Modern Times

This movie is on HBO Max. We’ll watch it in class.

Two questions, one big, one small:

  1. What is Chaplin’s point?
  2. How does he use sound?

What is Fordism?


  • Mass Production and the Assembly line.
  • A social contract between capital and labor in which labor gets greater benefits while capital gets more control.

Mass Production and the American System

An 1880s Machine Shop: Harper’s Magazine.


The American System: Interchangeability.

John Hall’s Breech-loading rifle


Ring Gauges


Scientific Management

Taylor, Scientific Management

What we are all looking for, however, is the readymade, competent man; the man whom some one else has trained[…] In the past the prevailing idea has been well expressed in the saying that “Captains of industry are born, not made”. In the future it will be appreciated that our leaders must be trained right as well as born right, and that no great man can (with the old system of personal management) hope to compete with a number of ordinary men who have been properly organized so as efficiently to cooperate.

Taylor, Scientific Management

In the past the man has been first; in the future the system must be first. This in no sense, however, implies that great men are not needed. On the contrary, the first object of any good system must be that of developing first-class men; and under systematic management the best man rises to the top more certainly and more rapidly than ever before.

The automobile

“Safety” bicycle with pneumatic tires and chain, c. 1892

Pre-1910: automobiles are playthings.

the man who can successfully solve this knotty question and produce a car that will be entirely sufficient mechanically, and whose price will be within the reach of millions who cannot yet afford automobiles, will not only grow rich but will be considered a public benefactor.

Harper’s 1910

Henry Ford

Henry Ford in 1919

Ford Model A

Model N (1907)

Highland Park, 1910

Flywheel assembly

The man who places a part does not fasten it –the part may not be fully in place until after several operations later. The man who puts in a bolt does not put on the nut; the man who puts on the nut does not tighten it.

–Ford, 1923, on the assembly line.

The Assembly Line at Highland Park

Modernizing the industrial workforce.




Abandoned factory in Fordlandia, Brazil | © Euan Marshall

Machinery in Fordlandia, Euan Marshall