4. Implanting habits of work intensification

A proposition : " A reward of ten pounds is given for anyone who kills a wolf.
A vagabond, however, is infinitely more dangerous to society."1
A purpose : To pre-empt such a danger.
A path : Implanting habits of work intensification.
Some sites : Family, School, Work-place

4.1 family the motivation centre
Defining us against them.
Providing an uncontested meaning and purpose to our life.
Internalising hierarchical and sexual division of labour.
Characterising play time as wastage.
Characterising time and thought shared with friends as sloth, indolence and lethargy.
Monitoring lack of motivation.

4.2 School the learning centre
Learning to internalise institutional and social hierarchy.
Learning to internalise punctuality.
Learning to build-up stamina and concentration for long hours of continuous, repetitive and stipulated work.
Learning the weight of the written word.
Learning the connections of reward and punishment with any activity.
Learning the ability to measure time in units of effective activity.
Learning the ability to measure usefulness in monetary units .
Learning the ability to evaluate social transactions in monetary terms.
Learning the art of competition to undermine fellow humans.
Learning that knowledge/information lead to achievement and social prestige.
Learning the denial of collectivity, and the affirmation of individualism.
Learning to accept the State as a natural and benevolent arbitrator.
Learning that military and police are our protectors.
Learning the value of success 'Nothing succeeds like success'.

a visible connection literacy & work intensification
Managements' need for hammering in the value of being properly timed and regimented exists perpetually. Early in the twentieth century, to teach some of its labourers the English language, International Harvester Corporation's "Lesson One" read:

I hear the whistle.
I must hurry.
I hear the five minute whistle.
It is time to go into the shop.
I take my check from the gate board,hang iton the department board.
I change my clothes get ready to work.
The starting whistle blows.
I work until the whistle blows for lunch.
I eat my lunch.
It is forbidden to eat until then.
The whistle blows at five minutes for starting time.
I get ready to go to work.
I work until the whistle blows to quit.
I leave my place nice and clean.
I put all my clothes in the locker.
I must go home.2

creeping like a snail unwillingly to school
The increase in factory production and its corollaries - offices, post & telegraph, railways, telephone departments - necessitated that the workers be acquainted with the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic. This provided the spur for literacy and schooling, and hastened the conversion of artisans and peasants into wage workers.

The increase in wage-work by women, especially in the twentieth century made literacy crucial for women if they were to work in factories, offices and railways, and in telegraph and telephone departments. The same necessity which acted as the spur for the increase in male literacy formed the major force behind the demand for increased education for women.

Investments by governments in the education system are to produce more productive workers for the industries of today and tomorrow. This constantly increases the workload on children, parents and teachers. Ironically, those far-sighted individuals - the proponents of the present school system - who saw and advocated the possibility of increased production and extraction through literate wage-workers have earned appreciation as vanguards of a humane society.

The spinal disorders that education is endowing onto children due to back-breaking book-loads ; the increasing suicides due to the nerve shattering stress of competitiveness and the parameters of success ; and the continual lowering of the age at which educational instruction begins are posing problems to the halo of benevolence around education.

4.3 work place the sqeezing centre

"Produce ! Produce ! Were it but the pitifullest infinitesimal fraction of a product, produce it in God's name ! 'Tis the utmost thou has in thee ; out with it, then."
- Thomas Carlyle

In the case of industrial wage-workers, incentives for increased production have been among the much used devices to make workers supervise intensification of their own bodies. Incentives are meant to lure workers to give more than normal production. Then this increased production becomes the new norm - to be fulfilled without incentives. The managements then try to begin another cycle of increase in work-load and intensity.

The Escorts Group (among the top ten industrial groups in India with manufacturing units for motor cycles, railway equipment, earth-moving machinery, harvester combines and tractors) management began an incentive scheme in 1987, and through this increased its production to 4.82 billion rupees (482 crores) from 3.82 billion rupees (382 cr.) in 1986. In 1988 this reached 6 billion (600 cr.), 7.5 billion (750 cr.) in 1989 and 12 billion (1200cr.) in 1990. Now production is in the range of 20 billion rupees (2000 cr.).

These increases in the turnover are based on heightened workloads achieved through agreements signed with the union. By 1990, workload had increased to more than thrice the level of 1987. Meanwhile, the incentives had also been reduced. Now the Escorts management claims that production had been only 65% of capacity. It has started trying to find ways to end the incentive scheme, which has now outlived its utility.

The objective of the Escorts management is to move on to the methods of human resource development as exemplified by the Eicher Tractors' management. In 1974, in the Eicher factory in Faridabad 450 workers produced 80 tractors per month. Supervisors then drove workers to make upto 150 tractors in a month. An incentive scheme was introduced and workers started producing 500 tractors a month in 1978, then 1000 in 1982 and 1500 tractors by 1100 workers in 1988. In 1989 a Re-engineering plan was implemented ; 450 workers started producing 1500 tractors per month, and the incentive scheme was discarded. Through its human resource development schemes, Eicher management further reduced the number of workers to 380 and goaded them to produce 2000 tractors a month. And now, through the new agreement being worked out by the Eicher management and its union, attempts are being made to give the workers at the Faridabad factory a target of 2500 tractors per month.

Earlier incentives were given when a tractor was assembled in 15 minutes. Now it is done in 10 minutes without incentives, and the management wants it done in 7 minutes. The latest union agreement has specified a time of 9 minutes.

The managerial critique of incentives
The managing director of Eicher Consultancy pronounces, "to increase production by monetary incentives is the conventional method, but such baits are appropriate only for animals. Workers are after all humans and it is an insult to their human intelligence to make them work for incentives." "Furthermore", he says, "if managements have to increase production by incentives, then what are managers for!"3

4.4 mass production -> mass intensification -> mass eradication
Methods dominant in the nineteenth century through which work intensification took quite a few quantum jumps :

  • The spread of the factory system. Researches in engineering and supervision. Strong-arm tactics of owners, their supervisors and goons.
  • Legal violence - jails, hangings and shootings.
  • The threatening presence of the state.
  • Workers becoming adjuncts to machines whose functioning was designed and streamlined to increase productivity.
  • The unceasing efforts of governments, and other opinion-makers and institutions (including religious movements) which made relaxation and leisure synonymous with wasting time. The morality of "work is worship" was impressed on the bigger part of the globe.
  • The continual opposition to this indoctrination was contained with the expanding role of police, jails and punishment.
  • Seizure of vital supports like common lands and forests.
  • Fines and incentives, bells and clocks.
  • Preaching and teaching.
  • Extinction of fairs, suppression of play.

These methods continued into the 20th century but were inadequate for the then prevalent standards of progress. They were therefore supplemented by other more progressive measures:

  • Assembly-line production.
  • Work-motion studies.
  • Surveillance techniques and devices.
  • Flexible production, Just-in-time production, Cellular engineering.
  • Strategies for mind-control.
  • Sophistication of technologies and methods of policing, prisons, intelligence services and security agencies.
  • Agile production.
  • Total Productivity Management.

    4.5 cultivating intensification
    The increase in the time and intensity of work in agriculture deserves a special mention because of its glorification in places like India. In regions like USA, Canada, Australia and most of Europe which account for most of the world's production in agri-business, live-stock rearing and dairy farming - agriculture is not considered different from industrial production.

    Introduction of irrigation in agriculture had made possible two or more crops in a year and increased the working year from 3-4 months to 6-8 months. Further progress introduced crop rotation and multiple cropping of three and four crops in a year. The idea of work throughout the year became established in these advanced agricultural regions. This has had repercussions on festival patterns, holidays and family & social rituals which have lessened increasingly. Festivities which went on for months have been replaced by one or two day festivals. Long rituals on the occasion of birth, marriage, death and many others in which hundreds participated were censured as 'rural idiocy' and 'un-productive' expenditure of time and money. They have given way to the onslaught of the smartness of 'time is money'. The present customs are a faint trace of the earlier ones.

    Fertilisers, insecticides, electricity, pumps, tubewells, tractors, harvester combines and hybrid seeds brought with them an increasing intensification of work. Inspite of the wishes of present-day researchers in biological research (who usually perceive their activities as geared towards the betterment of peasants and agricultural workers), laboratory culture and genome-projects bring in more intensified work and further worsen the lives of agricultural workers. These researches are also causing worsening of lives at large with the ever new diseases caused by "more productive" chemical, biological and nuclear agricultural products.

  • 1. Le Trosne quoted in Michel Foucault, op.cit.
  • 2. H.G. Gutman, 'Work, Culture and Society in Industrializing America'. Basil Blackwell 1977.
  • 3. FMS.