Democracy or Seduction? The Demonization of Scientific Management and the Deification of Human Relations

N. Lichtenstein & E. Shermer (eds.), The American Right and Labor: Politics, Ideology, and Imagination. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012

44 Pages Posted: 23 Jul 2013

See all articles by Chris Nyland

Chris Nyland

Monash University - Department of Management

Kyle Bruce

Macquarie Graduate School of Management; Macquarie University, Faculty of Business and Economics

Date Written: 2012

Abstract

Two streams of revisionist history are currently challenging the orthodox understanding of the early years of Scientific Management and the Human Relations School of Management. One stream has questioned the demonized view of Frederick Winslow Taylor and his inner circle and explored how and why it was that over a period of three decades these scholar-activists built a collaborative relationship with organized labor and social progressives that was founded on a commitment to industrial and social democracy. The second stream has challenged the humanist depiction of Elton Mayo and the Human Relations School by documenting the anti-democratic character of their work. In this chapter we build on these efforts by contrasting these two streams, we document their interwar interaction, and we suggest that the Taylorists’ democratic thrust was eventually defeated by an alliance that included conservative big business, advocates of Human Relations who were willing to become ‘servants of power’, and those Progressives who believed worker participation in management should be limited to bargaining over the conditions of employment.

Keywords: Scientific Management, Taylorism, Human Relations, Elton Mayo, John D. Rockefeller Jr., industrial democracy

Suggested Citation

Nyland, Chris and Bruce, Kyle, Democracy or Seduction? The Demonization of Scientific Management and the Deification of Human Relations (2012). N. Lichtenstein & E. Shermer (eds.), The American Right and Labor: Politics, Ideology, and Imagination. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2296783

Chris Nyland

Monash University - Department of Management ( email )

Wellington Road
Clayton, Victoria 3168
Australia

Macquarie University, Faculty of Business and Economics ( email )

Australia

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