Student number: 9576694
Course Code: SOCY10912
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What are the main features of ‘Taylorism’, and what criticisms have been made of it? Do firms use Taylorism today?
Frederick Winslow Taylor, American engineer, is also one of the first management consultants famous for being the father of Scientific Management.
Harry Braverman in Labor and Monopoly Capital defines Scientific Management as “an attempt to apply the methods of science to the increasingly complex problems of the control of labour in rapidly growing capitalist enterprises” (Braverman, 1974). Indeed Taylor strongly believed that previous management styles were not adapted to the economy anymore. His theory on Scientific Management, which he developed in the United States in the late nineteenth century, spread across the rest of the industrialised countries. Although it had quite a great impact and is still famous today, many have criticised Taylorism.
In this essay I will expose in details Taylor’s management system, then have a look at some criticisms made of it and see if Taylorism is still relevant today.
Frederick Taylor’s scientific management is not the only theory to emerge at that time, in fact it was part of a bigger trend, of people wanting to revolutionise management and adapt it to the industrial economy. However Taylor’s system became the most popular. (Thompson & McHugh, 1995) It follows the footsteps of Adam Smith’s division of labour, and takes it to a new level: rationalise even more the work place to adapt it to the capitalistic desires. For Taylor the main problem of the current system was inefficiency and he was appalled by the idea of wasting resources, and especially time. He believed this waste of resources was perpetrated not only by workers, but also by managers.
First, for Taylor, workers were lazy and inefficient by nature, working as little as possible. He called this “natural soldiering” but because it was indeed natural he could not really fix it, and concentrated on another type of soldiering, that he called “systematic soldiering”. According to Taylor workers would collaborate and agree together on a certain pace that was high enough so that they can get away with it, but low enough so it would not exhaust them. They were being rational by ensuring maximum benefit for them but by being in control of the output they would keep it at a lower level. This “systematic soldiering” and control on the output by the workers were possible because of managers’ incompetence, the other major problem for Taylor. He almost had a hatred for managers who were according to him totally irrational and incompetent. Because of the advanced technology they did not know exactly at which pace the workers could go, and decided arbitrarily the time allowed for each task, as well as the wages. Furthermore, at that time manager was becoming a job in itself, and therefore they had no real former job experience they were basing their knowledge on theory.
To fix these irrational behaviours from managers and workers Taylor thought they