Understanding work intensification as a multitude of eradication drives.
The euphemism most commonly used : Discipline
"Discipline produces subjugated and practiced bodies, docile bodies." 1
Other related words : efficiency, productivity, work-culture, punctuality, good schooling, smartness
2.1 Eradication of any uncontrolled movement of the hand and any unproductive glance of the eyes
In the last quarter of the 19th century resources were systematically channelised for research in electrical and mechanical engineering. Towards the end of the century, it became possible to introduce the Fordist-Taylorist system or Assembly Line Production.
Techniques of work intensification like opium and whips used on slaves, peasants and artisans became old fables. Even the methods of the early factory system were far too backward. Workers now worked in assembly lines where the products moved at a speed not controlled by workers. The new system allowed the managements to govern the speed of work more stringently. Workers could no longer take a breather between two jobs as they could manage earlier.
Thus began the era of work motion studies undertaken to scrutinise and pattern human actions. They make work more rigorous and demanding. Any uncontrolled movement of the hand or any unproductive glance of the eyes is sought to be eradicated.
"... the speed of the motor has to be maintained at 1500 rpm, the distance between two workers will be 2 meters, the line will move for 2 meters and stop for 2 minutes, the worker must be stationed at a distance of 0.5 meters from the line, feet one foot apart for proper balance, the tool stand will be placed 0.75 meters from the worker on the left, the line will carry ..."
While earlier supervisors inspected to check that workers did not relax even for a minute, now they had these new systems and machines to ensure that workers were engaged every second.
In these production systems, workers are made to work upto 45 seconds in a minute.
2.2 Eradication of idle-time
"Good-bye, Sir, excuse me, I haven't time.
I'll come back, can't wait, I haven't time.
I must end this letter, I haven't time.
I'd love to help you, but I haven't time.
I can't accept, having no time.
I can't think, can't read , I'm swamped, I haven't time.
I'd like to play, but I haven't time."
- A depiction of the situation to which wage-workers found themselves reduced as a result of scientific time-management around the turn of the last century.2
2.3 Eradication of any unwanted wandering of the mind and the soul
Halfway into this century, managements analysed that the Fordist-Taylorist system had stretched workers' bodies to the limit. (However, as we know, research continued in this field, and by the nineties through flexible production systems workers are made to work upto 57 seconds in a minute.) Managements then began research and brought control over workers' minds and souls on their agenda.
There was an awareness that if you already squeeze 45 seconds out of every minute, there is little scope of reducing what the management guru calls idle-time. The significant emphasis thus became to govern the worker's mind and soul alongwith driving the body.
Since then, a variety of models of production systems have been tried out and their effectivity measured. The proponents of various systems - 'management gurus' - vie with each-other to appropriate more resources. Management schools and research manuals have named these models : Cellular Engineering, Re-engineering, Total Productivity Management, Total Quality Management, Just-in Time Production, Agile Production, etc.
In Nippon Steel Company this control over workers' minds is achieved through another eradication - partial eradication of fixed wages. The wage consists of two components, fixed and a flexible part. The flexible part is divided into 2/3rd individual payment and 1/3rd group payment, decided on the basis of individual and group performance respectively. The flexible wage and the rise of fixed wage depends upon the criteria of : devotion and loyalty to the company, and obedience ! 3
Such systems are spreading fast but have also become associated with some terms, which along with the system, originated in Japan. We are already acquainted with the most relevant, karoshi - sudden death due to overwork.
2.4 Counter-ingenuity drives back
Just-in-time system of inventory control implies that constant work has to go on unceasingly in production units as inventories are reduced. Any delays would mean stoppage of work down the line in many production units. The introduction of Just-in-time has increased the strength of every small group of workers, as work stoppage in any section of a company or a production network can have wide-spread implications. This forces the managements to do their job of countering resistance through more supervision, stricter & more elaborate disciplining codes, and increase in company security personnel and police-posts.
"In our factory, Kelvinator (now Whirlpool) in Faridabad with a total of 4000 workers, tool down strike by 17 operators in the compressor unit brought the manufacture of refrigerators in the entire factory to a halt." 4
In June 1992, work-stoppage by workers brought one of the forty-one railway companies in the USA to a stop. Managements of the other 40 companies decided to counter anti-work and declared lock-out in all the other companies. As a result, production in many factories ground to a halt as the railways stopped. Due to the delays in deliveries, production stopped immediately in companies organised on
Just-in-time basis. Even giants like General Motors were helpless. The US government was forced to declare a state of emergency to combat the fall in work ethics amongst workers in America.5
2.5 Eradication of "please" !
Operators at the dial-in telephone directory assistance run by Pacific Bell used to say, "What city, please ?". Now the operators have been told by the company to discontinue the practice of using 'please' in their greetings. The company reasons : the new greeting saves time. Research had been undertaken wherein it was found that the revised wordings clock in at 1.2 seconds, compared with the average 1.7 seconds that the earlier "...please" used to take. 6
2.6 Eradication of "regards" !
Recently, a group of management students during a train journey were troubled over a most profound problem. The problem concerned the immense waste that was accruing daily due to the convention of ending every corporate fax and telex with the salutation, 'regards' ! One suggestion was to save time and money by sending a circular to all concerned to be informed that everybody had been 'regarded' once and for all and to stop this daily indulgence.
This discussion seemed quite oblivious about the origins of this custom of giving 'regards'. 'Regards' came in vogue after the eradication of a variety of salutations - yours' truly, yours' sincerely, yours faithfully, yours' affectionately, yours' etc. - along with the time and thought required to choose the appropriate one, and preceding it with a 'thanking you'.
This discussion was also ignorant of the displacement of regards in many executive circles and faxes by "B.R." i.e. best regards !
2.7 Eradication of idle chatter
TALK LESS, WORK MORE
Tanya was admitted to a neighbourhood school. She was taught getting up early everyday, discipline, punishment, reading, writing, arithmetic. And to sit quietly in the class unless permitted to talk. She, however, loved to talk to her friends even when the teacher forbade such flagrant indiscipline. When other threats and rewards did not work, one day the teacher sent her home with sticking-tape put on her mouth. Tanya was not yet three years old.
the queue theory
"The queue theory" is among the frontier researches in economics. It concerns itself with calculating the length of the queue in which people will line-up to buy a certain commodity, given the demand and supply position of that product. It stands to reason that for reliable predictions and efficient utilisation of space, the theory must be able to assume (and for practical application, it must be able to enforce these assumptions) that people will behave themselves and occupy only a specified amount of ground space. This implies that they must not talk.
A usual scenario to be noticed is that people standing in lines do not talk to each-other. All that they say is to express impatience at the speed of the line, or express impatience at the speed of children who are slow to internalise these adult habits.
the weekly chat
A research scholar's experience at Yale : the whole day is spent in a library, which suffers from abundance and shelf efficiency ; with instructions to maintain pin-drop silence, the evening passes away in the room, amidst books again. On Friday nights, the only 'holiday' scholars have, people meet for a weekly chat.
2.8 Mass eradication the daily detail
In all probability the phrase 'mass eradication' will lend itself to the following ideas and images:
10 million officially killed in World War I, 50 million officially killed in World War II.
And the 'peace-time' details since then ... 187 wars between nation-states and officially 16 million killed, till 1983!
These events are effects of competition, technology, growth and progress and it is essential to comprehend this. However it is also imperative to talk about the incalculable havoc that incessant eradication drives due to competition between enterprises, between branches of production and between national interests have on people and to examine how the even more wide-spread wars against resistance play havoc with the lives of billions.
Every year for a few days after the announcement of Class XII results, Bombay newspapers carry reports of a number of teenage suicides.
In the USA lack of motivation among students in schools and colleges is treated by large doses of psycho-stimulants. Already by 1970s, 25 % of the students were under this medication.
Attempts by social managers in Japan to push ahead of the US have led to such an increase in the course-work that children have started committing suicide in large numbers.
"If you observe workers crossing any major intersection in Faridabad Industrial Town, you see a large number of missing fingers and amputated limbs. Everyday in the factories and workshops of Faridabad, at least 200 workers are injured badly enough to require professional medical attention."
The social security system, in countries where it is highly developed, has provided the primary method of keeping a watch on people. Every individual in these countries is numbered, and files are maintained on him/her. Corporate bodies and the government use this system in an attempt to monitor people's habits, movements and activities.
All governments keep dossiers on people whom they classify as offenders. Some states in the USA have initiated a new innovation, wherein they keep dossiers on people whom they classify as 'likely to commit an offence'.
Barbara a survivor of mass-eradication
Barbara works in an electronic banking system in the state of Maryland, USA. She and her co-workers are arranged in long rows of small desks. All through the day they open envelopes and arrange their contents. They have to fill in control cards which record the number of envelopes they open and the amount of time they take. They have to work at a speed of three envelopes a minute. Alongside are women who have to key in 8,500 strokes per hour on electronic key-boards.
The workplace resembles a large class room with the manager positioned on a raised platform in the front. Supervisors are stationed at the back. A boss explains that if you want to keep an eye on the workers the best place is at the back. Then workers do not know whether they are being watched or not.
Black globes hang from the roof with cameras in them. A boss monitors the workers and the supervisors with the aid of eight cameras in the room. The cameras can be zoomed in by remote control on any document on any worker's desk. The boss also receives continuous data on a computer about the work done by each worker.
There is a strict rule that workers can not talk about anything which is not related to that work. The range allowed is from silence to monosyllables.
To do away with the unwanted wandering of the mind all the windows are closed There is no break besides lunch and nothing except lozenges is allowed to be eaten while working.
During the lunch break workers hardly eat. They just talk and talk .
Barbara's co-worker Carol Smith, while in sleep, moves her hands as though opening envelopes and sometimes suddenly wakes up at night.
Barbara has to do a part-time job after this 8-hour shift to meet her expenses.7
- 1 Michel Foucault, op. cit.
- 2 Michel Quoist, quoted in S B Linder, 'The Harried Leisure Class'. Columbia University Press, New York and London.
- 3 Solidarity Links, February 1993 _ Revolt, P.O. Box 11127, 1001 GC Amsterdam, Holland.
- 4 FMS, September 1995.
- 5 FMS.
- 6 Parade Magazine, January 1, 1995. Quoted in 'The People' February 25, 1995 _ 111 W. Evelyn Avenue, Suite 209, Sunnyvale, CA 94086-6140,USA.
- 7 A Wall Street Journal Report published in Challenge, Jan 11 1995 _ GPO Box 808, Brooklyn, NY 11202, USA.