Taylor and Clockwork

Rich Gibson, San Diego State University

The project, built on the notion that all people enjoy an overarching commonality (particularly workers and bosses), is designed to strip the minds of the workers, to replace their knowledge of the work place, with the mind of the employer. The purpose is to boost production. The key fallacy of Taylorism is the identity of interests: Masters and Slaves. 

This can be achieved in several ways: to break down the necessary movement or thoughts on any job into specific pieces, time those particular sections of movement, discover ways to move more quickly, assign the new movements to particular workers, and replace those workers who might have a broad vision of the task with diminished workers who grasp only their small part.

At a given point, workers become such extensions of the machines that the workers virtually disappear.

Using the time clock to quantify the value of work, Taylor exacerbated the mental/manual division of labor. 

In some instances, higher wages were exchanged for meeting new production quotas, but control of the work place steadily moved to the employer. Harsh disciplinary measures are commonly delivered to those who cannot keep up. Firings, reprimands, suspensions, etc, were typical tools of Taylor's trade.

Note the role of Frank Gilbreth, later made famous by the movie Cheaper by the Dozen.

Taylor's most widely read book is Principles of Scientific Management. In most editions, page 124 has a discussion about schools. 

Taylor's work invariably calls into question several issues:

Do workers and their employers really have a common interest, or are their interests contradictory, ie, only opposition in common? Evidence? 

How is value created, and who exerts control over it, and how? In school? 

Taylor promised an industrial utopia, by eliminating work place freedom among other things. It appears that people are now as alienated (that is, they do not control the processes of production, nor the product, and the more they engage in this, the more they enrich their oppressors) from their work as ever. Why?

What is the role of Taylorism in schools? How might it appear, if at all? Is there a comparison between the split of mental and manual labor that Taylor accelerated, and the split of mind and body that is so typical of North American schooling (or the high/low order of thinking that typifies much of pop psychology)? 

What about resistance and change. Can highly technocratic societies give people meaningful jobs, or must they be just extensions of machines? Can freedoms like the Bill of Rights prevail in workplaces? What might be sources of resistance? How to overcome? 


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