I was a labor historian earlier in my career. Sadly, I hardly ever get to teach that subject anymore because the class never fills. However, the lessons that most of the best labor historians I read during graduate school described in their work have never left me. Indeed, they seem more relevant to my own life than ever before.
The late Yale historian David Montgomery published Workers’ Control in America all the way back in 1979. It’s a fairly short analysis of exactly how American industrial workers during the late-nineteenth century lost control of the shop floor. After technological change swept their various industries, they no longer had any influence over the production process. “[N]ew methods of industrial management undermined the very foundation of craftsmen’s functional autonomy,” Montgomery wrote on page 26.
“Coupled with systematic supervision and new forms of incentive payment it permitted what Frederick Winslow Taylor called ‘
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