The scientific management of the consumer interest

Chris Nyland, Amanda McLeod

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Beginning in the late 1980s, the widely held assumption that scientific management (Taylorism) was an authoritarian and mechanical body of thought and practice began to be subjected to sustained challenge. Underpinning this contest was a growing understanding that, in his last years, Frederick Winslow Taylor became acutely aware that the ability of business interests to dominate enterprise governance was a major barrier to the development of forms of management in which scientific knowledge, rather than vested interests, dictate decision making. Building on this new understanding, scholars have subsequently uncovered a number of the ways by which Taylor and his colleagues and heirs sought to broaden access to management knowledge and assist the creation of a democratic social and intellectual space within which a science of management could flourish. One aspect of this history not previously brought to light is the fact that Taylor and a number of his disciples utilized their technical and political skills to assist consumers to gain access to the knowledge they required if they were to adequately defend themselves against the interests of business and the state. In this article, we seek to correct this omission by detailing the three major ways in which Taylor and his colleagues sought to increase the ability of the consumer to make informed decisions. In so doing, we also explain why their efforts attracted a level of business hostility that in the 1930s became vitriolic and subsequently drew the attention of the House of Representatives' Un-American Activities Committee.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)663-681
Number of pages19
JournalBusiness History
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2007


  • Cold war
  • Collaborative management
  • Consumer activism
  • Consumer protection
  • Consumerism
  • McCarthyism
  • Scientific management
  • Sweated labour
  • Taylorism

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