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Manufacturing Ideology

Manufacturing Ideology: Scientific Management in Twentieth-Century Japan

William M. Tsutsui
Copyright Date: 1998
Pages: 296
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  • Book Info
    Manufacturing Ideology
    Book Description:

    Japanese industry is the envy of the world for its efficient and humane management practices. Yet, as William Tsutsui argues, the origins and implications of "Japanese-style management" are poorly understood. Contrary to widespread belief, Japan's acclaimed strategies are not particularly novel or even especially Japanese.

    Tsutsui traces the roots of these practices to Scientific Management, or Taylorism, an American concept that arrived in Japan at the turn of the century. During subsequent decades, this imported model was embraced--and ultimately transformed--in Japan's industrial workshops. Imitation gave rise to innovation as Japanese managers sought a "revised" Taylorism that combined mechanistic efficiency with respect for the humanity of labor.

    Tsutsui's groundbreaking study charts Taylorism's Japanese incarnation, from the "efficiency movement" of the 1920s, through Depression-era "rationalization" and wartime mobilization, up to postwar "productivity" drives and quality-control campaigns. Taylorism became more than a management tool; its spread beyond the factory was a potent intellectual template in debates over economic growth, social policy, and political authority in modern Japan.

    Tsutsui's historical and comparative perspectives reveal the centrality of Japanese Taylorism to ongoing discussions of Japan's government-industry relations and the evolution of Fordist mass production. He compels us to rethink what implications Japanese-style management has for Western industries, as well as the future of Japan itself.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2266-9
    Subjects: Economics, History

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
    (pp. 3-13)

    During the 1980s, scholars and business leaders began to herald the demise of assembly-line mass production. For more than half a century, the model of manufacturing pioneered by Henry Ford and acclaimed as the engine of American economic might had been the world’s dominant paradigm of industrial production. Indeed, the Fordist assembly line seemed the very manifestation of modernity writ in steel and sweat: in Aldous Huxley’s “brave new world,” time itself began with the advent of mass production, “the year of our Ford.” Yet in the last two decades, confronted by a new array of economic realities and organizational...

  2. 1 The Introduction of Taylorism and the Efficiency Movement, 1911–1927
    (pp. 14-57)

    As scholars have long appreciated, habits of industriousness have deep roots in Japanese society. During the Tokugawa period (1603–1868), attention to questions of productive efficiency was widespread, both in the predominant agrarian sector and in the preindustrial craft economy. Japanese peasants were keen managers of time and resources, and rural prophets of productivity (like Ninomiya Sontoku) enjoined the farming populace to be thrifty, methodical, and proficient. Tokugawa handicraft production displayed a similar penchant for economy, and was characterized by a sophisticated division of labor, exacting quality standards, and refined, specialized technology.¹ In the decades after the Meiji Restoration of...

  3. 2 The Rationalization Movement and Scientific Management, 1927–1937
    (pp. 58-89)

    According to Ueno Yōichi, Japan’s efficiency movement was at its most dynamic and influential between 1923 and 1926, the mid-decade doldrums of Japanese industry. Other observers have concurred, characterizing this period as the prewar apex of Scientific Management in Japan and concluding that, as the economy subsequently slipped from stagnation into financial crisis and depression, Taylorism was increasingly driven to the periphery of managerial concerns. Scientific Management, most have assumed, was eclipsed and ultimately absorbed by industrial rationalization (sangyō gōrika), an amorphous but far-reaching movement of academics, bureaucrats, and businessmen that dominated the public discourse on industrial development and economic...

  4. 3 The Wartime Economy and Scientific Management, 1937–1945
    (pp. 90-121)

    Most observers have anatomized Japanese industrial development during the China and Pacific Wars as a spiraling descent into collapse.¹ After heady growth during the late 1930s, the economic war machine appeared to sputter and stall even before Pearl Harbor. Although heavy industrialization progressed steadily (due in large part to the sacrifice of consumer production and small business), the economy’s foundations were undermined by shortages of men and materiel, by an increasingly ponderous and irrational state control system, and, ultimately, by direct war damage.

    Industrial management in wartime Japan has frequently been seen as tracing a similar trajectory of decline. Linking...

  5. 4 Management and Ideology, 1945–1960
    (pp. 122-151)

    Surveying the worldwide devastation of World War II, Henry Ford II mused that “it is not onlythingswhich have been destroyed. The landscape is littered with wrecked ideas and faiths. Political and economic systems have been torn up and lie twisted and broken like a great railroad yard after a bombing raid.”¹ This certainly was the case in Japan, where defeat pushed the fragile domestic economy close to collapse and fatally undermined the intricate ideological structures of wartime mobilization. Nevertheless, while Japan’s “national defense state” and “New Order” may have been “twisted and broken,” the approaches and assumptions of...

  6. 5 The Long Shadow of Taylorism: LABOR RELATIONS AND “LEAN PRODUCTION,” 1945–1973
    (pp. 152-189)

    Despite the experience of industrial collapse and economic prostration, Japanese faith in the methods of modern production management remained unshaken through war and defeat. Indeed, the very triumph of the United States—that birthplace of Taylorism and the assembly line—seemed to confirm to Japanese managers that production technology and managerial skills were the only sure foundations of national power. The abiding lesson of the economic catastrophe of World War II was not that modern management methods had failed Japan, but rather that Japan had failed to make the most out of imported techniques and approaches. Thus, in production management,...

  7. 6 Taylorism Transformed? SCIENTIFIC MANAGEMENT AND QUALITY CONTROL, 1945–1973
    (pp. 190-235)

    Although “lean production” is now celebrated as the decisive managerial breakthrough of postwar Japan, neither just-in-time nor the kanban system—indeed, none of the shop-floor innovations that made up the Toyota model—could provide the final element vital to completing the “revised Taylorite” transformation of Japanese industry. For all its sophistication and dynamism, the Toyota program was not able to surmount the two major obstacles that had dogged Japan’s scientific managers since the days of the Taishō efficiency movement: first, the lack of a reformist agenda that could credibly fuse respect for humanity with economic rationality, and second, the absence...

  8. Epilogue: The Taylorite Roots of “Japanese-Style Management”
    (pp. 236-244)

    This study suggests that Scientific Management spread further, remained relevant longer, and penetrated deeper in twentieth-century Japan than previous observers have acknowledged. From its introduction in 1911 through the debates of the Taishō period, the rationalization movement, wartime mobilization, postwar reconstruction, and the decades of high-speed growth, Taylorism was progressively embraced as the most logical and natural model for industrial management in Japan. In this light, the popular presumption that corporate familialism has been the dominant managerial ideology of modern Japan begs reevaluation. Likewise, Japan’s experience of Taylorism calls into question simplistic notions of postwar American paternity for “Japanese-style management,”...