by Frederick Winslow Taylor No one can be found who will deny that in the case of any single individual the greatest prosperity can exist only when that individual has reached his highest state of efficiency; that is, when he is turning out his largest daily output.
The truth of this fact is also perfectly clear in the case of two men working together. To illustrate: if you and your workman have become so skilful that you and he together are making two pairs of shoes in a day, while your competitor and his workman are making only one pair, it is clear that after selling your two pairs of shoes you can pay your workman much higher wages than your competitor who produces only one pair of shoes is able to pay his man, and that there will still be enough money left over for you to have a larger profit than your competitor.
In the case of a more complicated manufacturing establishment, it should also be perfectly clear that the greatest permanent prosperity for the workman, coupled with the greatest prosperity for the employer, can be brought about only when the work of the establishment is done with the smallest combined expenditure of human effort, plus nature’s resources, plus the cost for the use of capital in the shape of machines, buildings, etc. Or, to state the same thing in a different way: that the greatest prosperity can exist only as the result of the greatest possible productivity of the men and machines of the establishment that is, when each man and each machine are turning out the largest possible output; because unless your men and your machines are daily turning out more work than others around you, it is clear that competition will prevent your paying higher wages to your workmen than are paid to those of your competitor. And what is true as to the possibility of paying high wages in the case of two companies competing close beside one another is also true as to whole districts of the country and even as to nations which are in competition. In a word, that maximum prosperity can exist only as the result of maximum productivity . . .
If the above reasoning is correct, it follows that the most important object of both the workmen and the management should be the training and development of each individual in the establishment, so that he can do (at his fastest pace and with the maximum of efficiency) the highest class of work for which his natural abilities fit him.
These principles appear to be so self-evident that many men may think it almost childish to state them. Let us, however, turn to the facts, as they actually exist in this country and in England . . .
[The workman], instead of using every effort to turn out the largest possible amount of work, in a majority of the cases this man deliberately plans to do as little as he safely can—to turn out far less work than he is well able to do—in many instances to do not more than one-third to one-half of a proper day’s work. And in fact if he were to do his best to turn out his largest possible day’s work, he would be abused by his fellow-workers for so doing, even more than if he had proved himself a “quitter” in sport. Under working, that is, deliberately working slowly so as to avoid doing a full day’s work, “soldiering,” as it is called in this country, “hanging it out,” as it is called in England, “ca’ cannie,” as it is called in Scotland, is almost universal in industrial establishments, and prevails also to a large extent in the building trades; and the writer asserts without fear of contradiction that this constitutes the greatest evil with which the working-people of both England and America are now afflicted.
Excerpts from America Comes of Age (1927)
by André Siegfried, professor of economics,
Paris School of Social Sciences If the aim of society is to produce the greatest amount of comfort and luxury for the greatest number of people, then the United States of America is in a fair way to succeed. And yet a house, a bath, and a car for every workman—so much luxury within the reach of all—can only be obtained at a tragic price, no less than the transformation of millions of workmen into automatons. “Fordism,” which is the essence of American industry, results in the standardization of the workman himself. Artisanship, now out of date, has no place in the New World, but with it have disappeared certain conceptions of mankind which we in Europe consider the very basis of civilization. To express his own personality through his creative efforts is the ambition of every Frenchman, but it is incompatible with mass production.
We must not imagine that thoughtful Americans are unaware of the peril which is threatening their manhood, but it is too much to expect them to sacrifice their machines; for they give production priority over everything else. Having refused to save the individuality of the factory worker, they shift their defense to other grounds. During the day the worker may only be a cog in the machine, they say; but in the evening at any rate he becomes a man once more. His leisure, his money, the very things which mass production puts at his disposal, these will restore to him the manhood and intellectual independence of which his highly organized work has deprived him. This change in the center of gravity in the life of the individual marks an absolute revolution in the ideas on which society in Western Europe has been built up. Is it possible that the personality of the individual can recover itself in consumption after being so crippled and weakened in production? Have not the very products, in the form in which they are turned out by the modern factory, lost their individuality as well?
One of the finest attainments of American democracy has been to give much the same things to her poorest and richest citizens alike. The banker has his Rolls-Royce and the workman has his Ford. The banker’s wife has her Paquin gown, and the working-girl chooses a similar one from the enormous quantities produced after the minimum of delay. The same applies all through the list. This generalized comfort is possible, first, because production is concentrated on a limited number of models repeated ad infinitum, and secondly, because the public is willing to put up with it. Thus we are forced to conclude that the price that American pays for her undeniable material progress is the sacrifice of one aspect of civilization.
Thus they are advancing in one direction and retrogressing in another. The material advance is immeasurable . . . but from the point of view of individual refinement and art, the sacrifice is real indeed . . .
Once it is admitted that their conception of society is materialistic in spite of the idealism of its leaders, it is only logical that the doctrine of efficiency should become the central idea of the country. Today in America no sacrifice is too great to be endured for this sacred principle. There is no possible escape. Big profits overshadow liberty in all its forms, and the exercise of intelligence is encouraged only if it fits in with this common aim. Any one who turns aside to dabble in research or dilettantism is regarded as almost mentally perverted. Hence a growing tendency to reduce all virtues to the primordial ideal of conformity.
This point of view is not imposed by the upper classes or the government, but by the great masses of the people themselves.In the universities the majority of students are satisfied if they memorize an array of ready-made facts, and they seek from their professors not culture but the fundamentals of a successful career . . . The individual, having become a means rather than an end, accepts his role of cog in the immense machine without giving a passing thought to the effect on his personality . . .
1) What the main points made by Taylor (1911) and by Siegfried (1927)?
2) Compare/contrast these authors with Charlie Chaplin's message in Modern Times (1936).
3) Who do you agree with the most? Why? Justify your position with evidence.