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Supervision and Authority in Industry

Supervision and Authority in Industry: Western European Experiences, 1830-1939

Edited by Patricia Van den Eeckhout
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 244
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  • Book Info
    Supervision and Authority in Industry
    Book Description:

    The number of studies discussing the labour relationship under industrial capitalism is overwhelming, but the literature on labour and its concrete, day-today shop-floor practices is much less abundant. How and by whom workers were supervised is one of the neglected aspects in the history of labour relations. After an insightful introductory chapter discussing the different forms of supervision in the United States, Britain, France and Germany before the First World War, the case studies in this volume focus on foremen: vital, but largely unstudied figures in the history of factory life, labour relations and management. Illustrating the multiple faces of the foreman, the contributors examine the artisanal sector, textiles, mining, printing, engineering, heavy manufacturing and car industries in Western Europe and show that the foreman was a multifaceted character who possessed technical expertise in addition to educational and organizational qualities. This comprehensive volume is further enhanced by comparisons with practices of supervision in Russia, Japan, China and India.

    eISBN: 978-1-84545-942-0
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-ix)
  5. Acknowledgements
    (pp. x-x)
    Patricia Van den Eeckhout
  6. Chapter 1 Foremen in American and Western European Industry before the First World War
    (pp. 1-33)
    Patricia Van den Eeckhout

    In Sydney Pollard’s inexhaustibleThe Genesis of Modern Management,first published in 1965, the emergence of management structures in largescale industrial enterprises is explored, but foremen are hardly mentioned. Pollard asserts that the division of labour and the increasing size of British plants between 1750 and 1830 ‘made the introduction of wage-earning foremen and managers essential’,¹ but in his discussion of these emerging management structures, he largely ignores the role of foremen. In the twenty-five years that followed, foremen appeared unable to attract historians’ attention to any significant extent. ‘A strategically vital, if largely unstudied figure in the history of...

  7. Chapter 2 Work Organization and Supervision in the Textile Industry: The Case of La España Industrial, Barcelona (1849–1888)
    (pp. 34-59)
    Cristina Borderías

    In Spain, as in many other European countries, the histories of work and business have tended to follow separate paths. In the history of shop-floor management the two themes meet, but this has received very little attention from Spanish scholars, especially for the period of the first industrial revolution. Although a lot has been written on Catalan textile industry, the history of shop-floor management has been neglected. Labour management sparked a great deal of historical debate. Marxist ideas about direct forms of supervision and labour control have been challenged.¹ The first industrial revolution is now recognized as a much more...

  8. Chapter 3 Salaried Authority: The Versatile Fate of Contremaîtres in the Ghent Cotton Industry (1830–1914)
    (pp. 60-82)
    Peter Scholliers

    After being closed for more than ten years, the weaving section of the Ghent cotton mill Texas S.A. opened again on 22 May 1891. New buildings had been constructed and new machines installed. The reopening was a decisive moment in an operation of modernization that had started in 1876, and which brought the mill back to the top of the trade in Belgium. This necessitated a huge capital investment that was obtained by transforming the family-based mill into asociété anonyme. The firm had a long experience with cotton spinning, weaving and printing. It started as a printer in 1790,...

  9. Chapter 4 Secrets, Lies and Contracts: Conflicts between Employers and Their Foremen in Nineteenth-Century Ghent (1885–1913)
    (pp. 83-110)
    Patricia Van den Eeckhout

    In my attempt to study the history of work and labour relations as lived experiences, I try to explore aspects of work relationships which are hardly discussed by contemporaries and historians, because they were taken for granted or remained implicit.¹ My ambition is to find out how employers and workers perceived the role and function of foremen. By studying the form, the duration and the content of their contracts, I will try to define in what respect the bond between foremen and employer differed from that between employer and ordinary worker. By looking at employers’ accusations and complaints, I shall...

  10. Chapter 5 ‘To Organise Liberty’: Foremen and the Effort Bargain during British Industrialization
    (pp. 111-130)
    James A. Jaffe

    Among both management professionals and academics, the debate on the role of the foreman in modern industry has been both extensive and instructive. To some extent, it might even be accurate to say that the ‘science’ of modern management in Europe grew out of a clash of ideas over just this issue. One historian has convincingly shown that the role of the foreman was an especially key issue distinguishing Frederick W. Taylor’s American system of scientific management from that of one of the leading French management experts, Henri Fayol. According to Donald Reid, ‘one of the things for which Fayol...

  11. Chapter 6 Wage Forms and Hierarchy in Late Nineteenth-Century French Industry
    (pp. 131-144)
    Jérôme Bourdieu and Gilles Postel-Vinay

    Two opposing views of industrialization are commonly expressed. The first emphasizes capitalism’s coercion of workers into furnishing more effort than they had long been accustomed to when they themselves decided on the rhythm and timing of their work. From this standpoint, factory discipline is an essential part of capitalist development. The second point of view claims that the need for factory discipline emerged only slowly during the nineteenth century, as increasingly productive technologies rendered the closer coordination of workers essential. Both views agree that large-scale production, the division of labour, and the breakdown of tasks into individual standardized operations were...

  12. Chapter 7 Leading Hands at Work: Technology, Work Organization and Supervision in British Engineering, 1870–1914
    (pp. 145-170)
    Joseph Melling

    The decline of manufacturing output within the European and North American economies during the second half of the twentieth century provides a sharp contrast with the growth of the global economy and the international division of labour a century earlier. The migration of technologies and other forms of knowledge around the world has given less industrialized countries scope for competing with those enjoying an early start. At the same time, the most affluent societies have interrogated the costs of maintaining institutional support for producers and employees in state welfare systems. Researchers who have investigated the expansion of industrial production and...

  13. Chapter 8 ‘Stealing the Souls of Men’: Employers, Supervisors and Work Organization (ca. 1890–1939)
    (pp. 171-190)
    Richard Coopey and Alan McKinlay

    The supervisor has long been understood as the ‘man in the middle’, caught between the conflicting pulls of capital and management, on the one hand, and labour and the work-group, on the other. Here we shall argue that this construction was caused by major shifts in the terrain of labour relations, employer strategies, and work organization in the two decades before 1914. That is not to say that there were not tensions inherent in the foreman’s workplace role but rather to argue that institutional and technical changes opened up a new discursive space in which the nature of supervision had...

  14. Chapter 9 Porions and Conducteurs: Supervisory Functions in the Belgian Limburg Coal-Mining Industry (1917–1939)
    (pp. 191-216)
    Bart Delbroek

    When the Belgian Limburg coalfield began to be exploited in the 1920s, it was an entirely new industry in a scarcely populated rural region without any industrial tradition. Confronted with problems of management and organization of labour, employers borrowed from the practices and traditions of the Walloon and French collieries and adapted them to local needs, while at the same time introducing some innovation. After all, the financial means to construct the seven coal mines in Limburg came mainly from French and Walloon industrial groups, such as Schneider-Le Creusot, the Société Générale and the Banque de Bruxelles-Coppée, which controlled a...

  15. Postscript
    (pp. 217-225)
    Patricia Van den Eeckhout

    Overall, the contributions to this volume illustrate the multiple faces of the foreman in Western European industry. He was not a one-dimensional figure, embodying either an iron fist or fatherly wisdom, but a multifaceted character combining experience and technical expertise with educational and organizational qualities. The foreman as a savage brute, portrayed among others by Richard Edwards, undoubtedly existed, but in the chapters assembled in this volume he hardly crosses our path. It appears, however, that in the Limburg mines, characterized by a highly volatile workforce and absenteeism, foremen were portrayed as more brutal than in other sectors dealt with...

  16. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 226-228)
  17. Index
    (pp. 229-234)