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Taylored Lives Narrative Productions in the Age of Taylor, Veblen, and Ford cover
  • ISBN: 9780226037028
  • ISBN10: 0226037029

Taylored Lives Narrative Productions in the Age of Taylor, Veblen, and Ford

by Martha Banta

  • List Price: $34.00
  • Binding: Paperback
  • Publisher: Univ of Chicago Pr
  • Publish date: 11/01/1995
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Description
Scientific management: Technology spawned it, Frederick Winslow Taylor championed it, Thorstein Veblen dissected it, Henry Ford implemented it. By the turn of the century, practical visionaries prided themselves on having arrived at "the one best way" both to increase industrial productivity and to regulate the vagaries of human behavior. Nothing escaped the efficiency craze, and in this vivid, wide-ranging book, Martha Banta explores its effect on the culture at large. To the Taylorists, everthing needed tidying up: government, business, warfare, households, and, most of all, the workplace, with its unruly influx of strangers into the native scenes. Taylored Lives gives us a striking sense of what it was like to live, work, love, and die when time, motion, and emotions were checked off on worksheets and management charts. Canvasing the culture, Banta shows how the cause of efficiency was taken up in narratives, of every sort - in mail-order catalogs, popular romances, newspaper stories, and personal testimonials "from below", as well as in the canonical works of writers from Henry Adams and William James, to Sinclair Lewis, Nathanael West, and William Faulkner. The strategies of impassioned theorists and hands-on practitioners affected the kinds-of narratives produced in the controversy over the pros and cons of the management culture; they bear an eerie resemblance to the means by which we today, storytellers all, keep trying to make sense of our own chaotic times. This interdisciplinary work charts the development of a managerial culture from its start in the steel mills of Pennsylvania through its spread across the American experience in an interlocking series of social systems andeveryday practices. Banta scrutinizes narrative strategies employed by "inscribers" as diverse as Josephine Goldmark, Theodore Roosevelt, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Anzia Yezierska, Richard Harding Davis, Booker T. Washington, and Theodore Dreiser; by Taylor himself, as well as Veblen and Ford; by women who toiled on the factory floor; by writers of dream-copy for ready-made houses; and by Buster Keaton in his silent treatment of the dysfuntional honeymoon home. With its historical scope and its provocative readings of assorted narratives, this richly illustrated book offers a complex and disturbing picture of a period, as well as invaluable insights into the way theory-making continually makes and breaks cultures. A remarkable work, Taylored Lives confirms Martha Banta's place as one of our leading cultural and literary critics.
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