Working the Margins: The International Labor Office and Scientific Management (1923–1933)

The Pillar of Public Organizations
By Thomas Cayet

Albert Thomas, the first director of the International Labor Office (ILO), promoted the development of specific competencies addressing the problems of economic modernization and its social consequences. His interest in “Scientific Management” or “Rationalization” was a means to better understand the transformations produced by the development of mass production and consumption. The creation (thanks to the aid of the American-based Twentieth Century Fund) of an International Management Institute (IMI) created a novel place for the discussion and appropriation of Taylorist ideas in proximity to the League of Nations. For a while, this Institute developed a dialogue between various international players concerning the controversial question of how economic modernization could be reconciled with the implementation of social reform. This general approach led the IMI to reflect on various forms of “Social Economic Planning”. Even though the IMI was forced to close its doors in 1934, its work influenced ILO research and politics in the thirties and even after the Second World War.


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