Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Flip the Switch

Yesterday, Prof. Lamas offered up the option to go hang out with Michael at a local cooperative community garden of which Michael is a member of. This was posed as an alternative to the morning portion of class, but I decided to stay with Prof. Lamas because he was going to be opening the discussion today and I love the way he stimulates our minds.

He began class this morning with a film about the origin of the modern day factory.  In the late 19th century, the factory was loud and cluttered, and there was little coordination between each department.  As this lack of coordination proved more and more to be a setback in the production of goods, a man named Frederick Winslow Taylor, created this new method of scientific management.  Using Taylor's methodology of clockwork, complex jobs were divided into simple tasks, which in turn eliminated the worker's voice in the management of the factory.  Taylor's guiding motto throughout his life was finding the "one best way" to do something, so he set out to implement this plan of maximum efficiency.  Like I said before, however, the down side to this ideology was that it dehumanized the workers, created non-personal connections between the "thinkers" and the workers, and ended up branching out into other areas of life.  For example, from the "one best way" motto developed home economics; soon, experiments were being conducted in several areas of life, and their main purpose was to find the absolute best way to complete a task. 

Nowadays, the idea of maximum efficiency and productivity has led to the mechanical substitution of the worker.  Many factories seeking to increase their profits will hire highly skilled craftsmen to create a machine that can do all of the work that a human would otherwise do.  In some settings, people are only hired to simply move an object from one machine to the other, and this is what they are required to do all day long.  The assembly lines arranged in factories require each worker to focus only on the basic task they are assigned to do, and they must keep up with the line in order to keep their jobs.  The problem with that system is that people become so mechanized to perform that task that they no longer use their brains to carry out their work, but instead their bodies use muscle memory to complete jobs.  However, it is not only the workers of these factories that do not have to think, but even the managers become so used to doing the same things everyday that they no longer  have to use their brains either.  Whether intentional or not, Taylor's theory of scientific management continues to affect our basic human nature in extremely negative, and I would even say, frightening ways that need to be broken down if we are to maintain our fundamental right of being able to connect with others.

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