WORK AND ITS DISCONTENTS by Daniel Bell

WORK AND ITS DISCONTENTS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In this slim but strong volume Daniel Bell, Labor Editor of Fortune Magazine, presents the thinking world with yet another aspect of the cyclical man versus machine struggle in a product minded society. His essay, cogent and well thought out, is subtitled The Cult of Efficiency in America and emphasizes this aspect of the problem rather than the broader complex of social and economic factors which brought it about. Classifying the American archtype of today as the factory worker set upon by the most unpleasant aspects of time, Mr. Bell begins his thesis historically, with references to the influences Bentham and utilitarian rationality and the work movement studies of Taylor and Gilbreth have had on the modern factory. Going next to the working conditions themselves, now so dehumanized, he examines the validity of a ""one best way to work"", indicates that the factory has become the social psychologist's province and proceeds to show that much of his talk about ""human relations"", worker-management communication and so forth is, nonsense. From the factory then, to the worker himself, the next step examines personal work motives and puts them on realistic bases (the urge to have goods) and states that the means to gain goods have long ceased to give the spiritual sustenance necessary for their true enjoyment; the run on hobbies means a loss of satisfaction in work. But it also means utopia may be around the corner. With automation and the results in working time, population shifts and the need to think of the factory in terms of the whole rather than production units, which it will bring, there is the chance that a new morality may arise. We are left to imagine what it may consist of, but the stimulus is a provocative one.

Pub Date: Nov. 20th, 1956
Publisher: Beacon