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Intelligent Citizen's Guide to the Postal Problem

Intelligent Citizen's Guide to the Postal Problem: A Case Study of Industrial Society in Crisis, 1965-1980

Lawrence M. Read
Copyright Date: 1988
Pages: 212
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  • Book Info
    Intelligent Citizen's Guide to the Postal Problem
    Book Description:

    The author of this controversial study takes a multi-disciplinary look at what is wrong with the Canadian postal system. The analysis is based in the fields of economics, politics and philosophy. Anyone concerned with what has happened to the once-excellent Canadian mail service should read this book, as well as those concerned with current trends in the industrial world.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-8405-1
    Subjects: Finance

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)

    • CHAPTER 1 A Preliminary Word to the Intelligent Citizen
      (pp. 3-6)

      In a book that intends to say something about a crisis in motivation, it is appropriate that the author make clear what his own intentions are. In 1976–77 I spent a sabbatical year in London and, although I was not formally studying the contemporary situation, I was much impressed—indeed depressed—by evidence of what economists were coming to call “the British disease.” A primary symptom of this disease was that workers to an alarming extent were not interested in working, and managers to a disturbing extent were afraid to manage. Correlated with this symptom in the cas of...

    • CHAPTER 2 An Introduction to the Postal Problem
      (pp. 7-16)

      Canadians born before World War II can well remember the exceptionally good postal service that Canada enjoyed in the first two decades after the war. During the period 1945 to 1957, when Walter Turnbull as deputy postmaster general directed the flow of mail across Canada with no uncertain hand, Canada had perhaps, the finest postal system in the world. “All up” had been introduced in 1948—that is, all first-class mail was transmitted by air whenever such transmission speeded up the service. Over the vast expanse of Canada the mail moved with surprising speed, reliability, and economic efficiency. An important...


    • CHAPTER 3 The Economic Performance of Canada Post
      (pp. 19-46)

      This chapter will assess the economic performance of Canada Post in the postwar period. The focus is on the fifteen-year period 1964–65 to 1979–80 in which performance deteriorated badly and continued low in spite of the massive technological revolution introduced in the 1970s. The previous fifteen-year period, 1949–50 to 1964–65, is assessed in order to put Canada Post’s “time of troubles” in perspective.

      Two things may be noted about the statistical analyses of this chapter. First a great deal of use is made of indexes. For example, since productivity has to do with output per unit...


    • CHAPTER 4 The Depressed, Confused State of Motivation in Canada Post
      (pp. 49-54)

      Our study of productivity in Canada Post in the post-war years makes clear that the problem was not that insufficient resources, human and material, were applied to the objective of providing mail service to the nation. Nor was there insufficient knowledge concerning how these services could be efficiently and cheaply provided. The problem, rather, was that overall there was a serious deficiency of will. It was noted earlier that the Glassco Royal Commission on Government Organization, reporting in 1962, commented very favourably on postal staff: “The Post Office staff is conscientious, hard-working and dedicated, and morale is very high. This...

    • CHAPTER 5 A General Hypothesis Concerning Human Motivation
      (pp. 55-68)

      It is appropriate that we pursue our investigation of what happened to motivation in the post office within the context of a general theory of human motivation. We may assume in advance that the subject matter is sufficiently difficult that one is well advised to proceed with care step by step.

      (1) First, a word about intellectual hardship. In a generation that is more science-oriented than any before it, there is a tendency to shove to the side any kind of being which is not amenable to the application of the methods of science. However, our hypothesis is that if...

    • CHAPTER 6 Contemporary Developments Affecting Motivation in Canada Post
      (pp. 69-90)

      This chapter is concerned with certain contemporary developments and the kind of responses to them that have seriously affected the motivation of postal workers. The following are discussed: (1) the advance of affluence and apathy; (2) the spread of agency-deficiency and worker alienation; (3) the youth movement and the thrust toward unconditional freedom; (4) unionization, the Public Service Staff Relations Act, and the problems of an adversarial attitude; (5) unionization and the problems of an antipathetic attitude; and (6) the monopoly and government-owned structure of Canada Posts a enabling extreme responses to these developments.

      During the first three decades following...

    • CHAPTER 7 The Impact of the Marxian Ethic
      (pp. 91-116)

      The beginning of the postal “time of troubles” coincides with the development in the post office of unions with strongly adversarial atittudes. Given the results—a disastrous drop in productivity and in the quality of mail service, coupled with a restless, unhappy postal work force—one is led to question the efficacy of the adversarial approach to labour-management relations. However, one cannot delve very deeply into this question without confronting the major system of thought and practice in contemporary culture that advocates and promotes a militantly adversarial approach, namely, Marxism.

      Marxism is important, of course, because in the first half...

    • CHAPTER 8 The Impact of the Québécois Ethic
      (pp. 117-136)

      In Chapter 6 the dramatic drop in postal performance is related to the contemporary enhancement of worker alienation. This alienation is accompanied by a withering away of the industrial work mores initially promoted, according to Weber, by the Protestant ethic. In Chapter 7 the postal problem is related further to the presence of what we call, in its various guises and disguises, the Marxian ethic. The postal situation in the 1960s and 1970s is affected by yet a third very important factor—a factor which, by analogy, we may call the Québécois ethic. In this period very significant developments were...


    • CHAPTER 9 A Proposal
      (pp. 139-148)

      Since working for wages is aquid pro quoactivity, we may assess working in any enterprise in terms of bothquidfactors andpro quofactors. Workers are hired to produce something: a keyquidfactor, therefore, is the effectiveness of working in producing what is intended, i.e., productivity. However, workers are not simply instruments of production, that is, objects that may be manipulated to produce other objects. They are also creative beings: each is also a self transcending as well as immanating the world of objects. If the creative nature of the worker is not to be seriously...

    • CHAPTER 10 A Concluding Word to the Intelligent Citizen
      (pp. 149-160)

      It is a strange, strange world into which the study of the post office has taken us. It is indeed strange that by 1980, after the billion-dollar technological transformation of the 1970s, Canada Post was producing at a level of efficiency far below that of fifteen years earlier and scarcel half that which could reasonably have been expected. It is clear that the deficiency was not of resources and know-how, but rather of will: there was a failure of will to produce efficiently; there was a crisis in motivation. But why this crisis? Our answer is that in an age...

  8. APPENDIX A: The Concept and Measurement of Productivity
    (pp. 161-174)
  9. APPENDIX B: Human Beings: Creative Agents or Conforming Objects?
    (pp. 175-201)