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Morale and the Postwar Politics of Consensus

  • Daniel Ussishkin

The aftermath of the Second World War saw massive efforts to promote morale management across British industry. While these new discourses and industrial practices have often been explained in terms of the development of expert knowledge, this article places them at the center of the politics of social reconstruction. While the proper management of morale was linked to greater productivity, this article argues that it was often their assumed benefits regarding social cohesion and harmony that mattered most. It shows the ways in which government officials, management experts, and social scientists mobilized the perceived links that the war had forged among morale, collective sacrifice, and democratic citizenship and thus turned the workplace into a privileged site for the manufacture of consensus.

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1 Brech, E. F. L., “The Management Lessons of the War—Industrial Relationship,” British Management Review 5, no. 3 (1945): 26.

2 Lloyd George is quoted in Proud, E. Dorothea, Welfare Work: Employers' Experiments for Improving Working Conditions in Factories (London, 1916).

3 Brech, “Management Lessons,” 30.

4 Ibid., 26.

5 On Brech's article as “influential,” see Tiratsoo, Nick and Tomlinson, Jim, Industrial Efficiency and State Intervention: Labour, 1939–1951 (London and New York, 1993), 56.

6 Addison, Paul, The Road to 1945: British Politics and the Second World War (London, 1975).

7 See, for instance, Pimlott, Ben, “The Myth of Consensus,” in The Making of Britain: Echoes of Greatness, ed. Smith, Lesley M. (London, 1988); Kavanagh, Dennis and Morris, Peter, “Consensus Politics from Attlee to Thatcher,” in Making Contemporary Britain, ed. Seldon, Anthony (Oxford, 1989); Brooke, Stephen, “Revisionists and Fundamentalists: The Labour Party and Economic Policy during the Second World War,” Historical Journal 32, no. 1 (March 1989); Jones, Harriet, “The Post-War Consensus: Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis?” in The Contemporary History Handbook, ed. Brivati, Brian, Buxton, Julia, and Seldon, Anthony (Manchester, 1996); Jones, Harriet and Kandiah, Michael, eds., “The Myth of Consensus: New Views on British History, 1945–1964,” in Contemporary History in Context (London, 1996).

8 Important attempts to understand the history of the war and immediate postwar period along such lines include Conekin, Becky, Mort, Frank, and Waters, Chris, eds., Moments of Modernity: Reconstructing Britain, 1945–1964 (London and New York, 1999); Rose, Sonya O., Which People's War? National Identity and Citizenship in Wartime Britain, 1939–1945 (Oxford, 2003).

9 A similar point is made in Jones, Helen, British Civilians in the Front Lone: Air Raids, Productivity, and Wartime Culture (Manchester, 2006), 11.

10 For theoretical considerations, see Rose, Nikolas S. and Miller, Peter, “Political Power Beyond the State: Problematics of Government,” British Journal of Sociology 43, no. 2 (June 1992).

11 On consensus and propaganda in the postwar years, see Crofts, William, Coercion or Persuasion? Propaganda in Britain after 1945 (London and New York, 1989). Croft emphasizes the centrality of industrial mobilization to these efforts.

12 Moreover, in the new technocratic idiom that crystalized in postwar Britain, it now seemed possible that such concerns could be addressed in a scientific manner. This ethos is analyzed in Savage, Mike, Identities and Social Change in Britain Since 1940: The Politics of Method (Oxford, 2010).

13 Urwick, L. and Brech, E. F. L., The Making of Scientific Management, 3 vols. (London, 1949).

14 Child, John, British Management Thought: A Critical Analysis (London, 1969).

15 Tiratsoo, Nick and Tomlinson, Jim, Industrial Efficiency and State Intervention: Labour, 1939–1951 (London and New York, 1993).

16 Tiratsoo, Nick, “Limits of Americanisation: The United States Production Gospel in Britain,” in Moments of Modernity: Reconstructing Britain, 1945–1964, ed. Conekin, Becky, Mort, Frank, and Waters, Chris (London and New York, 1999). The view that human relations management was largely an American import is shared by Rose, Michael, Industrial Behavior: Theoretical Development Since Taylor (London, 1975), 103–79.

17 Rose, Industrial Behavior, 103–07.

18 Early publications on the subject in British professional journals include Mayo, Elton, “Supervision and Morale,” Journal of the National Institute of Industrial Psychology 5, no. 5 (1931); Whitehead, T. North, “Social Relationship in the Factory: A Study of an Industrial Group,” Human Factor 9, no. 2 (February 1935); Whitehead, T. North, The Industrial Worker: A Statistical Study of Human Relations in a Group of Manual Workers, 2 vols. (Cambridge, MA, and London, 1938); Urwick and Brech, The Making of Scientific Management, vol. 3.

19 My approach here is similar to the one promoted by Matthew Thomson, who emphasizes local trajectories in the generation of expert knowledge and related discourses. See his Psychological Subjects: Identity, Culture, and Health in Twentieth-Century Britain (Oxford and New York, 2006).

20 Urwick and Brech, The Making of Scientific Management.

21 Sheldon, Oliver, The Philosophy of Management (London, 1924), 44.

22 A key text here was Proud, Welfare Work. On welfare and the Great War, see Woollacott, Angela, On Her Their Lives Depend: Munitions Workers in the Great War (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1994), 6875.

23 A classic articulation of this position is Hobson, J. A., “Scientific Management,” Sociological Review 6, no. 3 (July 1913).

24 Assessing the extent to which elements of scientific management were adopted in Britain has been a difficult exercise, mostly because scientific management was not a coherent set of ideas or practices, nor were managerial practices ever exclusively part of one system of management. A classic account is Merkle, Judith A., Management and Ideology: The Legacy of the International Scientific Management Movement (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1980). As Michael Roper reminds us, postwar assessment of Taylorism was not free of new disciplinary concerns within management studies. Roper, Michael, “Killing Off the Father: Social Science and the Memory of Frederick Taylor in Management Studies, 1950–1975,” Contemporary British History 13, no. 3 (June 1999).

25 On planning, see Ritschel, Daniel, The Politics of Planning: The Debate on Economic Planning in Britain in the 1930s (Oxford, 1997); Toye, Richard, The Labour Party and the Planned Economy, 1931–1951 (London, 2003).

26 This question was inevitably linked to the question of rationalization of business practices; Hannah, Leslie, “Managerial Innovation and the Rise of the Large Scale Company in Interwar Britain,” Economic History Review 27, no. 2 (May 1974).

27 Rose, T., A History of the Institute of Industrial Administration (London, 1954), 166.

28 The creation of the British Institute of Management is described in Tiratsoo and Tomlinson, Industrial Efficiency, 111–30.

29 I explore these transformations in interwar management theories and early reactions to welfarist management in Ussishkin, Daniel, “The Will to Work: Industrial Management and the Question of Conduct in Interwar Britain,” in Brave New World: Imperial and Democratic Nation-Building in Britain between the Wars, ed. Beers, Laura and Thomas, Geraint (London, 2012), 6380.

30 See, for instance, Child, British Management Thought, chaps. 4–5.

31 Proud, Welfare Work. Seebohm Rowntree explained that welfare was directed at “the payment of due consideration to workers as individuals.” “A Record of the History of the Welfare Department,” n.d., The National Archives (TNA), MUN 9/30. Industrial canteens were situated at the crossroads of both aspects of industrial welfare. See Vernon, Hunger, 161–80.

32 Collini, Stephan, “The Idea of Character in Victorian Political Thought,” Transactions of the Royal Historical Society 35 (1985): 2950. For a good discussion of character and liberal forms of government, see also Otter, Chris, The Victorian Eye: A Political History of Light and Vision in Britain, 1800–1910 (Chicago and London, 2008), 1011.

33 Cadbury, Edward, Experiments in Industrial Organization (London, 1912), xvii.

34 As, for instance, is done in Maier, Charles S., “Society as Factory,” in In Search of Stability: Explorations in Historical Political Economy (New Rochelle, NY, 1987).

35 Forty percent responded in full, and an additional 10 percent in partial form. “Inquiry into the Relative Importance and Urgency of Investigation of Different Human Problems in Industry,” June 30, 1954, NIIP 10/15, British Library of Political and Economic Sciences.

36 Scott, W. H., “The Scientific Study of Human Relations in Industry, Part II,” Journal of the Institute of Personnel Management 34, no. 321 (September 1954): 143–44.

37 Mayo, Elton, The Human Problems of an Industrial Civilization (New York, 1960).

38 “Investigations on temperature, lighting, time and motion study, noise, and humidity have not the slightest bearing on morale, although they may have a bearing on the physical health and comfort.” Brown, J. A. C., The Social Psychology of Industry: Human Relations in a Factory (Harmondsworth, 1954), 191.

39 The historicity of the concept is important. I am interested in how contemporaries thought about the term rather than in our own understanding of it.

40 Brown, Social Psychology of Industry, 130.

41 A good representative of this literature is Miles, George H., The Problem of Incentives in Industry (London, 1932).

42 Brown, Social Psychology of Industry, 82–84; Mace, C. A., “Advances in the Theory and Practice of Incentives,” Occupational Psychology 24, no. 4 (October 1950).

43 Wilkins, Leslie, “Incentives and the Young Worker,” Occupational Psychology 23, no. 4 (October 1949): 236.

44 Lynton, R. P., Incentives and Management in British Industry (London, 1949), 3; Northcott, C. H., Personnel Management: Its Scope and Practice, 2nd ed. (London, 1950), 170–91; Marriott, R., “Socio-Psychological Factors in Productivity,” Occupational Psychology 25(1951): 16.

45 Brech, “Management Lessons,” 57; Campbell, H., “Group Incentive Payment Schemes: The Effects of Lack of Understanding and of Group Size,” Occupational Psychology 26, no. 1 (January 1952): 1521.

46 Emphasis added; Mace, C. A., “Satisfaction in Work,” Occupational Psychology 22, no. 1 (January 1948): 1315.

47 “The soldier feels himself a member of his section, his platoon, his company, his battalion, his division and even the army as a whole. In fact, he goes further and feels himself a member of the nation in whose army he fights.” Taylor, Gordon Rattray, Are Workers Human? (London, 1950), 8587.

48 On the efforts to secure morale on the home front, see McLaine, Ian, Ministry of Morale: Home Front Morale and the Ministry of Information in World War II (London, 1979). For the military, see Crang, Jeremy A., The British Army and the People's War (Manchester, 2000); Mackenzie, S. Paul, Politics and Military Morale: Current-Affairs and Citizenship Education in the British Army, 1914–1950 (Oxford, 1992).

49 Of particular importance here is the work of Helen Jones on production, mobilization, and war. Jones, Civilians in the Front Line.

50 On the necessary relation between morale and action, see MacCurdy, J. T., The Structure of Morale (Cambridge and New York, 1943), 141.

51 McKibbin, Ross, Classes and Cultures: England 1918–1951 (Oxford, 1998).

52 Child, British Management Thought, 123–24.

53 Urwick, Lyndall F., Leadership in the Twentieth Century (London, 1957), chap. 1.

54 Sheffield, Garry D., “The Shadow of the Somme: The Influence of the First World War on British Soldiers' Perceptions and Behavior in the Second World War,” in Time to Kill: The Soldier's Experience of War in the West, 1939–1945, ed. Addison, Paul and Calder, Angus (London, 1997), 34.

55 Slim, Viscount, “Leadership,” Manager 30, no. 1 (January 1962): 41.

56 This is discussed in Croft, Coercion or Persuasion, 42.

57 Jarvis, Allan, “An Experiment with Factory Discussion Groups,” Personnel Management 25, no. 270 (1943).

58 Industrial Welfare Society, Conference on Works Magazines (London, 1946), 4, 13–15; emphasis in original.

59 A survey undertaken by the Industrial Welfare Society in 1955 showed that of the fifty-seven magazines whose editors responded to the survey, fifteen magazines had been established before the war, two during the war, and the overwhelming majority, thirty-seven, in its aftermath. Industrial Welfare Society Survey N. 32, Employee Magazines (1955), 7, MSS 303.IS/1, Modern Records Center (MRC).

60 Williams, W. E., “Civilian ‘ABCA,’” Industrial Welfare and Personnel Management 28, no. 304 (1946); “Bureau of Current Affairs,” Nature, 6 April 1946.

61 Titmuss, Richard Morris, Problems of Social Policy (London, 1950), 346–47. On contemporary discourses of national unity and social cohesion, see Morgan, People's Peace, 3–28; Black, Lawrence et al. , Consensus or Coercion? The State, the People, and Social Cohesion in Post-War Britain (Cheltenham, 2001).

62 Titmuss was a central figure, but of course not the only one, in this endeavor.

63 A good summary of this debate, by a recent contributor to it, is found in Mackay, Robert, Half the Battle: Civilian Morale in Britain during the Second World War (Manchester, 2002), 19.

64 The literature on the cultural and political legacy of the war is vast. One example is Smith, Malcolm, Britain and 1940: History, Myth, and Popular Memory (London and New York, 2000).

65 For Labour's commitment to human relations as a central feature of policy (rather than merely lip service), see Tomlinson, Jim, Democratic Socialism and Economic Policy: The Attlee Years, 1945–1951 (Cambridge, 1997), especially chaps. 4–5.

66 On democratic planning and tripartitism, as was manifested by the creation of the Development Councils, see Tomlinson, Democratic Socialism, 85–90.

67 Toye, The Labour Party, 123.

68 “The morale of our industry is not what it has been in some great moments of our past history. We still talk and think of the Dunkirk Spirit. Our people lack neither the courage nor the capacity, but we do seem at the moment to lack a purpose.” Cripps, Stafford, God in Our Work: Religious Addresses (London, 1949), 11.

69 First Report of the Committee on Industrial Productivity (London, 1949).

70 On Schuster's “moderating effect” in relation to a different occasion, see Tiratsoo and Tomlinson, Industrial Efficiency, 69.

71 Schuster, Private Work, 136; See also his Christianity and Human Relations (London, 1951). On the important place of religious discourse during this period, see Brown, Callum G., The Death of Christian Britain: Understanding Secularisation, 1800–2000, 2nd ed. (London and New York, 2009), 170–75.

72 Schuster, George, Private Work and Public Causes: A Personal Record, 1881–1978 (Cownbridge, 1979), 144.

73 Memorandum on the meeting between representatives of the DSIR and the MRC, May 23, 1950, TNA, DSIR 17/423. The gendered language of managerial literature (“man-management” is the best example here) should be contrasted with the realities of a mixed workforce.

74 The dissolution of the Tizard Committee is explored in Tiratsoo and Tomlinson, Industrial Efficiency, 93.

75 By 1960 half of the academic psychologists working in Britain were students of Bartlett. Hearnshaw, L. S., A Short History of British Psychology, 1840–1940 (New York, 1964), 219.

76 Compare, for instance, Bartlett's criticism of Maurice Halbwach's work on collective memory in Bartlett, Frederic Charles, Remembering: A Study in Experimental and Social Psychology (Cambridge, 1932), 294300.

77 Memorandum of the meeting between representatives of the DSIR and the MRC, May 23, 1950, TNA DSIR 17/423.

78 Their surveys related to research on the “human factor” as a whole, but it is only human relations that concerns us here.

79 TNA, DSIR 17/423.

80 “Survey of Research and Its Applications on the Human Factor in Industry,” DSIR section, January 1950, TNA, FD 1/306.

81 Survey of Research and Its Application on the Human Factor in Industry: Supplementary survey of research being carried out by certain research stations and research associations, 6 November 1950, TNA, FD 1/303.

82 Final report by the MRC, 23 November 1950, TNA, DSIR 17/427.

83 Ministry of Labour and National Service, Report of the Human Relations in Industry Conference, Held at the Institution for Civil Engineers, March 18–20, 1952 (London, 1952), 17.

84 Bartlett to Himsworth, 10 April 1951, TNA, FD 1/304.

85 Himsworth to Ben Lockspeiser, 16 April 1951, TNA, FD 1/304.

86 Memorandum on the meeting between the secretaries of the DSIR and the MRC, 31 October 1951, TNA, DSIR 17/427.

87 For this reason, “practical” research projects received priority. Department of Scientific and Industrial Research and Medical Research Council, Final Report of the Joint Committee on Human Relations in Industry, 1954–1957, and Report of the Joint Committee on Individual Efficiency in Industry, 1953–1957 (London, 1958), 36.

88 Sidney Gray, from the institute, recalled that during the institutes initial years, the staff undertook more than seventy research projects but that more than half their time was devoted to two projects alone (Jaques's work at the Glacier Metal Factory and A. T. M. Wilson's work on communication). Gray, Sidney, “The Tavistock Institute of Human Relations,” in Fifty Years of the Tavistock Clinic, ed. Dicks, H. V. (London, 1970), 210.

89 See, for instance, Miller, Peter and Rose, Nikolas, “The Tavistock Programme: The Government of Subjectivity and Social Life,” Sociology 22, no. 2 (May 1988).

90 Medical Research Council, Occupational Psychology Committee, Note from the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations, October 1948, TNA, FD 1/308.

91 As Bion had put it in his discussion of the leaderless group test, “The establishment of morale is of course hardly a pre-requisite of treatment; it is treatment, or part of it.” Bion, W. R., “The Leaderless Group Project,” Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic 10 (May 1946): 79. For further relevant discussions of Bion, see Ahrenfeldt, Robert. H., Psychiatry in the British Army in the Second World War (London, 1958); Rose, Nikolas S., Governing the Soul: The Shaping of the Private Self (London and New York), 4750.

92 Extracts from a statement prepared at the request of the Working Party on Research and Productivity of the Scientific Advisory Council: possible contributions of applied social science to increased industrial productivity, TNA, FD 1/308.

93 Rose, Governing the Soul, 89.

94 Jaques, Elliot, The Changing Culture of a Factory (London, 1951), 86.

95 Ibid., 318.

96 Extracts from a statement prepared at the request of the Working Party on Research and Productivity, TNA, FD 1/308.

97 Paterson, T. T., Morale in War and Work: An Experiment in the Management of Men (London, 1955).

98 He heard utterances such as “the mess is getting new chairs,” never “we are getting new chairs.” Ibid., 85; emphasis added.

99 Ibid., 115; emphasis in the original.

100 Ibid., 225.

101 The committee also noted that Paterson's work did not involve psychology and therefore had nothing to do with the MRC. The only study that received funding was for work undertaken at the University of Cambridge on individual factors at work: “readily intelligible to any scientific reader.” Notes on research sponsored by the Human Factors Panel of the Committee on Industrial Productivity and administered by the Medical Research Council and the Recommendations of the Psychology Committee, MRC, 13 February 1951, TNA, FD 1/304.

102 Ministry of Labour and National Service, Industrial Relations Handbook (London, 1944), 107–16.

103 On tripartite “corporatism,” see Middlemas, Keith, Politics in Industrial Society: The Experience of the British System Since 1911 (London, 1979).

104 Ministry of Labour and National Service, Industrial Relations Department, proposal to set up subcommittee of National Joint Advisory Council to consider action to promote still higher standards of human relations, 1953, TNA, LAB 10/1215.

105 Brief to the minister on the meeting of the NJAC, 22 October 1952, TNA, LAB 10/1151; Godfrey Ince to Thomas Hutton, August 3, 1954, TNA, LAB 10/1215. For a discussion of the ministry's general efforts in this direction, see Tiratsoo and Tomlinson, Industrial Efficiency, 97–99.

106 See, for example, James Stitt, Joint Industrial Councils in British History: Inception, Adoption, and Utilization, 1917–1939 (Westport, CT, 2006).

107 Rowntree, B. Seebohm, The Human Factor in Business (London, 1921), 128–36.

108 TNA, BT 171/210.

109 Tomlinson, Industrial Democracy, 8–11.

110 Birmingham Mail, 27 September 1944.

111 Walpole, G. S., Management and Men: A Study of the Theory and Practice of Joint Consultation at All Levels (London, 1944); Renold, C. G., Joint Consultation over Thirty Years (London, 1950); Institute of Personnel Management, Joint Consultation: A Practical Approach (London, 1950).

112 Tomlinson, Industrial Democracy, 8–11.

113 Great Britain Ministry of Labour and National Service, Industrial Relations Handbook. Supplement No. 3, December 1949, Joint Consultation in Industry (London, 1950); Great Britain Ministry of Labour and National Service and the Central Office of Information, This Is a True Story: Its About Joint Consultation and It Happened Like This . . . (London, 1950); Institute of Personnel Management, Joint Consultation; National Institute of Industrial Psychology, Joint Consultation in British Industry (London and New York, 1952).

114 Report of Conference on Joint Consultation Training within Industry, 15 September 1948, TNA, LAB 18/543.

115 Tiratsoo and Tomlinson, Industrial Efficiency, 99–101; Tiratsoo, Nick and Tomlinson, Jim, The Conservatives and Industrial Efficiency, 1951–1964 (London and New York, 1998), 17. Brech, too, thought that joint consultation would benefit morale only if employees were invited to truly “share in its [i.e., the factory's] governance.” Brech, “Management Lessons,” 49.

116 Ministry of Labour and National Service, Industrial Relations Handbook, Supplement No. 3, 3; emphasis added. Saunders, Factory Organization, 108.

117 Brech, “Management Lessons,” 38.

118 Institute of Personnel Management, Joint Consultation, 6.

119 Marshall, T. H., Citizenship and Social Class (London, 1992), 6. Marshall has remained the ground zero for “citizenship studies” in postwar Britain. Of the many publications on Marshall and his relevance, see, for example, Turner, Bryan S., ed., Citizenship and Social Theory (London, 1993); Bulmer, Martin and Rees, Anthony M., eds., Citizenship Today: The Contemporary Relevance of T. H. Marshall (London, 1996).

120 Marshall, Citizenship and Social Class, 40, 45–47.

121 This was, in effect, Child's critique of this endeavor. A detailed discussion is offered in Child, British Management Thought, 151–214.

122 “Probably management's greater error was to see itself as the wielder of disinterested power.” Appleby, R., “Management and Work,” British Management Review 10, no. 4 (1952): 17.

123 Brown, Social Psychology of Industry, 101; Scott, W. H., Industrial Leadership and Joint Control: A Study of Human Relations in Three Merseyside Firms (Liverpool, 1952), v.

124 National Institute of Industrial Psychology, Joint Consultation, 62–89.

125 See, for instance, the Report of the Shipbuilding Committee, 1965, TNA, LAB 10/2362.

126 Ministry of Labour, Industrial Relations Handbook, 3rd ed. (London, 1961), 2628.

127 For a thorough analysis of nationalization and human relations, with particular reference to joint consultation, see Tomlinson, Democratic Socialism, 94–123.

128 The individuating language on work and its management is discussed in Rose, Governing the Soul, 103–22.

129 Paterson, T. T., Glasgow Limited: A Case Study in Indsturial War and Peace (Cambridge, 1960), 199n2.

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