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American literature and the rise of management: From the mill girls, Emerson, Thoreau and Melville to Rebecca Harding Davis, Bellamy, Twain and Frederick Taylor

Michael William Munley, University of Massachusetts - Amherst

Abstract

This study examines commentary on the changes in work during the industrial revolution in the United States, 1820 to 1914, as a "workplace discourse," by male and female workers, reformers, politicians and writers of fiction (canonical and non-canonical). Their writings disclose a fierce social war over changes in work, the status of workers, working conditions and their cultural implications. The workplace conflict amounted to a second civil war, intricately implicated in the civil war over slavery and federal union. A rhetorical war until 1862, and then a long, bloody series of conflicts in the street, the cultural conflict over industrial work generated a burst of utopian schemes, in fiction and social commentary, between 1880 and 1910. Tracing this discourse shift, specifically in three utopian novels by Edward Ballamy, Ignatius Donnelly and Mark Twain, provides a context for re-reading the bible of American management, Frederick W. Taylor's Principles of Scientific Management, as a utopian text rather than as the applied science Taylor hoped and said the book was. In turn, Taylor's utopian project makes possible new readings of the novels as exciting, prescient social commentary. Together, these texts illuminate the first moments of the country's radical adoption of corporate solutions to social problems. ^

Subject Area

American Studies|Business Administration, Management|Literature, American

Recommended Citation

Michael William Munley, "American literature and the rise of management: From the mill girls, Emerson, Thoreau and Melville to Rebecca Harding Davis, Bellamy, Twain and Frederick Taylor" (January 1, 1991). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. Paper AAI9207443.
http://scholarworks.umass.edu/dissertations/AAI9207443

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