chapter  5
18 Pages

Revisiting Taylorism: Conceptual implications for studies of lifelong learning, technology and work in the public sector


In this chapter I argue that Frederick W. Taylor’s Scientific Management system, or Taylorism, constructed in the late nineteenth century, remains a relevant frame through which to understand contemporary changes under advanced capitalism. I suggest that Taylorism has been underappreciated by most work and learning scholars, and by many in the field of work studies generally. In keeping with a variety of Taylor scholars, I seek to demonstrate the breadth of his work and its prefiguring of virtually every major management movement since its inception, including those linked to contemporary computer-mediated applications. I seek to demonstrate that Taylorism offers a deeply pragmatic, practice-based, materialist approach, informed by a historical appreciation of the mode of production from a particular political economic standpoint. As such it has been absorbed, reabsorbed and reconstructed readily – even if unnamed – by theoreticians and practitioners alike.