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Topic section 4: Creating conformity
TOPIC SECTION:
Creating conformity
On the factory line, work has been studied scientifically in order to increase productivity. From 1880 Frederick Taylor pioneered ‘scientific management’ in engineering shops. Time and motion studies were used to analyse work, deciding the optimum time a job took, and setting output targets accordingly.
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Clocking-in machine, 1930.
Credit: Science Museum/Science & Society Picture Library


Motion study became widely used in interwar America and Europe. The amount of unnecessary physical movement required of workers was reduced, increasing productivity. This meant that a job could consist of a single, limited activity, which was easy to perform but dull.

This instilled conformity on the worker, moulding him to his most economically efficient form
Factory line work became a trade-off between working harder at a repeated task and the financial incentives offered if production targets were met. This instilled conformity on the worker, moulding him to his most economically efficient form at the cost of dulling his creative faculties.

The factory line demanded that workers conform to certain requirements, such as speed, accuracy or method. But conformity soon took on a wider meaning.
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Woman operating a hand press, 1920-1930. Credit: Science Museum/Science & Society Picture Library


During the Great Depression, some industrialists believed rationalised work practices might produce dangerously long hours of leisure. These would allow workers to gain an understanding of new ideas, like Communism.
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Spring-driven keyless stopwatch, 1890.
Credit: Science Museum/Science & Society Picture Library


After World War Two, greater prosperity spurred mass production and hot war merged into the Cold War. In the 1950s, conformity and consumption was seen as ‘The American Way’. The ‘Organisation Man’, a product of the factory line, became the linchpin of an affluent society, but one that was not completely at ease with itself as the dissent of the 1960s showed.

 
 
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The beginning of the line
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The factory line has permeated lives and made possible our consumer society, producing both its wealth of goods and many of its social pressures.  > more

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The mass production of dreams
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In Hollywood’s ‘Golden Age’, films were also made on a ‘production line’. By breaking the project up into small, timed tasks, a studio could make a film in less than 9 weeks.  > more

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Labour tensions
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The factory line created differences between skilled workers who built the line and manual workers who laboured on it. This caused tensions, which sometimes ended in strike and unrest.  > more
 
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