Specialization, Context of Production, and Alienation in the Production Process: Comments and Afterthoughts



The study of craft specialization has gone through several stages since the pioneering work of Childe, each with changing foci and emphases. The current volume marks yet another development in the field that demonstrates both discontents with existing theories and efforts to enhance and strengthen the discourse. Acting as a commentator to facilitate further discussion, the first half of my chapter addresses specific issues in individual chapters, while the second half explores another dimension of production by looking at bronze and pottery production in ancient and premodern China. Whereas some contributors examine alienability in the social role of the objects and the rights over alienation of the product, this discussion examines another form of alienation that can be considered in the study of craft production, one that is both salient and tangible in archaeological data: alienation of the manufacturing process, that is, alienation of the craft producers from their own skills. The work of Ursula Franklin on Shang bronze production is reviewed, and new studies on porcelain production at Jingdezhen and stoneware production at Yixing are incorporated to further develop Franklin's model. I argue that through examining the material patterns of the production process and the type range of finished products, alienation in the workplace can be detected archaeologically.