Taylorism and anti-taylorism

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Maurice de MontmoUin (France)
Anti-Taylorism is in fashion. The author wants no part
of it. At least, he warns against the optimism that upholds it. He wonders about the reasons for its appearance
(particularly among management), and he wonders especially about the ideology of this train of thought, in which,
he believes, can be rediscovered the principles ofTaylorism integrated in a superior rationality but related to the
values of humanism.
Among the modern managerial class, which in France is
composed of the new-wave management of the Enterprise et
Progres type, liberal personnel managers, and professors
brought up on American works, the fashion today is "antiTaylorism." Under this term will be grouped, without overly
subtle distinctions, theideas and (less frequently) the actions
that are evoked by terms such as "job restructuring," "job enlargement and job enrichment," "sociotechnical systems,"
"quality of life in work," "new work organization" {V}, " problems of unskilled labor," and so forth.
In France the technical literature on this subject is still poor
Translated from "Taylorisme et Antitaylorisme," Sociologie
du Travail 4(1974), 374-82, and reprinted with permission of
Les Editions du Seuil (Paris). The translation is by Verdalee

Taylorism and Anti-Taylorism


and the experiments mentioned are always the same; but in the
last two years interest has increased and today has begun to
reach the general industrial public.
This brief study will try to answer the following questions:
— Whythis movement today, when conditions of work have
not deteriorated and the solutions now being studied have been
suggested for at least 20 years, as can be seen readily by rereading Friedmann?
— What is the ideology of anti-Taylorism ? From the start
we make clear that only the anti-Taylorism of the managerial
class will be studied here, as opposed to the anti-Taylorism of
labor and the unions,which is older and proceeds obviously
from other ideologies. Note simply that in this respect the position of the unions toward managerial anti-Taylorism is one
of more or less interested and cautious expectation.
— In conclusion: What can be expected in the wake of antiTaylorism?
Humanism and the Labor Market
Why has the managerial class recently begun examining the
new forms of workorganization? The interested parties themselves give two types of answers, both of them insufficient.
The first type of answer is related to faith: "Because I have
faith in Man." This declaration by the director of a firm translates into a bare caricature of the position widely held by managers who are anti-Taylorists. Of course, those who speak in
this way refuse all sociological, and evenpsychological, analysis of their "faith." They therefore are unable to explain why
this faith has so recently become preoccupied with job engineering when until now it has been satisfied to work through
traditional human relations. So this first kind of answer is
without direct interest.
The second type of answer is more serious and deserves a
more elaborate comment: Taylorism must be abandonedbecause it is rejected by the workers. This is a peculiarly American argument but is also echoed in France: "It no longer


Maurice de MontmoUin (France)

works." Therefore, let us adapt in a good pragmatic way, without doctrinaire preoccupations. There is too much absenteeism,
too much turnover, carelessness, and even, sometimes, sabotage. Labor that accepts the fragmentation of work is moreand
more rare. The use of immigrant labor permits a postponement of the problem for a little while, but it is not now always
possible and will certainly not always be possible. Why this
rejection? Because the standard of living has risen and, with
it, the level of education, and because the coddled consumer is
now in contradiction with the disciplined worker. Now is the
time to adapt to...
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