Plunging Taylor’s Principles of Scientific Management

Taylor, Frederick Winslow. The Principles of Scientific Management. New York : Harper & Row, 1911.

“In the past the man has been first; in the future the system must be first” (ix).

At a time when the Pinkertons and police were deployed to break strikes, Taylor’s book arrives with the promise that since his system has been implemented, “there has never been a single strike among the men working in this system” (18).  The system is intended to promote an alignment between the management and the workers, eliminating “soldiering,” increasing pay while doubling the amount of work per day. The worker is made to be “incapable of understanding this science,” and selected based on their abilities to follow orders and to become robust automatons (31). For Taylor, soldiering is encouraged by large groups (i.e. unions), “that when men work in gangs, their individual efficiency falls almost invariably down to or below the level of the worst man in the gang; and that they are all pulled down instead of being elevated by being heralded together” (60). Since this includes getting rid of all the workers who are capable of understanding the science put upon them, this also means “laying off many of the most intelligent, hardest working, and most trustworthy [workers]” (76). His system requires each man to forgo the variety of learning a trade, and to enlist their abilities to a single task, to be ordered and controlled by the management. While the promise to get rid of unions and strikes is itself alluring to management, in case the management needs altruistic reasons to revolutionize their production method, Taylor notes that “the people” will benefit the most from this shift in production, that is, the consumers, “who ultimately pay both the wages of the workmen and the profits of the employers” (119). By increasing profit, the consumer will benefit from cheap commodities, and will “insist that justice shall be done to all three parties” (121).

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