Taylorism Up Close and Personal: Hugh G. Aitken's Taylorism at Watertown Arsenal

In "Taylorism Up Close and Personal," Robert Kanigel contributes to Technology and Culture's ongoing series of reviews of classics of the history of technology literature. In it he reconsiders Hugh G. Aitken's Taylorism at Watertown Arsenal, originally published in 1960 and reissued in 1985 under the title Scientific Management in Action. Aitken's book explored a 1911 strike at Watertown Arsenal outside Boston that represented a protest against time-study techniques used by Frederick Winslow Taylor and his supporters and that were a central feature of his system of "scientific management." Kanigel offers a brief overview of Aitken's book, which he sees as offering a needed corrective to the rhetorical posturing that often surrounds Taylorism. He suggests that Aitken's success issued from the expert way in which he framed his account, to his diligence in working through the extensive source materials left over from the Watertown strike, and to Aitken's "openness to every sort of person, every habit of mind." In Aitken's ability to craft an account accessible to readers outside his own discipline, Kanigel sees high-order "popularization" at work.