free to, as Marx once put it, “hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon and criticize after dinner”. Instead, they were subjected to shame, poverty, and the endless worry over finding another job, which, if it arrived, might be insecure, poorly paid, ununionized work in the service industry. In the current era of casualisation, that’s practically the norm, so the idea of skilled, secure labor and pride in work doesn’t seem quite so awful. Nonetheless, the workers’ movement was once dedicated to the eventual abolition of menial, tedious, grinding work. We have the machines to make that a reality today – but none of the will.
1. According to the passage, what led social thinkers/futurologists in the 19th and 20th centuries to believe that ‘in the 21st century there would be a lot less work’?
- They believed that man was not meant for doing menial work and should devote himself to a higher objective.
- They knew that in the 21st century the term work would cease to have any meaning since everyone would be a part of the middle class.
- They knew that improved technology would lead to greater mechanization of tasks thus reducing the need for man to engage in menial tasks.
- They believed that all talk of the dignity of manual labor was nonsense and people would eventually refuse to perform manual labor.
- Both (1) and (4)
2. The word ‘pontificate’, as used in the passage, means:
- To address forcefully
- To debate openly
- To be progressive
- To enforce violently
- To speak dogmatically
3. What is the ‘utopian vision’ that the author talks about in the passage?
- A society where all work has been abolished and people are free to do as they please.
- A society where people have been freed from hard industrial labor due to increased automation of work processes
- A society where workers have shifted from hard industrial labor to the service industry.
- A society where people have been freed from menial work due to increased automation of work processes.
- Where people get what they want regardless of amount of work done.
4. . What can be inferred from ‘the era of casualisation’ mentioned in the passage?
- The age of casual, non-permanent employment accompanied by poverty.
- The age of casual work with greater freedom to pursue various hobbies and pastimes.
- The age of casual workplaces and greater freedom for workers to shift from industrial to non-industrial work.
- The age of a utopian society of men freed from the need to work.
- The age of casual employment accompanied by wealth.
5. Which of the following is the author most likely to agree with?
I. Futurists in the 20th century did not take into account other factors, apart from technological advancement, when concluding that in the 21st century there would be a lot less work.
II. The outlook of the workforce is slowly changing from the ‘abolition of labor’ to recognizing the ‘dignity of labor.’
III. In today’s age of increased technology and mechanization the viewpoint of the Conservatives about the value of hard work is hopelessly disappointing.
IV. Marx was mistaken when he said that increased mechanization would leave workers free to ‘hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon and criticize after dinner’.
- I, III and IV
- Only II
- I and II
- II and III
- All of the above
6. What is the author trying to convey by quoting Oscar Wilde in the passage?
I. Man should create greater leisure for himself by judiciously employing machines to perform tiresome tasks.
II. Doing manual labor is against the basic dignity of man.
III. The idea of dignity of manual labor is frivolous.
IV. Machines should be used to perform all tasks on behalf of man.
- II and IV
- III and IV
- II and III
- I, II and III
- Only I
7. ‘We have the machines to make that a reality – but none of the will.’ What can be inferred to be the reason(s) for the lack of this will?
I. The political ideologies that believe in the moral virtue of hard work
II. Business pressures that do not allow for the replacement of men with machines
III. The faulty belief of the futurologists that machines would eliminate the need for man to work
IV. The reality of poverty and shame faced by industrial workers when machines replaced their work
- I and IV
- II and III
- I, II and IV
- I, III and IV
- Only III
8. What does the phrase ‘cog in the machine’, as used in the passage, imply?
- A part of the production set up essential for the production system to work efficiently
- A hindrance to the efficient use of machines
- Operator of factory machines and equipment
- A significant part of the system
- An insignificant part of the system with no freedom or separate identity
9. Which of the following most weakens the author’s assertion that ‘the utopian vision of the elimination of industrial labor has in many ways come to pass’?
- Heavy industries have been able to maintain production levels while reducing the strength of their workforce.
- Most industrial workers have taken up employment in the service industry.
- Automation of work processes has led to unemployment and poverty for industrial workers.
- The concept of work has been abolished in the past decade and ‘we are all middle class now.’
- Both (1) and (2)
10. According to the author, what is the main reason that increased automation has not resulted in lesser hours of work in the 21st century?
- Lack of political and social drive to replace manpower by machines
- Socialist concern for the welfare of employees displaced by increased automation of their work
- Political ideologies that value the moral virtue of work over the efficiency of machine
- The inability of machines to substitute the intelligence of man in the performance of tasks
- Lack of resources
1. 3 Refer to the lines, “They would surely have looked around…seen technology take over…and wondered…” These lines suggest that it was due to increased use of technology that the futurologists had started to believe that there would be less work. Options (1) and (4) are not the views of the futurologists but of Oscar W ilde. Similarly, option (2) is the view of Buckminster Fuller.
2. 5 ‘Pontificate’ means to speak in a pompous or dogmatic manner.
3. 2 The third paragraph of the passage states what the utopian vision is. It says that work would come near to being abolished because the machines would take over the difficult and distressing tasks. Option (4) is incorrect since it talks about unskilled tasks only.
4. 1 While talking of the “era of casualization”, the author refers to the prevailing situation of insecure, poorly paid and un-unionized work in the service industry. It implies a situation where workers are forced to take up temporary work with no guarantees of long term employment benefits.
5. 3 The futurologists in the 20th century assumed that ‘in the 21st century there would be a lot less work’ because they believed that ‘work would come near to being abolished for one reason above all – we would let machines do it.’ They did not take into account socio political factors such as the emergence of ideologies like Communism and the Labor Movement that glorified labor. Thus, I follows. II states that the outlook of the workforce has changed from abolition of labor to recognizing the dignity of labor. This can be inferred from the last paragraph where the author has mentioned that the “idea of skilled, secure labor and pride in work doesn’t seem quite so awful” now that the utopian vision of abolition of labor has not led to greater leisure but to “shame, poverty and endless worry”. To avoid being subjected to poverty, shame etc., the workers have started believing in the dignity of labor. Thus II also follows. III states what the author feels would have been the reaction of previous generations when they saw the work situation in the 21st century and does not state his feelings on the situation. IV merely quotes the passage about Marx saying that workers would be free to ‘hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon and criticize after dinner.’ However, we do not know whether this statement was made in context to workers having greater free time as a result of increased use of machine to do their menial tasks.
6. 4 I, II and III conform to Wilde’s outlook as quoted in the passage. IV says that machines should be employed to perform all tasks on behalf of man. However, Wilde has confined his statement to saying that machines should replace man only in performing ‘anything that is tedious or distressing.’ Therefore, IV is incorrect.
7. 1 II talks about business pressures, which have not been referred to by the author in the passage. III talks about the futurologists and what they believed regarding work in the 21st century. These are unrelated to the desire or the will referred to in the question. I refers to the political ideologies such as those of the conservatives who value the moral virtue of hard work. IV mentions the harsh reality of those workers who have lost their jobs due to increased mechanization and their plight may dissuade others from seeking a similar release from work through the use of machines. Thus, option (1), both I and IV, is the correct answer.
8. 5 ‘Cog in a machine’ means ‘one part of a large system or organization.’ The use of the word ‘mere’ preceding the phrase in the passage indicates the relative insignificance of the workers in the work setup.
9. 3 The utopian vision was that freedom from hard industrial labor would liberate workers from the drudgery of daily toil and free them to pursue a variety of other activities. Options (1) and (4) are unrelated to the statement while option (2) actually strengthens the assertion. Option (3), however, talks about how workers displaced by the use of machines have been forced into a condition of poverty and unemployment rather than being liberated from the need to work.
10. 1 Option (1) sums up all the reasons that have led to increased automation not resulting in less work. The author mentions conflicts in political ideologies with conservatives rooting for the moral virtue of hard work and the left citing unemployment as an important issue for not abolishing hard work. He also talks of a number of problems like insecurity of job and poverty that affect the drive for mechanization and abolition of work. Thus, option (1) encompasses both the above mentioned reasons and hence is the correct answer. The author doesn’t talk about “socialist concern” or the inability of machines to substitute man’s intelligence. So, option (2) and (4) are out of scope of the passage. Option (3) is incomplete as it just talks about the political ideology.