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Technology and Culture 41.4 (2000) 807-808

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Book Review

Manufacturing Ideology: Scientific Management in Twentieth-Century Japan

Manufacturing Ideology: Scientific Management in Twentieth-Century Japan. By William M. Tsutsui. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1998. Pp. xi+279; figures, notes/references, bibliography, index. $29.95.

Global attention has been drawn to Japanese management systems, primarily as a result of the Japanese economic miracle beginning in the late 1950s and the strong international competitiveness of Japanese firms during and after the oil crisis of the 1970s. This has led to a spate of historical and empirical work in which the production system has been a major topic. While most researchers have looked at developments in the postwar years, in this book William Tsutsui explains the evolutionary process starting from the second decade of the twentieth century. He focuses on the manufacturing ideologies upon which the production system has been constructed, instead of on the production system itself, and explains their continuity in Japan during the twentieth century.

In the early phases of industrialization during the late nineteenth century, managing large factories was a new challenge for Japanese firms, and managers sought to exercise direct control over the workers on the shop floor. In the process, they recognized the significance of Taylorism, an ideology that had originated in the United States. Taylorism claimed to be mutually beneficial to capital and labor. It considered production to be essentially driven by labor and sought to induce higher productivity. Even though Japanese management did introduce many aspects of Taylorism, it differed in its address to the worker, believing that social and psychological factors--not just economic incentives--were essential to assuring maximum production. Tsutsui terms this modification "revised Taylorism."

The campaign for industrial rationalization during the depression and the drive for maximum production of military goods in the war-controlled economy were instrumental in the widespread adoption of revised Taylorism by Japanese industry. Yet factories made little progress in enhancing productivity until the postwar period, when this became a national goal. During this period a variety of management systems were introduced from the United States, including the "human relations" approach, the "wage-rate" approach based on job evaluation, and "quality [End Page 807] control." These systems were selectively introduced and modified through the manufacturing ideology of revised Taylorism. The human relations approach was readily accepted because the tradition of revised Taylorism already existed. The wage-rate approach was transformed into an ability-based system governed both by job evaluation and seniority. With a domestic market that demanded products in large variety but small quantities, revised Taylorism worked better than Fordism. Finally, there evolved the lean production system, wherein the role of the worker was of prime importance. The "quality control" (QC) movement evolved into "total quality control" (TQC) and "quality control circle" (QCC). These systems were developed as organizational devices in which management drew on the craft skill, know-how, and ideas of shop-floor workers.

Tsutsui provides a new understanding that contrasts to the traditional group-based view of Japanese management. His is a path-breaking contribution. Though revised Taylorism reflects the sociocultural values of the Japanese, it is independent of the Japanese social system in general. Management created the production system with an eye to various ideologies of the time--paternalism, spiritualism, Marxism, Fordism, and the humanization of work--and blended these piecemeal into revised Taylorism. Tsutsui explains that the production system based on revised Taylorism embraces a management ideology that prevailed worldwide during the twentieth century. But ideologies such as cooperation between labor and capital to improve productivity and satisfy various needs of workers are highly ingrained in revised Taylorism as well. It is therefore implied that the Japanese production system can be universal in nature.

The contribution of this book to Japanese business history is significant. And yet questions remain. Why is it that Tsutsui generalizes from the machine industry alone, ignoring other key industries that had become internationally competitive by World War II? The cotton-spinning firms in the textile industry, for one, had constructed a highly competitive...


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