I was reading Roy Jacques’, Manufacturing the employee: Management knowledge from the 19th to 21st centuries, a fascinating and intellectually stimulating discussion of the evolution of the modern “employee” and the realities of a Federalist reality verses an Industrial reality. Each reality was a product of its time; they were manifestations of the nation’s political, economic, and social condition. Consider the Federalist reality era of 1790 to 1870. America was emancipated from Great Britain, began its individual economic existence as a sovereign nation. In the initial stage of this era, the country had no significant manufacturing capacity. Consequently, it seems important that the Federalist be self-sufficient and operates in their autonomous sphere. Jacques points out that the Federalist was omni-competent and “…had the knowledge to effectively deal with the problems of society” (p.39). The Federalist citizen was a “highly unified self’ (p.29); he was the right person for the times.
As the nation gained political and economic stature the population and manufacturing capacity increased. The Civil War appears to be a major turning point for the nation, which marked the end of Federalism and the beginning of the Industrial reality of 1870 to 1920. Increased industrialization of the North due to the Civil War created an economy that could mass-produce consumer goods. This, in turn, diminished the need of individual self-sufficiency. It also marked the beginning of a strong centralized Federal government, the incarnation of the United States as a major world government, and a melding of capital and labor.
Jacques states, “The staple roles of the Federalist work – owner-operators and workers – were disappearing. New roles appeared – managers, employees and capitalists – which could not be understood in Federalist terms’ (p.63). The Federalists liked to leave things alone but Industrialists were people of action and wanted to make things happen. The most important thing, in my opinion, is that the nation could not sustain its rapid economic growth and consumer sophistication in a Federalist reality. The ethos of the nation changed and with it came the Industrial reality.
I personally prefer the Industrial reality because provided a firm foundation on which the American Dream was established. While I like the idea of omni-competence, it simply does not provide an adequate framework for maximizing human resources or supporting sophisticated manufacturing endeavors.
Jacques, R. (1996). Manufacturing the employee: Management knowledge from the 19th to 21st centuries. London: Sage Publications.