Ford Reading Reaction

In what situation would asking about the personal life of your employees be appropriate? It seems like such an intrusive practice that we wouldn’t even think of doing it today. Yet when it came to the personal lives of his employees, Ford was intent on understanding them in order to change them. By separating “profit” from “wages,” he was able to create the Five Dollar Day plan, which in some ways justified his invasive investigations. Still, some argue that his changing of the definition of profits and wages only allowed Ford to withhold money from employees whose lives he could not seem to command. For example, L. Paul Taylor noted “I believe that it is illegal to withhold a man’s wages if he has earned them, but when you call part of them ‘profits’ or a ‘bonus’ you get away with the reduction much easier” (p. 113). In my opinion, the combination of Ford’s obsession with the ideal American lifestyle and his immense power allowed him to pry into and control the lives of thousands of people. With the threat of losing a job or money, a worker would be intimidated into adhering to the “morals” defined by Ford, allowing him to gain almost complete control of the lives of his employees.

My opinions on Ford have been greatly altered by the time in which I’ve lived. Had I been around during his reign, perhaps his tactics would not seem so intrusive. Yet what I see in Ford is not someone who is trying to improve the factory conditions or the efficiency of the factory, but someone who is power-hungry and desperate to spread his own values and beliefs. When reading about Taylorism, Taylor’s goals were clear. He wanted to increase the efficiency of factories through scientific management. Although he did include ideas on the importance of choosing workers, he never seemed that interested in the lives of his workers outside of their positions in his factories. But Ford was different. Though he attempted to bribe workers to be more efficient, he offered bonus “profits” not for increased factory efficiency, but for following the approved lifestyle. This included having the proper home conditions, habits, and level of thrift. While Taylor’s work was scientific, Ford’s seems arbitrary. The extent of the investigations carried out by the Ford Sociological Department also seemed excessive, intrusive, and unnecessary. A worker could be extremely efficient within the factory and yet not live a life that is accepted by the Ford Company. Perhaps his is not thrifty enough, or lives with boarders who “disrupt the family unit,” or has “bad” habits. If it does not affect his work, it should not affect his pay. However, Ford did not think like that. He wanted his workers to behave a certain way- the “American” way. This obsession seems to me like Ford was attempting to push his beliefs onto his workers to make them more like him. His use of the Five Dollar Day was not to improve factory output, but to try to make his workers from all over the world into ideal American workers. This was an attempt to stifle the cultures of his workers and mold them into what Ford believed was right.  And that to me, is out of line.

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