• Date and time: Wednesday 15 February 2017, 3.30pm to 4.30pm
  • Location: LMB/102b

Event details


Fordism is largely understood in definitive material terms as the first system of mass-production. In this capacity it is associated with the standardized products it produces, the process of their production and the labour-relations such a process requires. This paper seeks to re-examine the origins of this system and in doing so argues that behind what has come to be understood as the most ‘material’ processes of organizing man and machine was an attempt by Henry Ford to realise a ‘metaphysical’ ideal that was informed by the popular philosophical and theological thought of the period. By returning to the writing and thought of this period, the work of the American Transcendentalist, Ralph Waldo Emerson (with which Ford systematically engaged), is employed as an analytical framework to both re-contextualise and interpret the industrial ideals of Henry Ford and his Motor Company. This is done by using three concepts from Emerson’s essays (Self-reliance (1841), Nature (1836), and Compensation (1841) and applying these to form an analysis of the three aspects that make up Fordism (Product (Model T), Process (Assembly-line) and labour-relations policy (the 5 Dollar Day).  In doing so some original insights are uncovered and analysed which relate to the way that the history of organizational thought might be reconsidered as being premised on transcendentalist values rather than scientific principles. By offering an analytical challenge to the ideals that are commonly received as being contained in the originating thought, context and imagination surrounding organization and management, the paper concludes with a suggestion regarding how religious, spiritual and theological ideas might be introduced to rethink further historical notions and narratives of management and organization studies.

Dr Peter Watt, York St John University

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