Prof. Charlotte Petty
A wise unknown person once said, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” (Brainy
Quotes). This means that a picture in the form of still images, or moving images can tell an entire story. In Charlie Chaplin’s 1936 film entitled, “Modern Times” , this quote is depicted.
Chaplin tells his story of life during the thirties in the United States (U.S.) from the perspective of an industrial worker on an assembly line. In the short clip scientific management techniques throughout the organization are enforced that ultimately have an effect on the economic, political, industrial and scientific conditions of life in U.S in the 1930’s.
The scientific management technique enforced in the organization like the one Chaplin worked in was Frederick Taylor’s Theory of Scientific Management. This theory was created to provide answers on how organizations could run better. In this theory Taylor was more focused on the relationship between the manager and employee and the control of the individual at work.
The film first starts off with the head manager communicating with his employee through a big television (T.V.) screen. T.V. around this time was a scientific and technology advancement.
The communication through the big screen proves that the manager had no real communication with it’s employees. It also proves Taylors systems of scientific management to be true. It states that “there is inherent difference between management and workers” (Miller
27). The management in the film dressed better than the employees . The employees attire showed the manual labor they endured that caused them to look dirty. There also was an employee who was shirtless. Without words a person can conclude how hot and uncomfortable
working conditions were in that line of work. The form of communication showed the difference from the higher up, and the underdogs. In the beginning of the clip, the manager instructions where to speed up the belts to make his workers work faster. Real communication and relationship would have told the worker to keep the assembly line at a steady pace to get more efficient work from it’s employees.
Around this time, Henry Ford plants laid the foundation of how assembly lines should be.
Ford was one of the first successful assembly line and motor company owners to pay his workers good wages, and still care for their needs. When competition started to take place, there was a drastic down shift from Mr. Ford. He began to also speed up the the production rate of his assembly line, firing anyone that could not keep up. Plants like the one Chaplin worked at also started this steady trend. Speed, speed, speed, and if they couldn’t keep up with it they were fired. One of the first components of the scientific management is “there is one best way to do every job” (Miller 26). In the film you see the manager in a short sleeve white collared button down shirt come to the plant to bicker at how Chaplin was doing his job. He was not doing his job the “best way”.
Chaplin compared to the other workers could not keep up, and was slowing the line of production. It actually looked like the manager pointed to the other workers to show Chaplin how, and what he should be doing with his job. Chaplin makes no eye contact with the manager, he is focused more so on the instruction given, and keeping up with the line. Managers at this time seem to care about only the wealth of themselves. Wealth in the 1930s can be compared to trying to find a needle in a haystack because of the countries economic situation around that time. Economically, during the 1930’s the U.S. suffered through the Great Depression. “The
Great Depression (192939) was the deepest and longestlasting economic downturn in the history of the Western industrialized world.” (History.com) This called citizens from all over the
U.S. to settle for any…