Managing the Modern Workplace : Productivity, Politics and Workplace Culture in Postwar Britain book cover
1st Edition

Managing the Modern Workplace
Productivity, Politics and Workplace Culture in Postwar Britain

ISBN 9781138275294
Published November 2, 2016 by Routledge
188 Pages

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Book Description

A recurring theme in the history of modern Britain in the twentieth-century has been the failure of its manufacturing industry and the record of disorder and conflict in the industrial workplace. This image was reinforced by the evidence of national strikes from the 1960s until 1984. This emphasis on decline and disorder in British manufacturing has distorted our understanding of workplace relationships and cultures in the post-war years. This volume provides a fresh assessment of the diverse and complex world of the workplace and Britain's production cultures during the long boom. Essays investigate the public and private sectors, and both manufacturing and service industries. The volume begins with a comparison of labour management in the post-war automobile industry, exploring the role of the foreman in the management of shop floor labour in Britain and the USA. The following two essays are concerned with relations between management and workers in the publicly-owned corporations. The first examines negotiations over pay and effort at the Swindon locomotive works, including the cultural values which informed the behaviour of the bargainers. The second investigates managerial responses to technical change in the British gas industry. We then move into the service sector, with an essay on the management of clerical staff in banks, including a discussion of the different roles available to male and female workers, and the incorporation of automated technologies. The final essay looks at the involvement of the unions in workplace productivity and the extent to which Labour politics informed union behaviour. The essays in this volume shed new light on the reasons for Britain's economic performance and opens up earlier interpretations of national decline and adversarial workplace cultures for further debate.

Table of Contents

Contents: Preface; Workplace cultures and business performance: British labour relations and industrial output in comparative perspective, Alan Booth and Joseph Melling; Fordism and the foreman: labour relations and supervisory trade unionism in the American and British automobile industries, c. 1939-1970, Joseph Melling; An easy life in a railway factory: piecework and shop floor bargaining at Swindon locomotive works, 1948-63, Michael Anson; The economics and politics of technical change under public ownership: the British gas industry in the 1950s and 1960s, Andrew Jenkins; Technological change and gender in the labour policies of British retail banks, 1945-70, Alan Booth; Waiting for Thatcher? Trade unionism, Labour politics and shop floor bargaining in postwar Britain, Joseph Melling and Alan Booth; Index.

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Joseph Melling is Reader in History and Director of the Centre for Medical History at the University of Exeter, UK. Alan Booth is Professor of History, also at the University of Exeter.


’As well as academics, this book will appeal to students and anyone interested in management and labor history. I highly recommend it.’ EH.Net Book Review ’All these individual essays form part of a consistent whole; unlike many edited books, this one hangs together, very much aided by the two joint essays by the editors.’ Reviews in History ’This valuable collection of essays, edited by Jo Melling and Alan Booth, contributes further considered, and much needed, scholarship that questions the comfortable assumptions of the pervasive narrative of decline. ... This well-integrated collection of scholarly work makes a valuable contribution to our understanding of debates about industrial relations and growth in post-war Britain and should be disseminated widely as a rejoinder to the grandiose assumptions of declinist literature. It also raises important questions about the need for further in-depth studies of the behaviour of management at the various levels, and of the impact of wider social and cultural change on workplace relations, within the post-war British economy.’ Scottish Labour History ’This is a very important collection, and labour and business historians interested in postwar Britain will find it invaluable.’ Economic History Review ’On the one hand, Managing the Modern Workplace casts doubt on the whole notion of decline, since it makes clear that several industries, such as banking, were technological leaders and that the economy as a whole performed better than has often been allowed. On the other hand, this volume provides a corrective to those critics who have blamed the British trade union movement for Britain’s economic problems. Above all, it moves beyond clichés that treat the trade union movement as a monolith to show the variations between industries and within unions and the logic of the workers’ response to the conditions in which they found themselves. It is a helpful work of historical revisionism that will be of