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Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a system for the organization of labor and production management that originated in the United States at the turn of the 20th century. It uses scientific and technological advances to extract the maximum surplus value by intensifying exploitation of the working class. The system was named for the American engineer F. W. Taylor (1856–1915).

Taylorism is the aggregate of techniques developed by Taylor and his followers to organize and establish norms for labor and the management of production processes and methods of selecting, placing, and paying employees to achieve a significant increase in the productivity and intensity of labor. Taylorism requires detailed study of labor processes and the establishment of strict procedures for their performance, strict equipment operating conditions, and a high daily or hourly output quota; in addition, it requires the selection and special training of workers to perform various types of jobs at very high speed.

The analytic method developed by Taylor to establish labor norms is based on direct measurement by time-and-motion studies of the time taken to perform given operations and specific types of work. The method involves breaking all labor operations down into simple actions and techniques, elimination of extra and useless operations, and study of the procedures used by the most highly skilled workers and selection of the most rapid and successful of these procedures. To set output quotas, Taylor would choose the strongest, most dexterous, and most skilled worker, one who had been trained in the most sophisticated techniques. The output indexes of this worker, recorded element by element by a time-and-motion study, were set up as the mandatory norm for all workers.

Taylor devised a special system of piece-rate pay to give all workers a material interest in fulfilling and overfulfilling the high quota. Under this system, workers who fulfilled and overfulfilled the quota were paid at wage and piece rates higher than usual, while workers who did not fulfill the quota, even by a fraction of a percentage point, were paid lowered rates (usually 20–30 percent less)—in other words, they were penalized. Taylorism envisioned a certain alternation of labor and rest. Taylor declared that the controlled rest he had introduced was an indication of the humaneness and scientific quality of his methods. In reality, it helped maintain the high intensity of labor by the workers throughout the full working day.

The introduction of Taylorism at American enterprises in the early 20th century led to a sharp increase in the intensity of labor. Workers who could not meet the high pace of work were either transferred to lower paying jobs or were fired.

V. I. Lenin called Taylorism a “scientific system of sweating” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 23, p. 18) and a system for man’s enslavement by the machine (ibid., vol. 24, p. 369). At the same time, Lenin pointed out that the system “is a combination of the refined brutality of bourgeois exploitation and a number of the greatest scientific achievements in the field of analysing mechanical motions during work, the elimination of superfluous and awkward motions, the elaboration of correct methods of work, the introduction of the best system of accounting and control, etc.” (ibid., vol. 36, pp. 189–90). Calling attention to the contradictory, dual character of Taylor’s system, Lenin recommended that the rational elements in it be singled out and used creatively, combined, of course, with other measures of the Soviet state arising from its social nature and concern for human beings. Lenin demanded that the rational elements be combined “with a reduction in working time, with the application of new methods of production and work organization undetrimental to the labor power of the working population” (ibid., p. 141). Lenin’s analysis of Taylorism and his recommendations on the use of the system played an important part in the development of the principles of scientific organization of labor in the USSR.

Taylorism served as the basis for the contemporary systems of labor organization used in the capitalist countries. It has evolved with changes in the development of productive forces, especially the scientific and technological revolution.

In contemporary capitalism, questions of improving labor organization and production management have become a special branch of knowledge and the sphere of activity of hundreds of research organizations, both public and private, and of consulting firms. The range of issues these organizations handle is very broad. It covers both the technical-organizational and technicaleconomic aspects of labor organization and management, as well as the psychophysiological and social psychological aspects. This testifies to an unprecedented expansion of means and methods used by monopoly capital to increase profits and intensify exploitation of working people.


Lenin, V. I. “‘Nauchnaia’ sistema vyzhimaniia pota.” Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 23.
Lenin, V. I. “Sistema Teilora—poraboshchenie cheloveka mashinoi.” Ibid., vol. 24.
Lenin, V. I. “Tetradi po imperializmu.” Ibid., vol. 28, pp. 126–28.
Lenin, V. I. “Pervonachal’nyi variant stat’i ‘Ocherednye zadachi Sovetskoi vlasti.’ “Ibid., vol. 36.
Lenin, V. I. “Ocherednye zadachi Sovetskoi vlasti.” Ibid., vol. 36.
Taylor, F. W. Nauchnaia organizatsiia truda, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1925.
Moshenskii, M. “Leninskii analiz teilorizma i sovremennost’.” Sotsialisticheskii trud, 1970, no. 4.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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