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Tayloristic rather than Taylorists: The Influence of Taylor on the East German Communists, 1945-51


  • Wayne Geerling
  • Gary B. Magee


Perhaps the most unexpected of Frederick Taylor‟s legacies is the alleged influence his ideas had in the Soviet world. This paper explores this contention by examining the introduction of differential piece rates and „scientific‟ norms—both key aspects of the Taylorist and Soviet systems—in East Germany between 1945 and 1951. As elsewhere, these measures faced stiff opposition. What made this experience different was that their introduction took place in the context of extreme economic and political uncertainty. As this paper outlines, the party‟s various attempts to impose workplace control laid the foundations for the Sovietisation of East Germany. This paper uses a variety of primary sources to tell this story. It concentrates its attention not just on worker resistance to change, but also on how the interactions between party and worker, between different organisations within the occupation zone, between the Soviets and German communists, and within the party itself came together to see piecework entrenched within the East German workplace. While Taylor‟s ideas influenced the party in this process, they did so only after they had been fed through the prisms of Leninism, Stalinism and Soviet experience. East Germany‟s communists were Tayloristic, not Taylorist.

Suggested Citation

  • Wayne Geerling & Gary B. Magee, 2011. "Tayloristic rather than Taylorists: The Influence of Taylor on the East German Communists, 1945-51," Monash Economics Working Papers 22-11, Monash University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:mos:moswps:2011-22

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Kornai, Janos, 1992. "The Socialist System: The Political Economy of Communism," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198287766.
    2. Wagener, Hans-Jurgen, 2003. "Dictatorship, State Planning, and Social Theory in the German Democratic Republic: P.C. Caldwell (Ed.), Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2003, 230 pp., US$ 60," Economic Systems, Elsevier, vol. 27(3), pages 335-338, September.
    3. Douglass C. North, 2005. "Introduction to Understanding the Process of Economic Change," Introductory Chapters,in: Understanding the Process of Economic Change Princeton University Press.
    4. Daniel A. Wren & Arthur G. Bedeian, 2004. "The Taylorization of Lenin: rhetoric or reality?," International Journal of Social Economics, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 31(3), pages 287-299, August.
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    More about this item


    Taylorism; East Germany; norms; differential piece rate; workplace relations;

    JEL classification:

    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • J53 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor-Management Relations, Trade Unions, and Collective Bargaining - - - Labor-Management Relations; Industrial Jurisprudence
    • N34 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: 1913-
    • N44 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - Europe: 1913-
    • P51 - Economic Systems - - Comparative Economic Systems - - - Comparative Analysis of Economic Systems

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