August 2014

BEZOS’ COLD, MICROMANAGED, time-motion approach to the workplace is a direct descendant (and extreme extension) of a theory of “scientific management” developed in the 1880’s by Frederick Winslow Taylor, an industrial analyst trying to transform craft workers into tools of mass production. Maximum economic efficiency from each worker was seen as the overriding value in any work- place, which required breaking down each movement in every worker’s tasks into discrete pieces to determine “the one best method” for doing the job.

A central assumption was that “the worker was taken for granted as a cog in the machinery,” requiring a high ratio of managers to laborers and a high level of managerial control over employees in order to standardize (and later automate) the process. While Taylor believed workers should be fairly paid (to keep them on the job) and given rest breaks (to extend their productivity), he also had a condescending view of less intelligent workers, sometimes comparing them to draft animals.

Taylorism made jobs unpleasant–and subsequent practitioners made them less remunerative and less secure, then less available… and on toward nonexistent, a form of ultimate Taylorism that can now be called Bezosism.

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