Scientific Management in Action

Scientific Management in Action: Taylorism at Watertown Arsenal, 1908-1915

New foreword by Merritt Roe Smith
Copyright Date: 1985
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Scientific Management in Action
    Book Description:

    The book is a balanced analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of Taylorism, including the naivet_ that led its proponents to ignore the emotional side of the complex roles and patterns that govern the world of work.

    Originally published in 1985.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5789-0
    Subjects: Technology, General Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
    (pp. v-xii)
    Merritt Roe Smith

    The social history of technology has become quite fashionable in recent years, but it is not new. In fact, one of the best works in the field actually predates it by more than a decade. I refer, of course, to Hugh G. J. Aitken’s masterful study ofScientific Management in Action.

    Taylorism, the shorthand expression for Frederick W. Taylor’s brand of scientific management, is one of the most frequently discussed topics in American business and technological history. General textbook writers often address the subject, and students of the Progressive Era invariably refer to it as an example of the reformist...

    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  4. Table of Contents
    (pp. xvii-2)
    (pp. 3-12)

    On the morning of February 17, 1915, four men met in an office in Watertown Arsenal, on the left bank of the Charles River, a few miles west of Boston. One of the men was the commanding officer of the arsenal, Colonel C. B. Wheeler, a career Army officer. The other three were civilians: Robert G. Valentine, once instructor in English at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and more recently Commissioner of Indian Affairs and chairman of the Massachusetts Minimum Wage Board, at this time a management consultant in private practice; John P. Frey, vice-president of die International Molders’ Union and...

  6. Chapter 1 THE TAYLOR SYSTEM
    (pp. 13-48)

    Questioned by Colonel Wheeler about his explanation of the molders’ strike, John Frey admitted that workmen sometimes seemed to behave irrationally. “I know,” he said, “the fiendish deviltry with which we throw down our things and go out on strike. They deliberately go in in the morning, and say ‘Boys, we’ll say “No” to this,’ and then they take their time, putting away their things or not, and taking their time about things as they go out.” But underlying this apparent irrationality, he insisted, was an attitude that made sense. A walkout was not always a rejection of the job;...

    (pp. 49-84)

    Innovations in technology and managerial methods, no matter how far-reaching their effects in the long run, are seldom so dramatic as to make an immediate impress on the mind of the public. Often they are highly technical and can be fully understood only by specialists. Often, too, unless connected with techniques of mass destruction, they lack the element of human interest that the newspaper requires. So it is that the new ideas and devices that shape the development of a culture frequently remain almost subterranean, as far as the attention of the bulk of the public is concerned, and produce...

  8. Chapter 3 THE ARSENAL
    (pp. 85-134)

    Watertown Arsenal is situated about eight miles west of downtown Boston, from which it can be reached without difficulty by streetcar or automobile. It presents today a somewhat impersonal face to the world, and the casual passer-by, peering through steel fences or staring at tall brick walls, sees few indications of the work that is going on within. Only occasionally do the arsenal and its work appear in the press. Once in recent years careful readers of the Boston papers may have learned that the gun carriages for the Army’s much-publicized atomic cannon were made at Watertown, and there has...

  9. Chapter 4 CONFLICTS
    (pp. 135-185)

    Taylor and Barth interpreted their responsibility as that of introducing certain technological and administrative changes at Watertown Arsenal. In fact they were doing much more than this: they were disrupting an established social system and trying to build a new one. Nothing they did was, in this respect, neutral; nothing was merely technological or administrative.

    The success achieved by the introduction of the Taylor system at Watertown depended only partly upon the technical competence of Taylor and Barth. It depended also upon the ways in which other people reacted and the extent to which these reactions were predicted, controlled, and...

  10. Chapter 5 CONSEQUENCES
    (pp. 186-242)

    The results of the installation of the Taylor system at Watertown Arsenal can be appraised on two levels of analysis at least. We can, to begin with, inquire to what extent the stated objectives of the innovation were achieved. This directs attention to evidence bearing on changes in productivity and costs of production. But we can also examine the unexpected consequences, the results that were not regarded as particularly desirable by the innovators but which conditioned and limited what they were trying to achieve.

    The Taylor system was adopted in the arsenal in the expectation that it would bring about...

    (pp. 243-244)
  12. NOTES
    (pp. 245-264)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 265-269)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 270-270)