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Factory Discipline

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 March 2009

Gregory Clark
Associate Professor of Economics at the University of California at Davis, CA 95616.


Before the Industrial Revolution in Britain most workers controlled their pace, timing, and conduct at work. Factory discipline radically changed this. Employers now dictated how, when, and in what manner work was done. Why did discipline triumph? Was it required by the need to tightly coordinate workers with new technologies? Or was it successful because it coerced more effort from workers than they would freely give? The empirical evidence shows that discipline succeeded mainly by increasing work effort. Workers effectively hired capitalists to make them work harder. They lacked the self-control to achieve higher earnings on their own.

Copyright © The Economic History Association 1994

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