Elton Mayo

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Mayo, Elton


Born Dec. 26, 1880, in Adelaide, South Australia; died Sept. 7, 1949, in Polsden Lacy, Surrey, Great Britain. American sociologist; professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration. One of the founders of American industrial sociology and the originator of the doctrine of human relations.

In Mayo’s conception of industrial relations, the personal and emotional relations of individuals to one another are substituted for objective socioeconomic relations. Mayo denied the existence of a contradiction of class interests between entrepreneurs and hired labor; instead, he focused his attention on breakdowns in communication and in mutual understanding among individual members of both groups. He considered improvement in worker-management relations to be the means of dissolving conflicts between labor and capital.

Beginning in the 1920’s, Mayo and a group of associates were commissioned by several corporations to develop a system of measures designed to improve the social atmosphere in enterprises and to ease the conflicts between superiors and subordinates at different levels of the corporate hierarchy. Mayo was one of the originators of the idea that workers can be more effectively stimulated by noneconomic factors (signs of respect from management or high prestige among fellow workers) than by the size of their salaries or the prospect of salary increase. Based on this idea, he proposed a number of specific methods for raising labor productivity. According to Mayo, sociology should offer practical help for the establishment of harmony in industry. Mayo’s theories sought to subordinate the consciousness of the workers to existing bourgeois relations.


The Social Problems of an Industrial Civilization. Boston, 1945.
The Human Problems of an Industrial Civilization. Boston, 1933.
The Political Problem of Industrial Civilization. Boston, 1947.


Gvishiani, D. M. Organizatsiia i upravlenie: Sotsiologicheskii analiz burzhuaznykh teorii. Moscow, 1970.
Novikov, N. V. “Problemy organizatsii i upravleniia ν sotsiologii.” Mirovaia ekonomika i mezhdunarodnye otnosheniia, 1972, no. 3.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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After historical discussion of some of the predecessors of the field, including Elton Mayo, Chester Barnard, Kurt Lewin, Mary Parker Follett, Max Weber, and Frederick Taylor, Miner explores the early emergence of the field and its relationship to such influencing factors as the recruiting of social scientists into the business schools, the contributions of psychiatry, the prevailing climate of economic uncertainty at the time, and an intellectual environment encouraging interdisciplinary contributions.
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