Within capitalist society management plays an important role,

entering almost every aspect of life. This includes not only the

management of people but also the day to day management of our

capitalist market place. Within the world of work it has been

suggested that management performs two functions; "coordinating"

and the "exercise of authority" (Thompson.P, 1989, p122). For an

enterprise to be successful, inevitably the management have to

have some measure of authority over the workforce in order to

establish a labour process more conducive to efficiency and

increased production.

The control of the worker has been at the heart of

management since the early days of the Industrial Revolution. To

this end management have established strategies that enable them

to direct, evaluate and supervise the labour process (Edwards.R,

1979, p18). This applies to both the shop floor worker and lower

management. F.W.Taylor (1911) was one of the first to produce

literature on new management techniques with the aim being to

put the production process firmly in the hands of management.

Taylor's work, in particular his work on "scientific management"

marks a watershed in the organisation of the factory and the

division of labour.

Taylor's work was mainly concerned with the steel industry

and related to increasing efficiency of production. He

established what became known as the "work study", a methodical

study of the labour process, with the aim of achieving the most

efficient way of performing tasks. Taylor's scheme centred on the

"systematic analysis of the process of production" (Hill.S 1981,

p25). Through this analysis the production process could be

broken down into component parts and individual tasks. The tasks

could be simplified which meant the whole process relied less on

skilled workers. Even before the Industrial Revolution Adam Smith

(1978,p116) and Charles Babbage (1978, p117) were suggesting that

the manufacturing process had advantages. One of Taylor's aims

was the drive for cheaper labour costs, which was to be achieved

through deskilling and rationalisation of the workforce. This

also involved reducing the industrial muscle of the workforce.

Braverman (1974, pp82-83)) suggests if "each step of the labour

process is divorced as far as possible from special knowledge and

training and reduced to simple labour", this can reduce overall


Through Taylorist techniques management gained the upper

hand (control). As part of the overall strategy, work study

placed emphasis on 'piece work' as this enabled workers' pay to

be related to his/her output. This created the overall incentive

of economic gain. In turn this ensured that little pressure was

required to make the worker produce as much as possible, within a

set time scale. In this way management set the working hours and

introduced piece work or efficiency-related pay. Taylor regarded

economic rewards as the best incentive/inducement to hard work,

the worker receiving a rate of pay proportional to effort. These

measures meant that management increased control over production

costs, furthermore, it was assumed that due to worker

specialisation of repeated tasks, productivity would increase.

Taylorist techniques aimed to make managers solely

responsible for organising and directing work, as it was

considered if the tasks were to be carried out efficiently the

workers had to follow managerial directions exactly. As Hill

(1981, p26) suggests, "now managers knew what workers ought to be

doing in their jobs because they had determined these".

Therefore, the performance of the tasks was to be carried out by

the workers but all the aspects of planning were to be taken over

by management, "separating planning from doing" (Hill.S, 1981,


Reducing worker autonomy was one of Taylor's aims as he

believed if the worker was left to his own devices and not

controlled through task specification, he would do as little as

possible through "soldiering". This was a technique displayed by

workers, whereby tasks were performed at a slow pace in order

that management were misled over their full potential. If the

workforce was left to plan its own work, both efficiency and

production would fall. The workforce may continue with

traditional procedures rather than employing strict scientific

methods, with efficiency and hard work being a low priority.

Consequently Taylor stipulated that management must carry out all

the essential planning of tasks including any that involved

intellectual skills. Writers such as Gorz (1982, p46)) suggest

that scientific management organised the work process, making it

impossible for workers to experience work "as a potentially

creative process", due to the measure of fragmentation imposed

and less dependency on the trades.

One of the suggested consequences of Taylorist techniques is

the increased division of labour. This not only includes the shop

floor workers but also lower management. Lower managerial

positions (such as those occupied by foremen) could expect their

tasks to be divided up in order to give them just one function.

Previously lower management had enjoyed a measure of autonomy,

but with higher management taking the responsibility for all the

planning, Taylorism aimed to reduce this. The aim was for lower

management to become more specialised and therefore the diversity

of roles reduced.

Skilled craftsmen suffered a level of job fragmentation

during the early part of the industrial revolution. The craftsmen

had skills that could not be dispensed with due to the nature of

the production process because the process required a variety of

craft skills. Scientific management sought to increase this

fragmentation as an attempt to increase output and management

control. The increased fragmentation led to deskilling.

"The work of every workman is fully planned out by

management....and each man receives written

instructions describing in detail the task which he

is to accomplish, as well as the means to be used in

doing work...This task specifies not only what is to

be done, but how it is to be done and the exact time

allowed for doing it...Scientific management consists

very largely in preparing for and carrying out these

tasks" (Taylor.F, 1974, p118))

Some would have us believe that scientific management marked a

change from the traditional capitalist organisation of the

workforce. Braverman (1974, pp118-119) suggests that previously

control had been delegated, whereas scientific management led to

a shift in practice with management gaining control. The autonomy

and discretion of lower management was reduced and in some cases


For the first time management had a defined role separate to

that of ownership. Management had particular tasks to perform

which became part of management characteristics. Taylor (1981,

p26) defined management as the resource that had the

responsibility for planning, organising, commanding, coordinating

and controlling.

However, the introduction of new direct and efficient

methods of management had its effect on worker resistance. With a

reduction in the skill level of tasks, the market power of groups

and individuals meant employees had less leverage over

negotiations with employers.

It is sometimes forgotten that scientific management did not

only influence capitalist organisation of the work place but also

the communist work place. Lenin believed in and applied Taylorist

techniques to Russian industry. Scientific management provided

the worker discipline, control and methodology that was accepted

by the communist world (Bendix.R, 1966,pp206-210)).


Many aspects of Taylor's work have been questioned. Taylor seems

to paint a simplistic picture of factory life, with a de-skilled

workforce allowing themselves to be led without question by

management, accepting any task they are asked to perform.

Certainly unions constantly question management over the nature

of tasks being performed by their members. It is quite often the

case that unions and management will agree on high wage

settlements in return for changes in the labour process.

Management are not always given a free rein. For example,

Japanese management strategy allows for worker participation in

managerial decision making. Consequently the division between

management and workforce is not always clear cut. It has been

said that even the work of Taylor and Henry Ford suggests that

productivity will increase with worker and management cooperation

(Piore.M and Sabel.C, 1984, p126). Furthermore changes in the

labour process may come under scrutiny from outside bodies such

as the "Health and Safety Executive" or the "Factory Inspector".

Therefore overall planning and organisation may, to some extent,

be influenced externally.

Taylor placed an emphasis on piece work, with the aim being

the inducement of the workforce to hard work, requiring pay or

economic reward to be related to effort/individual production.

However, in almost every facet of commerce it is difficult to

determine what constitutes a "fair day's pay for a fair day's

work": this is constantly under review by both the workforce and

management. Also the price of labour may be determined by

external factors such as scarcity, product demand and economic

conditions within the country, all out of the direct control of


The diversity and complexity of social control processes,

especially within the factory are not sufficiently confronted by

Taylor. In the comtemporary competitive business world it is

difficult, if not impossible, to argue the continued importance

of just one management strategy such as deskilling. Certainly the

nature of control is seen on a wide front and affects many more

workers, not only those on the shop floor, but also white collar

workers, especially those jobs that require little skill

(Storey.J, 1985, p195).

Taylorism leads us to believe that the managers play the

most important role in establishing control, through a narrow set

of strategies. This is unrealistic and denies the existence of a

wide variety of alternative strategies. The managers are looked

upon as having unwavering loyalty towards the company carrying

out their fuction of planning and directing the workforce.

Taylorism denies the fact that managers can chose from a variety

of strategies and in many cases can be flexible in their approach

to the workforce.

It could be suggested that the overall importance of

Taylorism has been over estimated, as there had already been a

shift towards direct control before his ideas came to prominence.

Piore and Sabel (1984, p126)) suggest that Taylor's schemes

attracted little attention even in those plants he organised

personally. By 1880 the by Industrial Revolution was at full

capacity and there had already been experimentation with methods

of control. According to Littler (1989, p126) a number of

industrialists had tried profit sharing and participation

schemes, with other techniques such as bonus sharing and piece

work having been tried. However, it was usual for work hours to

be set, linking this to rates of pay (Friedman.A, 1977, p91).

Littler (1989, p127) casts doubt on the impact of Taylorism

especially in the twentieth century, "there was literally no shop

floor Taylorism in Britain before 1914". Littler refers to the

time study as not been widely used and that piece work was based

largely on the knowledge of craft workers; whereas Taylorism

sought to deskill and standardise tasks.

Other writers cast doubt on the significance of Taylorism as

a management strategy. Burawoy (1974, p278) suggests "as a

practical tool of increasing capitalist control, Taylorism was a

failure". Evidence of this nature suggests that the impact of

Taylorism was limited perhaps with only one percent of companies

introducing such schemes (Edwards.R, 1979, p104).

Writers such as Reid (1989, p132) further question

Taylorism as an effective means of control, although he

acknowledges that as an approach, some Taylorist techniques have

been used in order to gain control. These have been supplemented

by the need for staff participation and improved management

communication with the workforce. Consequently, the image

portrayed by Taylorism has softened, producing a more civilised

work environment.

One of the main criticisms of scientific management is that

it is a rigid and unyielding policy. In this way it seems to

contradict the need of management to encourage the interests of

shop floor workers and to ensure their enthusiastic

participation. This can be achieved through an employee-centred

rather than job-centred organisation of tasks, giving the worker

more control over the nature of his/her work (Likert.R, 1973,


Gaining the confidence and interests of workers is regarded

by Friedman (1977, p48) as essential, referring to "responsible

autonomy". Through responsible autonomy the workforce are given a

degree of independence once they have been made aware of the

importance of their tasks and performance. One of the aims is to

keep supervision to a minimum and yet maintain overall control.

However, it would seem that this strategy can still be employed

to divide a workforce. The more skilled workers have a measure of

responsible autonomy with the less skilled workers subject to

direct control. Forester (1988, pp253-254)) regards the core

workers as being "functionally flexible" in that they do what the

company demands in turn for security and decent conditions, while

the peripheral workers are hired for specific jobs on a short

term basis. Reid (1989, p132) regards both these strategies as

complementing each other as part of the "managerial armory".

One observation is that larger firms are more likely to

adopt a more direct approach in order to maintain production and

control the workforce; whereas smaller firms employing skilled

workers will employ responsible autonomy. Again this is borne out

by the work of Reid (1989, p132). However, it is possible when

dealing with skilled workers a direct approach to control can

result in an undesirable reaction by the workforce. Both

strategies tend to lead to the same conclusion, that is, control

of the worker, with responsible autonomy giving scientific

management a degree of flexibility.

The nature of control is undoubtedly more complex than

Taylor suggests. Edwards (1982, p263) attempts to define two

classifications; "technical control" and "bureaucratic control".

Technical control is concerned with developing and implementing

the labour process and in particular the flow of production. The

aim is to achieve efficiencies and reduce problems with the

integration of labour power into labour. Bureaucratic control is

related to those influences such as the way in which promotion is

granted, disciplinary procedures and responsibilities. It also

has a negative side in the form of sanctions. Whereas technical

control is restricted to the shop floor, bureaucratic control can

enter almost every aspect of life, behaviour and attitude. It

projects beyond the factory floor, demanding loyalty from the

workforce through positive sanctions, for loyal and diligent


Although one aim of Taylorism is to reduce or remove worker

autonomy and discretion, inevitably the worker is left with a

measure of individual freedom. "Beyond what commands can effect

and supervision can control, beyond what incentives can induce

and penalties prevent there exists an exercise of discretion,

important even in relatively menial jobs" (Bendix.R, 1974, p251).

Although Taylorism puts pressure on individual discretion, the

ordinary worker is still faced with a choice of actions, even if

this is only on the production line. Perhaps this is what Taylor

refers to as "soldiering". Workers have the choice whether to be

conscientious, self-motivated and hard working, sometimes

referred to as "omissive actions" (Offe.C, 1976, pp36-37).

Workers tend to use these as bargaining points in negotiations

with management.

Taylor has a tendency to over-simplify the relationship

between the employer and the workforce, seeing it as largely

based on the production line. Writers such as Edwards have shown

that management can manipulate the workforce away from the

production line, whereas Taylor seems to neglect this aspect.

Large corporations can take advantage of the dependency of

employees on the company by offering incentives such as free

medical insurance or free private schooling for families of

employees. This can be viewed as an extension of control, as the

company sows the seeds of paternalism. If employees leave or

produce unsatisfactory work the benefits can be withdrawn.

An example of the manipulation of the labour force is seen

within the Japanese labour market. Employees leaving a large firm

that offers paternalistic benefits, and moving to a small firm

will find benefits drastically reduced. Also, through the

newspapers Japanese companies generally advertise for workers

under thirty years of age (Cole.R, 1982, p261). This combination

places employees of large firms in the position whereby he/she

realises that it is unlikely the opportunity to leave will

materialise. Furthermore, an employee leaving a corporation for a

small firm would lose paternalistic benefits. Consequently the

worker is more likely to accept company policies, and worker

resistance is minimised.

Taylorist ideas seem to be less relevant to modern industry

that requires a more flexible production line and approach to

worker/management relations. Rosabeth Kantor (1984, p247)

suggests that the "mechanical picture" presented by the

management literature of Taylor presents the views or a former

period of mass production that needed turn of the century

organisation. These organisations turned out "predictable"

products and management was expected to deal with the unexpected

event. However, todays world requires industry to be more

flexible and capable of small batch production and change from

product to product (Warde.A, 1989, p11), giving way to "post

Fordism". In conclusion, company executives were prepared to

adopt scientific management techniques such as the work study but

only at their discretion. They did not follow Taylor's ideas

entirely (Elliot.D.A and Elliot.R.H.1976, p73). WHITE-COLLAR WORK


Although Taylor's work is mainly connected to the social

organisation of the factory it would appear to be supported by

the introduction of technology. The result of either can be

deskilling. For example, the introduction of word processing and

office mechanisation has led to the more intellectual tasks been

taken over by computer (Kumar.K, 1978, p210). Although clerical

work is less supervised, control is often required due to the

need of computers to process data/information in a systematic

way. This may have to be carried out under rigid working hours

and certain working conditions. The more intellectual tasks are

often carried out by those higher up the managerial ladder.

Office work is changing in its nature, from paper-work to one

involving the electronic office which marks a major

transformation (Forester.T, 1988, p195).

The white collar sector is growing with a "third of all

employees in manufacturing ....white collar workers" (Poston.M,

1978, p207). The world of the white collar worker conjures up an

image of intellectual work carried out by the well qualified

office worker. A worker with a degree of autonomy and control

over his/her tasks, with privileged working conditions. Kumar

(1978, p209) suggests that the majority of white collar workers

feel far from humanised and personalised, with the majority being

female, mainly concerned with routinised, unskilled work;

Taylorism "having conquered the factory has moved into the office

and shop". In this way the office worker has suffered from

scientific management in the same way as the shop floor worker,

including routinisation, the division of labour and

mechanisation. Braverman agrees with this image, visualising the

office assuming factory-like conditions (Braverman.H, 1974,


The work of Taylor and Braverman, although mainly concerned

with the shop floor worker or manual worker, has thus been

applied to white collar work. However, it is not as

straightforward as Kumar suggests. The nature of white collar

work differs in several ways to that of manual workers (Lane.C,

1985, p298), as there is still a longstanding division between

white collar work and blue collar work. It has been assumed that

with the introduction of technology to the office there has been

a convergence of manual and non-manual work, but this may not be

the case.

Writers such as Kumar suggest that the office has suffered

from rationalisation and mechanisation which has meant that tasks

carried out in the office have become simplified. This is a view

supported by Crompton and Jones (1984) and Crompton and Reid

(1982, pp163-78). The skills of the office worker have become

reduced with the intellectual tasks being broken down so that

they can be carried out by relatively unskilled staff. However,

Forester (1988, p255) disagrees stating that there is a demand

for multi-skilled personel. The routine procedures of office work

can be compared to the mass production line.

However, writers such as Lane (1985, p301) contradict this

suggesting that the relationship between work on the production

line and the final output is much more clear cut than white

collar work. Bureaucracy is highly routinised and often requires

the use of strategies, very different to those of Taylorism.

Clerical work often requires the white collar worker to be more

flexible in the work that he/she attempts, requiring a measure of

autonomy, such as dealing with people on a face-to-face basis.

Indeed it is often to the advantage of the employer to give the

office worker a measure of autonomy in order that he/she can

build up a diversity of skills. Furthermore the introduction of

computers can lead to the increased complexity of the nature of

jobs. This diversity of skills are sometimes referred to as

"reserve capacity" (Lane.C, 1985, p301) and can be called upon

when needed by management.

Taking the above argument it is easy to suggest that only a

minority of office workers have suffered from Taylorism. However,

this does not mean that the white collar worker is immune from

scientific management. The opposite can be argued as the nature

of office work has changed dramatically over the last twenty

years with the introduction of computers, office automation and

improved communications systems. As a consequence there exists a

section white collar workers who are totally regulated in the

same way as shop floor workers (Berger.U and Offe.C, 1985, p302).

A feature of Taylorism within the office has been the move

towards centralisation with many functions being brought

together. With the introduction of computer systems, a measure of

worker flexibility disappears as they require updating in normal

working hours. If less skilled staff are involved, supervision is

necessary in order to monitor work and so the atmosphere of the

office is substituted with that of the production line. Out of

this a division of labour can develop with the minority of

skilled staff (such as systems analysts and computer programmers)

being separated from the ordinary worker. Taylor referred to

breaking the worker's monopoly over control of the production

process by separating the link between conception of ideas and

implementation. In the same way, automation (such as automatic

teller machines) removes the connection between the service

worker and the client or customer and so breaks down the process

leading to a decline in a personalised service (Kumar.K, 1978,


Although the introduction of technology may increase, this

does not mean that it will dominate the office in the same way as

it does on the shop floor. The overall function of the office

limits the degree to which it can rationalise office work

(Lane.C, 1985, p302). Although the introduction of computers can

lead to standardisation and to the division of labour it can also

lead to an increased complexity of work (Salford office staff

operating computer systems under LMS). Not all skill can be

standardised, especially knowledge built up through experience,

which is often indispensable. In addition employees have had to

gain skills in order to operate new systems, something that was

not required prior to office automation. There has always been a

large and relatively unskilled group of white collar workers

carrying out standardised routine jobs. It is misleading to talk

about this sector of the workforce when they have always been

confined to unskilled work.

It would be easy to suggest that teachers have suffered the

same fate as the white-collar worker, with scientific management

being slowly imposed on the profession. However, teaching and

office work have only a minimum of features in common.

Nevertheless, if office work has been beset by Taylorist

techniques then it is possible that teaching could find itself in

the same position.