The Future of Corporate Globalization: From the Extended Order to the Global Village

By Jeremiah J. Sullivan | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 8

WORK AND WORKERS IN THE 20TH CENTURY

Who said that work is an ongoing social process in which a manager should demonstrate “that personal consideration for, and friendly contact with, his workmen which comes only from a genuine and kindly interest in the welfare of those under him”? And, echoing this view of toil as involving elements of human community and fellow feeling, who said that work is “an end in itself, the meaningful expression of human energy”? The first quote is from Frederick W. Taylor, the second from Karl Marx. 1 The idea of labor as a necessary part of the process of living was congenial to both right-wing (Taylor) and left-wing (Marx) thinkers in the 19th century and also fit in well with the basic American belief in the autonomous individual acting reasonably to choose a meaningful existence within a democratically governed community. Yet, as I noted in Chapter 2, this idea faded into the background in the 20th century. It is making a big return in the 21st century, and, because it accords with human nature, the move to seeing work as part of living in a sensible, meaningful way will be both an American and a global phenomenon challenging corporations to adapt. In this chapter, I will discuss confused and infeasible 20th-century approaches to managing work and workers and focus on the 21st-century move back to the human norm in the next chapter.


WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO WORK?

In a Huntsville, Texas, factory, 120 workers sit at their sewing machines, producing top-of-the-line work pants. Malingering is rare, and relaxed chats at the coffee urn do not interfere with the high productivity of the

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