When you look back on how the Ford motorcar factory was run 90 years ago in comparison to how it is run now, you can say that a lot has changed. But in terms of the management system (Taylorist approach) and the main objectives (increased labour = maximum productivity), not much has changed at all. The writer will take a deeper insight into the school/ prison theory at Ford and will relate it to Michel Foucault's ideas. By 1923 the Ford motor company was producing 2000 cars per day compared to its 27 Model – T cars 15years earlier.
This was made possible because of the management systems and techniques that were used in order to increase productivity. When Henry ford first introduced the assembly line to the Ford motor company, it became a critical turning point that would change the motor industry forever. Years earlier, motor companies would need highly skilled well-paid craftsman that could carry out complicated jobs with precision. The idea of deskilling work came when it became clear that there were not enough craftsmen to produce cars in 'mass'. In the 1936 film Modern times illustrates a near perfect example of Taylorism in the factory of the Electro Steel corp.
The Big boss has a two-way screen with on-line audio and video transmission where he can view all parts of the plants operation. He spends most of his time relaxing in he's tennis court sized office reading newspapers and playing puzzles. The boss dictates the speed of the assembly line to his foreman. Pure Taylorism i. e. Thinker – Doer. When the assembly line came into use, it became clear that it was a tailor-made assembly line that was made to suit the interests of the Bosses, which meant productivity. The needs of the factory worker were not considered and working conditions were poor.
The protection of the factory worker was not a priority and many workers were injuring themselves on a regular basis. This is an example of their worthlessness to the company. Consistent supervision of the factory worker played a major part of the entire Taylor system. The human rights of the factory workers were so limited that people started comparing working at the Ford motor company to being in prison. The control over the pace that the employee worked at was stolen from every employee. Prisoners in jail have no control over their scheduling so therefore it can be argued that workers were being treaded like prisoners.
The Panoptical was a design build by J. Benthem. This was a new design that was purposely used for prisons. The design was made in such a way that it was possible for prison officers to view all prison cells while being situated in one place. The design was based around two circles, an outer circle (where the prisoners cells are situated) and an inner circle (where the officers can sit and view the prisoners without being seen). Michel Foucault took the basic skeleton of the panoptical design and went on to describe how people would behave themselves if they thought they were being watched (self policing).
Because the prisoner couldn't see who was watching them or when they were being watched, the best strategy to avoided punishment would be to act well behaved all the time. The idea was to induce in the inmate a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning power (Foucault 202). The final piece of the Ford prison was put together when Ford introduced the Plant Protection Service Department (PPSD). This department was brought in to stamp out the ford workers getting involved in United auto union.
This turned the Rouge Plant into something that can only be compared to a prison. Signs of Michel Foucault's later ideas of surveillance were being used into full effect. The PPSD acted as though they were prison officers who had been brought in to oversee ill-mannered and misbehaving prisoners. They followed factory workers into toilets, planted microphones and deployed informants all over the factory. It didn't end there, spies were planted around areas outside work such as markets and local bars, looking out for incriminating gossip (Buchanan, 353).
These are the very same tactics that are used by the police to catch criminals and prison wardens to contain prisoners. Michel Foucault refers to Panopiticism by saying: all that is needed, then, is to place a supervisor in the central tower and to shut up in each cell a madman, a patient, a condemned man, a worker or a schoolboy (Foucault, 200) This is testimony to the fact that he made no distinction between different types of people when talking about this subject. The basic principal (observation = Good behaviour) still remains the same.
Bosses saw their factory workers as the same and made no distinction between one worker to the next. Very similar to the way humans perceive Ants and the way a prison warden sees prisoners. Foucault felt that the surveillance of each worker would eliminate bad behaviour, theft and no coalitions. Without any of these distractions to slow down the rate of work, the workplace would run like clockwork, 'perfect'. This brings me back to a part time job that I once had at News International (NI), when video cameras were attached to each line so that we could be monitored while feeding the machines.
This meant that you always had to be on your best behaviour just encase somebody is at the other end watching you. This is an example of Michel Foucault 'self policing' theories being used in today society. My own experience that relates to the above subject is when I was working at the News International newspaper plant (the biggest complex in Europe). The plant had 30 different production lines all for the same national newspaper. Every line was segmented and blocked off. Two people were allocated to each line. Our job was to feed inserts (leaflets) into the machines that ran continuously.
We were made to ware T-shirts that bare the company logo and our immediate bosses were people that used to do the same job as us that had been promoted. There promotion meant that they earned an extra 50p per hour. They had power over us but no real power. They wore white shirts and black trousers and walked around the lines making sure that people are at their stations and not skiving. Because we were transfixed to our stations, we were unable to move other wise the machine would run out of leaflets. Working there made myself and others feel as though we were imprisoned.
An article in the Financial Times referred to taylorism in the workplace as "Us vs. them" Human relations are effected at work The Ford factory related to a prison in terms of the way that the workers had lost their identities. The factory worker simply became a very small piece on a very large machine. The very basic human rights such as the mobility of these workers were denied and the workers were left with no control over their movements. When working at NI, we were not called by our names but by the number of the machine the machine you were working on. The same method that are used to identify prisoners.