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Article Title: How Slavery Inspired Modern Business Management


Article Summary

This article named: How Slavery Inspired Modern Business Management goes on to explain how scientific management devised by Frederick Winslow Taylor has its point of reference as slavery. An employee reported that working in a factory felt as if it is getting down to slavery. Managers, he said, exerted extreme control. The head of a machinists’ union argued that the system had “reduced the men to virtual slavery, low wages. This analogy is deeply troubling because supporters of scientific management used the language of slavery to praise the system. The relationship of the manager and worker is actually similar to the relationship of master and slave. The most striking parallel between slavery and scientific management can be found in the “task idea,” which Taylor described as “the most prominent single element in modern scientific management.”

The article, through various examples and findings, goes on to draw parallels between management and slavery but despite this research and more, the parallels between present-day business management practices and slavery have been persistently neglected in mainstream discussions. This is where the real problem lies, in denial. The article concludes that the heritage of U.S. business includes both stories of innovation and those of extreme violence. Often the two are deeply intertwined. This was true in specific ways for scientific management, and it was undeniable for plantation slavery. Reckoning with these uncomfortable histories can help us to see the deep connections between capitalism and control and, perhaps, even to find a more humane way forward.

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Words to learn from this Article:

Proponent: a person who advocates a theory, proposal, or course of action.

Extractive: of or involving extraction, especially the extensive extraction of natural resources without provision for their renewal.

Jettison: abandon or discard Expedite: happen sooner or be accomplished more quickly.

Manoeuvring: move skilfully or carefully.

Humane: having or showing compassion or benevolence.


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