Bauhaus and the Human Motor

John Barker



The men of the Bauhaus with their “Council of Masters” shared with the Social Democrats of the Weimar Republic a belief that class conflict could be overcome by means of good-intentioned “scientific management,” and social harmony achieved by specialists. Such management with its primary claim of efficiency included tight accounting, standardization, time and motion studies, time clocks, and forms of rationalization that invariably meant an increase in the intensity of labor and a weakening of worker power at the point of production. Its taking-up by what could be called “progressive modernism” was dangerously mistaken and,as LászlóVancsa and I wanted to show in our film at the exhibition, it had consequences. These were both immediate and local to Germany and longer term, a pervasive managerialism. It was exactly this which was then challenged by the French working class many years later in April–May 1968 with some intellectual backing from the Socialisme ou Barbarie group and Henry Lefebvre, later smartly packaged by the Situationist International. These events in France were studiously ignored by the 50 Years of the Bauhaus exhibition that took place at the Württembergischer Kunstverein as they were occurring, just as it whitewashed out any links of the Bauhaus to the National Socialist dictatorship, the “local”consequence.

A historical conjuncture in 1923, talked of in the film, saw a change in Bauhaus ideology whereby skill for the majority was only required to the extent that it served production processes designed by professionals: engineers, designers industrial psychologists, and architects. The emphasis was to be on task, not skill, and the division between design and its execution was to be enforced and reinforced in the world of work. Other professionals, sociologists, doctors, and accountants also made claims for themselves in firms, institutions, cartels, and the state. In the case of the Bauhaus, despite the 1923 shift in ideological purpose, it simultaneously held on to archaisms: the Council of Masters; the name itself, Bauhaus, derived from Bauhütte, the guild of medieval craftsmen; and with its founder, Walter Gropius, a dangerous rhetoric of the “spirit of the whole people,” a German people. The measure of its immersion into the capitalist industrial world however,most clear in its advertising work, is also indicated by an exhibition at the Tate Gallery in London of the work of Josef Albers and László Moholy-Nagy in 2006 sponsored by BMW. Its marketing director explained that the“teachings of the Bauhaus school were of great influence during the first years” of the company. In fact, BMW does not figure much in the various strands of managerialism that develop during Weimar, but the names Bosch, Siemens and Bayer do, as innovators or enforcers or both. Wars, coalition governments, dictatorships and massacres come and go, but these companies so important in managerial developments sail on.

The basics of scientific management, some already in existence, had been synthesized by the American Frederick Winslow Taylor in his1903 book of the same name some years before the Weimar Republic or the Bauhaus. It embodied a strand of class hatred in the interests of  capital coming from higher education engineers, determined to assert their professional status. As happened later in Weimar it was articulated and refined in the professional journals of engineers as with Horace Arnold’s determination  disempower “haughty mechanics” in the factories in an 1896 article for American The Engineer. In his book Taylor describes a worker both as an “intelligent gorilla” and—unwittingly endorsing the worker-gorilla’s intelligence—as one who “deliberately plans to do as little as he safely can.”  He and the production engineers aimed to put a stop to this by breaking down into discrete actions the work of skilled factory craftsman, to de-skill them and also to time each action. This amounted to a leap in the measurement of labour and production which is the basis of capitalist production and its state copies.What are called time and motion studies furthered one-sided divisions of labor. Additionally, with the new de-skilled processes designed and in place, the pace was to be set by “the fastest man.” This, however, was an old “science” derived in a straight line—from the slave plantation system of the Caribbean and the Americas.

It was to be was best achieved by piece-rate payment –which allowed for the meausring of individual worker-production ratios and their incremental speed-ups, increases in what Marx calls “the intensity of labour.”[1]Its reality was described just one year after Taylor’s bible was published in Upton Sinclair’s 1904 novel The Jungle, set in the Chicago stockyards:

. . . the speeding-up seemed to be growing more savage all the time; they were continually inventing new devices to crowd the work on—it was for all the world like the thumb-screw of the medieval torture chamber. They would get new pacemakers and pay them more; they would drive the men on with new machinery—it was said that in the hog-killing rooms the speed at which the hogs moved was determined by clockwork, and that it was increased a little every day. In piecework they would reduce the time, requiring the same work in a shorter time, and paying the same wages; and then, after the workers had accustomed themselves to this new speed, they would reduce the rate of payment to correspond with the reduction in time![2]

It was exactly this process which lead to the lockout and strike at the Bosch Stuttgart factory in 1913, but before then another American development had been taken up in Germany by architects including Gropius, the natural-light-flooded factory. As the narrator of the film says, it was good for the workers’ productivity and functional health and good for the surveillance of the workers, which was crucial to the goal being pursued by Taylorist professionals. Factories included glassed control cabins (Meisterstuben). Describing the iconic new AEG turbine hall in the Frankfurter Zeitung, Karl Ernst Osthan wrote “From here it is possible to have an uninterrupted view over the giant factory hall,” adding in the snide voice of the bourgeois, “Here the view is not hampered by any little shed where the foreman can have their midday smoke and hide their botched work.”[3]

With this in placeand with the workers’ slogan being “Piecework Is Murder,” the Bosch strike was engineered by the company to get rid of toolmakers objecting to the murderous pace of work and to make redundancies of those who couldn’t keep up. In the old and new worlds it can break the body, as with the Lancashire mule spinners during the late nineteenthcentury in the USA, or with the seamstress in a present-day Mexican maquiladora for whom seven years is the maximum for a job where the work of each individual is constantly monitored both for speed and mistakes on a computer screen; no chance of any “botched work.”

The Bosch strike was defeated, as was one at the Renault Billancourt factory in France in the same year of 1913. This had been specifically against the use of time and motion studies, with workers understanding that they were aimed at both deskilling and the speed-up of work. In this same year in Germany two crucial organizational developments also took place, the creation of a National Employers Association and a professional one for engineers, the Verein Deutscher Ingenieure (VDI).Meanwhile, the Deutscher Werkbund—to which Gropius and other modernist architects belonged and from whose connections the Bauhaus was formed—were asserting the primacy of design. Its stated aimwas to aid“large-scale business concerns with reliablegood taste for export success.”[4] Its architects and artists announcedthat although they agreed with the aim, they weren’t to be servants of industry and would instead further design as a privileged skill.Its 1913 yearbook showed design as a sub-profession of architecture to be applicable equally to armchairs, warships, lamp stands, and factories. Finally, in this year of 1913, one of those innumerable and deceptive third ways was introduced into “scientific management” by Hugo Münsterbergin his book Psychology and Industrial Efficiency, which claimed to humanize the Taylorismthat had, he said, failed to consider the subjective experience of workers. His was a grotesquely snug balance between what he called “reckless capitalism” and “feeble sentimentality,” as if that summed up opposition to the recklessness by non-professionals. He aimed to change workers’ “habits of thought” and to inculcate the idea that their labor served a higher purpose of civilization.And besides, his work had been prompted by a strike by Toronto’s telephonists, exactly the kind of investigation demanded of professionals when workers do act for themselves on resistance to management so as to prevent it from happening again.

Within a year of this 1913 conjunction of events the First World War began; a disaster to this day for a non-authoritarian socialism. Capital did well out of it; the authoritarian chemical industry had three times the capital (measured in gold) in 1924 as in 1913, which enabled it to ride out and defeatworker militancy and start the process of cartelization that ended with I.G. Farben; skilled craftsmen were the biggest group of fatalities in the army; and the Social Democrats facilitated a resentful nationalism and the killing of their own.[5]

At a professional level, new claims were made but also transformed in the war. The Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Labor Physiology was created giving status to what had been a “science” of energetics.This first appeared in the nineteenth century when the notion of the human motor initially arose. Using a further metaphor from thermodynamics “entropy” became fatigue. Such metaphors from the natural into the social sciences are invariably either useless or deceptive, but energetics established itself as a professional area of study and one with a humanist standpoint. In it, fatigue was perceived as the limiting factor to productivism, a humanist functionalism in that, unlike the modern maquiladora example, it did not assume that workers were wholly disposable.[6]At the same time, it was increasingly functional with the recognition that concentration on detail despite repetition brought about by the ever increasing division of labor, meant that attention, conscientiousness, and duration of performance were what mattered and that fatigue was a potential threat to these qualities. As with other managerial strands fatigue experts in nutrition and physiology sought to provide a “neutral, “objective” solution to economic and political conflicts.

The “humanist” element was undermined twice over by its place in the 1914–18 war. It was a testing ground for techniques of combating fatigue and improving efficiency. It was then that energetics slipped into becoming more the psychotechnical work of aptitudetesting. This involved too, as in one of its proponents, Josefa Ioteyko’sThe Science of Labor and Its Organization, a cautious acceptance of Taylorism in the belief that yet another “Third Way,” in line with Münsterberg’sindustrial psychology, could come of it, and that the principle of “the most apt” would promise greater social equity. A darker version is expressed by Max Weber and the VereinfürSocialpolitik(German Economic Association),one of the several thinktanks of the period competing for attention and status. His prediction? That “the working human being will be as carefully calculated as to his profitability as any raw material or coal in terms of its usefulness for the plant.”[7] And this to be done so that the question of who shared in the profitability, the distribution of profit, was to be rendered “unprofessional.”

While the Verein’s interest in “selection and adaptation and performance” was in the spirit of psychotechnics, Münsterberg’s advertized itself asa humanizing of Taylorism.[8]What this produced in reality was a sophisticated version concerned with adaptation, motivation, and satisfaction. These “attributes” were also at the forefront of another synthesis of professionalisms in the war, the development of prosthetics for the 70,000 men who lost one limb or more in tandem with their physical and psychological “re-cycling,” as it was called.In creating the prosthetics, it was not the designers of the Werkbundbut rather engineers with doctors and psychologists who made them.The aforementioned 1913-formed VDI, formed in 1913, set up a competition for the best design during the war. Some were for farm workers, others for factories, even for office work. New techniques like slow-motion photography were used. Siemens took a leading role in projects that were focused on “positive thinking” motivation, awakening the desire to work mixed in with nationalist moralizing: it was your patriotic duty not to be a parasite, and in the modern language of neoliberal welfare politics with work you would keep your dignity.[9] The professionals meanwhile secured their own status, creating The Charlottenberg Institute of Psychotechnics.

There were then—after the warand the defeat of Workers’ Councils and uprisings, but when trade unions were numerically strong—a variety of work professionals. The story of one practitioner, Fritz Giese, and his trajectory from “neutral” sociologist of work to being an enthusiast for National Socialismis revealing of one local German trajectory. He originally made his name with his Girlkultur an analysis of the Tiller girls, a not-sexy but highly synchronized high-kicking dance troupe, when what was American and identified with Taylorism, precision, and efficiency was being aspired to. This personal shift reflected in part the turn against Americanism that existed in nationalist rhetoric before the 1929 crash but gained traction from it. Closer to the world of the Bauhaus, another such trajectory was that of Wilhelm Lötz, who had been the editor of Die Form, a Werkbund/Bauhaus organ, and became the editor of Schönheit der Arbeitwhen the “Beauty of Labor” was established Nazi ideology.

Giese’s second career move in the Weimar period was an investigation of Berlin telephone exchange operators which like that of Münsterbergfollowed a strike by its workers.As a true Taylorist, his analysis begins by breaking down the process of the telephonists’ work into twenty different elements, such as visual recognition of an incoming call and inserting the jack in the right place, calculating the time of each movement. From this a pyschophysical profile of each process was established, and from this norms were created both for selecting candidates and for improving the performance of those already working there. This involved moving on from analysis of the actions involved in performance to examining the effects of daydreaming, menstruation, and “moral character” on performance. Giese talked of a “Taylorization of the body,” and the creation of internalized discipline by means of a device called “a self-registering attention-measuring apparatus” whereby via wires attached to the telephonist’s fingers she could see her own performance on a screen.

The telephonists accepted the rationale of the Time &Motion studies within a larger discourse of liberatory social reconstruction. It was articulated by Gustav Bauer, Minister of Labor and later Chancellor,in 1920: Taylorism was an instrument of national liberation in the hands of a democratic and necessarily a socialist state. But the Social Democrats did not fully control the state nor economic restructuring, and in these circumstances it was quite the reverse. The telephonists understood this and resisted from the moment that job-cutting rationalization began during the fiscal crisis of 1923–24. Their leader Else Kolshorn was clear that “over-rationalization” was being used in the service of a more politically pliable workforce, and by 1926 they directly opposed any psychotechnical aptitude testing, which in effect amounted to their calculated profitability as described by Max Weber.

En route to “national liberation” the Social Democrat contract was that loss of workplace power would be compensated by higher wages brought about by the new efficiency and new consumption opportunities in which the Werkbund and the Bauhaus would play a pioneering role. When they did not control economic restructuring, then this too was a dubious promise even before 1930. German capital was export-oriented,with art at its service, and such an orientation does not have the domestic economy and its well-being as a primary concern, and certainly not high wages.

Carl Duisberg, the boss of Bayer, is representative of what managerial Social Democracy and the technocratic belief that they were creating a world in which class conflict would be a thing of the past was resolutely blind to. He had lectured Americans on the “danger of organized labor” in 1903, the year of Taylor’s book. Before the war he had been a member of the Werkbund’s “cartel for quality” with a very direct interest in export and in the packaging of products. With the capital accumulated during the war, the company was in a strong position afterwards. For him and it, capitalist rationalization was cartelization; factory efficiency was piece rates, low pay, and fearsome discipline, one which incorporated Taylorist methodswithout reference to such Americanism. In 1920, after the revolutionary surge, Duisberg spoke to the Bundesarbeitgeberverband Chemie (Chemical Employers’ Federation)about how discipline needed to be reintroduced in the factory and that piecework would be essential to it.As an exporter and a key member of the Reichsverband der Deutschen Industrie (Association of German Industrialists) inter-class cooperation meant lower taxes, decreased welfare spending, and longer and more “flexible” work hours. At the same time, Duisberg, while developing international patent dealsand having used French occupying troops to break strikes in 1919, was a self-proclaimed German nationalist who in 1926 declared to the Reichsverband: “In work and in joy on work lies the true meaning of life.”[10]

In this light, Duisberg—a prime mover in a process which ends up with I.G. Farben for whom the Bauhaus in Dessau would be making advertisements—figures in what was both a bogus and real conflict between Americanism and the Germanic that ran through the Weimar period.[11]An institutional manifestation of such an Americanism was the ReichskuratoriumfürWirtschaftlichkeit (National Board of Efficiency, RKW). Like so many centers of power in today’s world, it was successfully ambiguous as a public-private organization set up originally in 1921 by Carl von Siemens and then effectively run by his deputy Carl Köttgen with government representatives, including Social Democrats like Rudolf Hilferding, but no trade unions. The Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands (Communist Party of Germany, KPD) were, like the Bolshevik government of the USSR,  enthusiasts of scientific management but understandably wanted an exclusively governmental institution to further the aim of productive efficiency. Instead, the RKW was in reality, corporate controlled.[12] They lost on this issue when the RKW was given public money and became the main institution of psychotechnics in the service of increased productivity and exports. Its sub-group the REFA, which continued into the Nazi period, set up a series of aptitude testing stations and trained over 10,000 Time & Motion engineers.Köttgen went to the USA and, while pointing to its natural resources advantages over Germany, extolled the standardization of production and the greater intensity of labor.

Another strand of “Americanism” developed in the 1920s. When Henry Ford’s autobiography appeared, it appealed across the political spectrum, his authoritarianism and anti-Semitism on one side and the efficiency of his production methods, to different degrees, to both sides. In 1926, the Social Museum in Frankfurt held a conference—for industrial psychologists and sociologists as well as entrepreneurs—entitled “Ford and Us.” In a 1926 essay the economist Friedrich von Gottl-Ottlilienfeldcontrasted the limits of Taylorism with how “the creativity of Fordist methods is manifest on the level of immense systems of plants taken together in which productive functions be organized into an ideal succession.”[13] The production levels were staggering compared to any other process. “Why Be Poor” was a slogan of the pro-Fordist Social Democrats. Even when one of them, Toni Sender, reports of a visit to a Ford factory that she had “never seen men in a factory with such tense features . . .one is shocked by the expression of unspeakable tiredness,” she still dismisses opposition to the Ford process as Luddite and declares that it would be fine if some social protections were applied. Fordism was presented as “optimization” rather than as the “maximization” of Taylorism; that it was “inevitable” and that one should not “limit new forces of production.”[14]

The debates between journals and the thinktanks and institutions on Americanism coincided with what, despite reparations and reparations discourse, saw an inflow of capital into Germany, especially from the United States. But German capital rejected Fordism as such, associating it with job mobility and too high wages. Instead, export-focused German industry was modernized without mass production and mass consumption, increased productivity without massive technological investment.[15]Besides, while making all the gains of “Taylorism” for capital, it promoted another model, one associated with what has been labeled “reactionary modernism,” which nevertheless had in common the overcoming of the very idea as well as the realities of class conflict. If for those who presented themselves as progressive modernists such conflict was simply not necessary and could be overcome by technical solutions, then these others perceived the very notion of a proletariat to be dangerous and somehow alien to German culture. They used a radical reactionary critique of the “alienation” of the worker in the world of scientific management, promising a return of a higher sense of purpose to labor. At a DeutscherWerkbund meeting in 1924, Hugo Borsch, the Taylorist of Siemens and the RKW, was opposed by Willy Hellpach who wanted to “spiritualize” industrial work, talking of the overcoming of materialist attitudes by German values. Elsewhere the Catholic industrial sociologist Götz Briefs argued that the industrial plant itself was and should be an isolated social sphere, which could and should be organized in line with demands for discipline, adaptation, and hierarchy. In this he built on what already existed in the chemical industry of Duisberg and his equivalents, wherein harsh discipline coexisted with company housing and schools.

This placing of the firm at the center of the workers’ life was propagated in an organized manner by the Deutsches Institut für technische Arbeitsschulung (German Institute for Technical Labor Training, DINTA), an activist think tank set up in 1925 by engineers who, though given a definite role by Taylorism, had themselves been over-produced were thwarted in ambition and in search of professional status. The journal of its professional association, the VDI, Technology and Culture created a fusion of German romanticism with a cult of technics. DINTA itself was blessed and flattered by Oswald Spengler,was rhetorically anti-American, and picked up on the spiritualization of work implicit in Heidegger.To complete the circle, Giese, analyst of the Tiller girls and Berlin’s telephonists, joined in 1928. While the Social Democrat unions were content with industry-wide negotiations, DINTA worked at the individual plant level. While emphasizing the Taylorist focus on individual performance, it worked on a bonding of the worker to the firm in which the engineer would replace the industrialist so that the artisan would not learn his skills from other artisans but be trained by the engineer for the firm’s particular needs. Its programs deliberately segregated young workers from the potentially dangerous influence of older workers. Most of all, the firm, as with the chemical industry, became the center of the world with company schools and sport clubs and would re-create a sense of mission, a spirit of camaraderie, and a concept of honor.

There was an almost willfull blindness both to the realities of German capital as represented by Duisberg and to organizational forces like DINTA by those would define themselves as “progressive” modernists, including the Bauhaus.[16]In part this was because both modernisms shared, in their different ways, concern with rationalization and performance, the many faces of managerialism. They believed that they could solve what they perceived as the problem of class conflict, one that simply should not exist; and that, in a vertically stratified organization of work and decision-making, combined with the instilling of new social and work habits on those below, in effect a shared assumption that humans needed to be remade.

Both modernisms made constant metaphorical use of “the machine”with Oskar Schlemmer even merging both by dubbing the machine “organic.” Walter Gropius too, kept a foot in both camps. In the Weimar period of the Bauhaus, he—a war hero with a private income—was accused of being a Bolshevik, which in the sense of being a Jacobin managerialhe was, while never giving up on the language of the “community of spirit of the entire people.”[17]Even in 1934, the dictatorship in place, when he entered a competition to design the House of Work it would embody, he said, “the newly recognizable perception of community, one without class distinctions.”[18] At the same time, Gropius as a managerialistwas fan of the REFA and its “work-time determination mission, writing in 1927—the same year as a visit to the USA and the Taylor museum—of the need for “the determination of the expenditure of time and energy for each individual part of the production process during the manufacture and assembly of buildings,” and the preparation of flow charts of work on the site according to scientific business principles.”[19] To this end he and colleagues introduced T

Time &Motion studies—what workers from telephonists and metal industries had come to mistrust—on the Dessau and Praunheim housing projects. These studies used 16mm film, invented in 1921, and stopwatches, while at the same time with the support of the Weimar bureaucracy their architects succeeded in controlling key support structures such as sources of sponsorship as with the Dessau project. Gropius himself was an enabler of such money as vice president of the National Society for Research into Economic Building and Housing.

Such enthusiasm for scientific management was natural enough for the architect. If the engineers were concerned with their status and an ideology to support it, then it is even more true of the architect who shifts from being an aesthete to a reformer who democratizes good taste, and then, in the words of Gropius’s successor Hannes Meyer, to being a specialist in organization. Except for Gropius, the shift does not stop architecture from also being a privileged aesthetic language, theorized as embracing all visual arts and explaining their relevance to a new society in terms of their relation to architecture. The “new style of construction must be affirmed from an artistic point of view,” he wrote.[20] On the other side, the buildings themselves, just as modernist architects had introduced factories full of natural light as functional to production, a similar approach applied to worker housing. Thus as far back as 1911, in the days of the Werkbund, Gropius was writing that a “worker will find that a room well thought out by artists, which responds to the sense of beauty we all possess, will relive the monotony of the daily task and he will be more willing to join in the common enterprise. If the worker is happy, he will take more pleasure in his work, and the productivity of the firm will increase.”[21] The “sense of beauty we all possess” has a democratic ring, but it has to be put in the hands of the professionals: those of Design for Living.[22] As for “the common enterprise” and the “productivity of the firm,” it could be the language of DINTA. Where it is different is its reflection of the Social Democrat nexus, that loss of the worker’s power in work will be compensated by increased consumption, consumption with good taste, market testing products emanating from the design avant-garde.[23]

“The community of spirit of the entire people” was created by force in the National Socialist dictatorship and required deadly ejections from it, a clear rupture from the Weimar Republic. Trade unions which had dangerously ignored the class impact of industrial “rationalization,” were now banned altogether, but continuities existed, however distorted. Psychotechnics, for example, had to wait for the dictatorship to have its own institute when the study of “aptness” for the job became primarily concerned with identifying potential subversives and slackers, but already in 1930 Walther Moede, an industrial psychologist, had advocated its use in removing “undesirable” employees. The Deutsches Institut für Normung (German Institute for Standardization), whose measures of standardization had been adopted by the Bauhaus in 1925, was made comprehensive by Ernst Neufert, an architect who had worked with Gropius in the same year, for the National Socialist enthusiasts for whole-scale standardization, a main outcome of scientific management.

The clearest continuity is shown by the “Beauty of Labor” poster designed by Herbert Bayer, one of the most talented Bauhäusler, made in 1934–35. An essential part of Nazi productionism was to make factories look good, clean, and neat.[24]The external appearance of more than 12,000 industrial plants wasimproved, rubble removed, lawns and parks created, just as in the poster. It would it was argued return to the worker a feeling of the worth and importance of his labor. Intensive work on model designs for offices, canteens, and work rooms was instituted, and designs for furniture, light fittings, and other furnishings completed. Perhaps it can be dismissed as inherently kitsch but it is very much in the spirit of the Bauhaus aestheticization of alienated labor. More than that, with the extension of modern design—the watchword of the Werkbund and the Bauhaus when in the hands of authoritative design professionals—to all aspects of everyday life, social relations were mediated by an image of the world derived from technical rationality, a rationality open to a wide range of use and abuse.




[1]  In Marx, increased intensity of labor is one of the key counters to the tendency of the rate of profit to fall. The tendency comes from the increase in the “productiveness” of labor, requiring outlays of fixed capital in machinery, whereas increased intensity is determined by the capitalist via the machine and involves no cost to him or her.

[2]Upton Sinclair, The Jungle (1906; repr., Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2001), p. 91.

[3]Karl Ernst Osthan, “Frankfurter Zeitung, 1913.

4 Cited in Joan Campbell, The German Werkbund: The Politics of Reform in Applied Arts, Princeton University Press, 2015

[5] In The Society of the Spectacle, written in the 1960s, and a major critique of managerialism as well as the “recuperation” of the avant-garde by capitalism, the French Guy Debord of the Situationist International has as the real villains of the piece men from nearly fifty years earlier and in another country: Gustav Noske, Friedrich Ebert, and Philipp Scheidemann, the Social Democrat leaders of 1918 who took the poisoned chalice of government from the German generals and allowed the fascist Freikorps to kill their own.

[6] The “expendable” view of workers was commonplace in sectors of German capital. In September 1921, a huge explosion at the BASF Oppau plant killed several hundred workers. It set off a strike wave across the industry. InHoechst, it was set off by a management comment on the explosion “that’s no big deal. There are plenty more proles to explode.”

[7]Cited in Joy Campbell, Joy in Work, Joy in German Work, Princeton University Press, 2014

[8] The shifts in the determinants of intensity of labor in the modern world and the pervasive pressure of “performance” in work is described in John Barker, “Intensities of Labour: From Amphetamine to Cocaine,” Mute, March 7, 2006, (all URLs accessed in December 2018).

[9] In 1919, Carlo von Kügelgen, who had lost his arm before the war when he was just sixteen,wrote an autobiographical book called Nicht Krüppel, sondern Sieger: Erinnerungen eines Einarmigen (Not a Disabled—A Victor! Thoughts and Experiences of a One-Armed), drawing on his experience and describing hislife. It has a contemporary North American “positive thinking” tone. “Having once lost my arm, I would not—out of my conscious, free will—have it any other way, for what appeared to be a loss which would make me weaker has actually made me richer and stronger, has made me into what I am. I want my destiny.” Reference in Heather R.Perry, Recycling the Disabled, Army. Medicine and Modernity in World War I, Manchester University Press, 2014


[10] He was an unashamed elitist writing of the need for “leaders who can act without concern for the caprices of the masses.”

[11] One bizarre manifestation was in the field of prosthetics. Countless German designs were forthcoming, prompted by the VDI, the Nyrop claw, the Koselak weaver’s hand, theJagenberg arm, all so that the limbless could work. But still the best all-round arm was an American one, the Carne, so when they joined the war on the other side, it was a patriotic duty to throw those away and come up with a German model to match: the Lange. When completed, it prompted a concern that British spies would learn the secrets of its design. This was the avant-garde of design.

[12]Taylorism was fetishized in the USSR at this time and articulated by the Central Institute of Laborand theorized by Aleksei Kapitonovich Gastev. This constantly hindered the Communist Party in Germany (KPD) in their critiques of it in practice. They understood that its aim was to increase in the intensity of labor, more work in a given time, to the detriment of the workers’ health and workplace power, and from Marx that this was crucial to the extraction of surplus value, but they were all for efficiency and developing “the forces of production.”

[13]Friedrich von Gottl-Ottlilienfeld, ‘Fordism’, in

[14]Toni Sender,  cited in Mary Nolan,  Visions of Modernity, American Business and the Modernization of Germany, Oxford University Press, 1994

[15]This is not exclusive to the period, nor indeed to the generic past. Michele Salvati has described a process of “rationalization without investment” in Italy of the 1960s. It was reckoned that productivity in the 1964–69 period rose at a very fast rate, as fast as in the 1950s, and yet the rate of increase in industrial investment was zero.

[16] The KPD had no ideological restrictions when it came to DINTA, describing it as “firm fascism” and that “They Seek Our Souls.”

17 Cited in Matthew Wilson Smith, The Total Work of Art: From Bayreuth to Cyberspace, Routledge, 2007


[19]Cited in Mauro Guillén, The Taylorized Beauty of the Mechanical: Scientific Management and the Rise of Modernist Architecture, Princeton University Press, 2006



[22] When Gropius had found his place in America, Harvard, and had built student accommodations there, designed to the last detail, furniture and all, he was asked: “But what if the student doesn’t like it?” “Then the student would be neurotic,” he replied. “The architect as God and the neurotic like Eve in the garden of Eden.”

[23]ManfredoTafuri has argued that this “consumerism” role is reflected in the Bauhaus by Gropius’s refusal to have a history course concomitant with a fixation on a permanent present, a present characteristic of Debord’sThe Society of the Spectacle.

[24]It was at this time that the regime abandoned its “traditional” flimflam of mountains, myth, and an imagined rural past, leaving artists as varied as Emil Nolde and Rudolf von Laban out in the cold. Productionism—productivity and efficiency—resumed its primacy, this time under the “Beauty of Labor” banner.