Fordism and the American Dream
in France, 1919-1939

Robert L. Frost

School of Information
University of Michigan

In America, everything is done automatically. Electricity is used for lighting, heating, and cleaning. Women are elegant, men are happy, and children are perfectly educated.

--J.L., "Modernes lutins," Le Temps, 20 Octobre 1923, commenting on French popular perceptions of the US.

Over the past few decades, discussions of the global village and global Americanization have sometimes tended to imply a sort of cultural imperialism on the part of American businesses and peddlers of cultural artifacts, from Coca-Cola to films. Franz Fanon's writings extend this pattern--he writes of how elites in the subordinated regions take their cultural cues from the metropole--yet this line of argumentation often ironically insults the victims, implying that the new cultural standards are assimilated whole and in a largely undigested form.[2] Instead, I will argue in this paper that the process of cultural exportation involves a subtle negotiation over the meaning of cultural artifacts. Also, while imported objects and designs might appear to remain physically unchanged, the process of transplanting them can create a new context for contention among social groups within the indigenous culture. The importation of American technological objects, gadgets, images, and agendas into France in the period between the two world wars followed just such a pattern, as French culture reinterpreted and reinvented American technology according to France's specific economic and social-historical context. Talking about America in interwar France often meant something about what the future should look like, and given the physical distance between the two countries, French people enjoyed considerable freedom to reinvent America largely as each saw fit, according to his or her own agenda. Equally important, in creating a utopian version of America--a utopia which could not exist in practice, based in prescriptive writings and highly selective tours--many French people began to develop their current technological enthusiasm. Indeed, many French citizens went a long way toward redefining France, thus opening new ways to conceive of what a specifically French future might look like.[3] In the end, a local adaptation of American cultural agendas became a part of the basis for post-World War Two modernization.

America's brief participation in the First World War helped to transform French perceptions of what America meant. Gone were the images of a James Fenimore Cooper frontier-Eden seen through Rousseauist eyes seeking primal innocence. Gone was the America of Buffalo Bill Cody, PT Barnum, and the forty-niners. The new America was that of Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Frank Gilbreth, and the doughboy with his flat nasal accent and his wristwatch. The frontier Eden had been transformed into the unpolished citadel of Progress. Charles Lindberg would soon emerge as France's epitome of the heroic technological pioneer, combining masculine courage and cybernetic prowess, and Josephine Baker would become an erotic entertainment phenomenon, mating feral energy with stage devices.[4] America was the source of an ambiguous synthesis of fecund energy and technological mastery.[5]

Below the headlines of the tabloids, however, many perceived a new social agenda of which America was the exemplar: a renovation of the economy through rationalized mass production techniques, a technological revolution which would allow an escape from centuries of penury and parsimony.[6] In the shadow of the revolutionary upheavals from 1917 to 1920, a new model of social and economic organization, Fordism, offered a means for ending class conflict as squabbles over the division of the economic pie would be supplanted by cooperation to increase its size. The Fordist marriage of taylorized mass production and broad popular consumption would move France from a century of class conflict into the age of apolitical plenty. In this vision, mass production and mass consumption were two sides of the same dollar bill--or franc. The satisfaction of broad consumer demand required mass production, just as the minimization of production costs through mass production required mass consumption.

The Fordist agenda had more than an economic-functionalist agenda, and its implications were not just political. Fordism represented a veritable cultural frame, albeit not on the scale of a totalizing, Bourdieu-style habitus, as Martha Banta has implied.[7] It did require the construction of a new consumer milieu and a simultaneous remaking of taste, in essence, if one was to follow the American pattern, a white-collar technical-managerial class inclined to buy mass-produced goods. Simultaneously, it demanded a refiguring of the desires and aspirations of both workers and housewives, of producers both industrial and domestic. As Mary Nolan has indicated, some of those necessary elements did emerge in Weimar Germany, allowing a significant measure of Fordist penetration there, albeit in ways that were implicitly negotiated to fit local cultural and political conditions.[8] The penetration of Fordism into France was so limited that the necessary constituencies among whom cultural negotiation would proceed were simply not there. Rationalisation à la française, as Aimée Moutet has termed it,[9] was mostly a process of top-down impositions of imported managerial practices, largely bereft of the cultural agendas attached to them. Ironically, because of a profound gap between the rhetoric and practice of Fordism in France, prescriptive and idealized narratives of progress based on heroic innovation could remain conveniently untarnished by popular experience in the interwar era, leaving them credibly available for later.

Certainly, as Thomas Hughes has noted, America furnished the raw materials that Europeans wanted to fashion into a new culture,[10] but the French would have a difficult time placing the technology-focused script for Progress into their own culture. In terms of the two major sides of the American prescription for progress, industrial rationalization and domestic consumerism, French reinventions would generate socio-technical offspring whose parentage would be only vaguely recognizable. These redefinitions of American cultural artifacts were all the more distant from the real America because they were based not on actual American practices but on a prescriptive rhetoric about what those practices should be. The history of technocracy in France would not be complete without a recognition of the technocrats' tendency toward a drawing-board reality, an implicit assumption that what is prescribed or design constitutes what actually is[11]. French modernists and publicists could appreciate the pristine logic of what they understood to be Fordism and its inextricable link between rationalized mass production and popular consumerism, yet once they tried to implement that agenda, the messiness of culture intervened to rewrite the terms of reception. Introducing mass production techniques in France demanded that modernizers confront a tradition of low-output, quality artisanal production overseen by familial and paternalistic employers. Inciting mass consumerism meant addressing a broad social preoccupation with birthrates and a severe housing shortage, so French consumerist prescriptions had a strongly domestic tone. Agendas for modernizing France largely failed in the interwar era, but that dereliction in the material realm served to underline a sense of French industrial and cultural backwardness. It was that perception of decline that fueled France's enthusiastic technophilism in the postwar era.[12]

Taylorism, the application of detailed analytic techniques and prescriptions to the myriad gestures of the production process, had made little headway in France before the First World War. Frederick Taylor's Principles of Scientific Management had been translated, Henri Le Chatelier had promoted Taylorism, and Ford's success with the mass-produced Model T was well known, but a highly militant workforce and a conservative industrial bourgeoisie together blocked extensive industrial rationalization. A Taylor Society was not founded until after the war. In addition, some French entrepreneurs had versed themselves in the writings of Henri Fayol--an advocate of rationalizing managerial activity and of assigning workers to specific jobs based on aptitude testing--and considered themselves abreast of the latest in industrial methods.

As the armies of western Europe dug in during the fall of 1914, many in France began to believe that the war was not to be won by a facile élan vital, but by a coherent mobilization of technology and industry. A crisis in the production of 75mm artillery shells made it clear that a workforce composed of many workers who had never done factory work before--many regular male industrial workers were off to war--had to produce vast quantities of war matériel.[13] Under the socialist Minister of Armaments, Albert Thomas, and with considerable state subsidies, French industry embarked on a massive rationalization and Taylorization of war production.[14] Over time, as first peasants, then immigrants, then women joined the industrial workforce, managers found that the necessary long runs of absolutely standardized goods were perfect subjects for taylorism. In addition, as part of efforts to adapt factory life to a new, unskilled, and significantly feminine labor force, managers extended traditional paternalism to include baby nursing areas, special leaves for birthing and nursing, and company lunchrooms.[15] From the beginning, then, French Taylorism was associated with expanded social programs provided by employers. The association the French made between Taylorism and corporate welfarism was a specifically French invention, given that Taylor himself restricted the realm of corporate activity to life within the firm[16] Such experiments in recasting industrial production in France were perceived by modernists and reformist union officials to be highly successful, and many of them began to imagine a new social economy based on mass production and consumerism in the post-World War One era.

At the level of the shop floor, the imported Taylorist doctrine began as early as 1916 to show evidence of local modification. Though many munitions plants had installed modern materials handling systems as a way to move items through the production process and hence avoid demanding that women do heavy lifting, French efforts at Taylorism tended to lose sight of the notion of product flow.[17] This yielded highly efficient task work, but workers ended up being surrounded by encumbering bins of components and completed subassemblies, as well as by the ubiquitous tickets used to track inventory. Taylorism, supplemented by Fayolist reorganization of management along functional lines of division tended to fragment the production process.[18] Fordist production techniques required that manufacturing be viewed as an integrated flow, symbolized by the assembly line. What is more, and article in the engineering journal, Arts et métiers, indicated a subtle subtext of taylorism. In a diagram indicating the flow of command and inventory tracking slips, the author indicated the import of the bureaucratization of production: "the role of the crew chief is reduced to zero."[19] (Fig. 1) Indeed, one can see taylorism as part of the engineers' quest to gain control over the shop floor, taking it from skilled workers on one side and from traditional patrons on the other. Exported to France, Fordism (even after a wave of productivity missions from France to the River Rouge plant[20]) meant lip service to the politics of prosperity, oddly underpinned by fragmented production and new, more subtle battles for control over the shop floor.[21] In addition, genuine taylorism demanded a lengthy and detailed preparation process, a quasi-scientific analysis of the entire production process that could take over a year in a large plant--while the plant usually had to stand idle--, and most managers were thus simply not willing to adapt old plants to taylorism.

Specific implementation of American-style rationalization in the interwar era in France was confined almost exclusively to large firms in new sectors such as automobiles, appliances, large electrical equipment, and tires. To many people, rationalization at the level of the shop floor or micro level also demanded some sort of coordination between the state and private sectors--a coherent macroeconomic program.[22] Groups that often agreed on the ostensible benefits of taylorism at the shop-floor level often disagreed on issues of political economy. This made a coherent rationalization campaign at the political level impossible. Finally, divergences from American prescriptions and practices of and for rationalization in France also reflected specific differences in local tradition, especially with respect to trade union and managerial attitudes, Catholic ideology, philosophical traditions, and perceptions of the role of the state in the economy.

Many French unionists had begun to assert that labor should accept productivity-enhancing practices as a basis for better pay or more leisure before the Great War, but the wave of broad acceptance among labor occurred during the war itself.[23] Reformist labor leaders such as metals' union chief Alphonse Merrheim (despite his opposition to the war), and General Confederation of Labor (CGT) chief Léon Jouhaux as well as commentators such as Hyacinthe Dubreuil saw rationalisation both as a path to working class prosperity and as a rhetorical device for criticizing an industrial elite adjudged to be hidebound and anti-productive.[24] Paralleling the sentiments expressed by Veblen in his Engineers and the Price System (1919), reformist French labor leaders supported a statist-technocratic campaign to assure economic growth against a parasitic bourgeoisie. The French unionist twist on imported rationalisation doctrines thus consisted of a particularly corporatist vision, learned during the war, that the state was an appropriate enforcer and mediator for cooperative relations between labor and management and for state economic management--a Keynesianism before the fact[25]. In addition and in the context of the drive for a reduced workday, unionists recognized that inflation and managerial deceit often eroded hard-fought salary gains, making fixed leisure time (which later came to include legally guaranteed paid vacations) an equally credible goal for trade unions.[26] Either gain--better pay or more leisure--would be paid for by increased labor productivity. Even Communist unionists supported rationalisation, but of the "socialist" sort advocated by Lenin--classic taylorism on the shop floor, but implemented by a different set of owners.[27] Oddly, then, French taylorism, unlike its American counterpart, found strong support among unionists, but with modifications (anathema to the hierarchic and liberal American version) to include early versions of quality circles and a strong economic managerial role for the state.[28]

Management also modified American rationalisation doctrines. In the first instance, the promise of both Taylor and Ford, that labor would share in the fruits of greater productivity, could and was often belied with the argument that concerns over international competitiveness prevented appreciable salary increases. However, many employers agreed that implementation of the eight-hour law passed in 1920 would have to be paid for with higher productivity. Nonetheless, some authors have indicated that for all of the rhetoric, French rationalization in industry was merely a means to implement speedups and reduce wages.[29] More subtly, however, paternalist French industrial traditions did not mesh well with the taylorist dictum that higher pay on an individualized basis should be the sole motivating factor for labor. To many French industrialists, Anglo-Saxon materialist ideas simply dehumanized both bosses and workers. A strong Catholic paternalist tradition, modernized through the Catholic Social Union of Engineers, meant that benefits offered as a necessary consequence of wartime conditions would be supplemented with hygienic company housing, transportation subsidies, workers' gardens, maternity leaves, and the like.[30] To the modern corporatism sought by reformist labor, many employers, particularly those in northern textiles, offered an updated Catholic paternalism.[31] Neither fit well with taylorist notions that the paycheck should be the sole motivator and mediator between management, yet each in their way facilitated a kinder, gentler version of taylorism.[32]

Conceptions of industrial rationalisation fit quite well with the neo-Cartesian, Saint-Simonian, and Comtian traditions not of French entrepreneurs but of elite engineers, particularly the alumni of the École Polytechnique.[33] To traditional businessmen, the rational and analytic approach of Taylorism contradicted traditions of learning by doing and management by instinct. By contrast, the taylorist abstractions of the engineers seem at first blush to reflect American practices, but the paradigm was inverted: Anglo empiricists analyzed practical details to develop a system of production, but French rationalists leaned toward abstracting general rules of practice, codifying them into mathematical formulas. Some have argued that this was the start of the French expertise in mathematical economic model building.[34] This tendency for abstraction was perhaps at the root of the chasm between theory and practice and between specific tasks and a productive system in the implementation of rationalisation methods. French rationalization practices tended to assume, wrongly at times, that the whole is equal to the sum of the parts--that abstract conceptions of systems could be flawlessly instantiated into component parts. Nonetheless, the heavily prescripted dicta for managerial organization offered by Henri Fayol, abstract as they were, offered an interesting predecessor to the Parsonian structural-functionalism popular in American business schools in the 1960s.[35]

Abstracting the production process helped increase the fragmentation of production and exacerbated the problem of hyper-efficient tasks connected by massive piles of parts.[36] In addition, the accounting models for production cost analysis advocated by the taylorist association, the Conference for the Scientific Organization of Work, allocated all non-labor and non-materials expenses--everything from plant and equipment to research and development expenses--on a pro rata basis against labor costs.[37] This convention gave managers the illusion that by reducing overhead they would somehow make labor more efficient. This created internal incentives to focus on compressing labor costs through rationalisation or simple speedups while ignoring other production costs. Politically this created an illusion that an offensive against labor could make the firm vastly more profitable. The development of the Bedaux system in the early 1930s refined this tendency. The Bedaux system "scientifically" set bonuses and penalties--in the context of the Depression, most often the latter--with fine-tuned accuracy to yield incentives for workers to produce faster.[38] Through the Bedaux system, rationalization increasingly appeared to mean simple a fancy term for speedups of the labor process.[39] In practice, particularly among more traditional employers, French taylorism was sometimes merely a fancy way to increase the exploitation of labor, without the promised benefits of high wages.

Richard Vahrenkamp was probably correct in noting that taylorism was actually most appropriate to small artisanal environments.[40] This implies that small shop taylorism should have fit well in the French environment, particularly given that piece-rate wages had prevailed within much of French industry in 1900. Taylorism thus meant reinforcing piece rates first with time-motion studies and (later) Bedaux methods, plus the bureaucratization that a system of tracking and inventory tickets on each component implied.[41] On the latter point, a burgeoning job title for women in industry was that of magasinière, a female warehouse worker generally employed to track the flurry of parts tickets--which, lacking appropriate analytic tools, were virtually never used to study the production process itself.[42] The fragmentation of the production process that taylorism in the 1920s fostered was alleviated in part by the notion of integrated design and production introduced by Ernest Mattern at Peugeot in the early 1930s, and by a wave of production planning procedures advocated by Jean Coutrot at the same time.[43] Nonetheless, Mattern's prescription for a rational factory stood in stark contrast to the plant he actually built for Citroën in the late 1920s (Fig. 2).[44]

Taylorism had tended to break apart the production process and later efforts at broader rationalisation tended to reconstruct it. In the sectors which bothered to introduce modern methods at all in France's interwar era, productivity apparently rose, but not spectacularly, and wages rose, but not spectacularly. During the Depression, productivity rose, wages fell, and working conditions deteriorated. After the explosion of the summer of 1936 and the rise of the leftist Popular Front regime, wages rose and productivity fell, yet the state moved more directly into the production environment, urging rationalization.[45] By the time of the rearmament wave that started in 1938, shock rationalization was well on its way, aided by well known management practices and the patriotic fervor of a Nazi-fearing workforce.[46] Its success was cut short by the defeat of 1940, but taylorism as the mythic basis for prosperity survived. Hence despite tepid results from real-world rationalization efforts, the imported Fordist ideology survived.

The other side of the imported Fordist discourse was, of course, the promise of increased popular consumption--that more structured and dehumanizing working conditions would be compensated by higher pay and cheaper goods, or by leisure.[47] Mass production not only implied mass consumerism--it demanded it, for mass markets were the only possible way economically to amortize the vast expenses of a shift to mass production. More goods produced by more efficient methods would become the basis for a prosperous social order. The old marxist struggle over the division of the economic pie was to be replaced by an apolitical cooperation to increase the overall size of the pie. Productivity increases would pay for higher profits, wages, and investments as well as for an increased supply of goods.[48]

This utopian agenda could not be met with the less than spectacular increases in productivity. Some analysts claim the supply and demand for mass-produced goods fell far short of scale adjudged necessary for efficient production, but the differences were cultural as well as economic.[49] Furthermore, introducing American-style consumer items in the French home meant not simply importing objects and designs, but reinventing the French family and the French woman.[50] In a social sense, as taylorism raised the status of the new white-collar technician and operating engineer--a man who would, as an expert, oversee the rationalized production process--, the new woman would be a domestic manager, someone of high social status (based on technical expertise) who would oversee rational production in the home. Like the declining artisan, the traditional housewife used rule-of-thumb and learning-by-doing procedures; like the new worker, the modern housewife would be guided by rational, explicit principles and an economy of motion. This would foster a richer domestic and personal life as it freed her from many of the onerous tasks of housework. She would be able to pursue prolific baby production, intellectual enrichment, and if she pleased, a career.[51] In a deconstructionist sense, just as taylorism had constructed its despised Other in the unskilled, anarchist worker, so the domestic modernization movement constructed its Other in the disease-ridden and debauched domestic servant girl, or bonne--despite the fact that the majority of them tended to be farm girls from Brittany in Paris for the first time. Bonnes were viewed variously as disease ridden and potentially criminal.[52] The murder of the Lancellin family in 1933 by their servants, the Papin sisters, served to confirm the danger of outsiders hired into the bourgeois home.[53] The demonization of servants combined with a fear of "promiscuous mixing" of a family's intimacies with that of strangers compelled reformers to look for new ways to perform housework. Home appliances and domestic rationalization offered technical fixes to social problems, but as we shall see, many French women had agendas very different from those of the domestic modernizers, so the social meaning of the new devices had to shift accordingly.

Though popular incomes rose respectably in the 1920s, France did not suddenly enter an age of consumerism. The overall standard of living was so low in 1920 that most increases in income for the working class seem to have gone to replace some of the bread in the basic diet with meat, fish, and fresh produce.[54] Tobacco consumption also rose, as did movie admissions, hunting permits, and the like.[55] There was no wave of working class or shopkeeper car purchases--though auto output boomed, its market was primarily bourgeois and middle class--and the only mass markets for home appliances were for clothes irons, curling irons, and later, radios.[56] Housing shortages pushed workers to the suburbs, requiring additional expenditures for transportation and meals away from home, and these probably consumed much of the increased income of working class families.[57] Hence, while the industrial boom of the 1920s in France spawned the beginnings of a modern, consumerist middle class, it delivered little for peasant or working class families. In addition, as a new class rife with the pretensions of the upwardly mobile, the new middle elements tended (as the bourgeoisie before it) to emulate its social betters, eschewing the vulgarizing mass produced goods in favor of the ennobling artisanally-made objets.58 In the mind of the French middle and upper social strata, quality and social distinction could simply not be mass produced.

This phenomenon was most apparent with the Salons des Arts Ménagers, or annual home shows. The state-sponsored salons began in 1923 as a heroic and gaudy celebration of novelty for the home, focusing on trendy new appliances. Attendance By 1929, faced with a buying middle class that was jaded with the look of clean-lined white porcelain and was uncomfortable with the aggressive modernism, the Salon introduced a series of patently atavistic retrospectives of elite interior décor from ages past.[59] The Salon thus sought to invent both elite traditions and deco futures for the new middle class. The wife of a petit bourgeois-born rising regional director of sales for Coty perfume could imagine her past in opulent Second Empire dining rooms and her future in an appliance-festooned Bauhaus kitchen-as-clinic.

But the social demands upon and aspirations of French women were different from those of her Yankee sisters. While American women on the cusp of progress were increasingly encouraged to plan their pregnancies and bottle feed their babies as they pursued careers, French women were urged to stay at home and breast feed future armies of young boys. France had seen the death or disabling of almost two million young men during the war and French women were urged by bourgeois reformers as well as Catholic conservatives to replenish France's population as preparation for the Hun's next onslaught.60 The social prescriptions for French women reflected this effort to redomesticate Rosemarie the Riveter and to tame the flapper [garçonne]. At the same time, many French women continued to work outside the home, less, no doubt, out of joyful self-fulfillment in their jobs than from economic necessity.61 Most working women did not seek new domestic gadgets as expressions of modernism or as replacements for servants, but as labor-saving devices. Rarely, however, could the labor savings justify the expense of the appliances, particularly because for the working class housework had no monetary value.

In the socio-technical scripts offered by the Salon des Arts Ménagers, home appliances would liberate middle class and bourgeois women within their proper domestic sphere.[62] First, though the supply of female domestic servants remained steady between the wars, the experience of well paid and independent war work had made a number of putative servants unwilling to accept the petty tyrannies of the bourgeois (or aspiring-to-be bourgeois) housewife.[63] Even at the height of the Depression, the press bemoaned the shortage of servants--you just couldn't get good help anymore.[64] No doubt, claiming one would have servants if they were available was a way to make a statement about social position without having to spend the money. As labor-saving devices, appliances would thus liberate women from the tyranny of both the imagined short servant market and from the demands of the servants once they were hired. For those women of the middle and upper classes who did have servants, however, easing the burdens of manual-intensive labor for hirelings was probably not a top priority. For women without the hope of having servants, appliances promised to bring the home up to modern standards of hygiene and cleanliness.

Discourse on domestic consumerism shared the same sort of progress talk as that associated with industrial rationalization. Extending the conceptions of both Charlotte Perkins Gilman and the home-economics movement at American land-grant universities, Christine Frederick had developed a domestic taylorism in the US before World War One, complete with time-motion studies for meal preparation. An article she wrote on the subject appeared in the modernist Revue de la métallurgie in 1916, with a preface by France's leading taylorist, Henri Le Chatelier. After the Great War, Paulette Bernège, an unmarried domestic expert whose career plans to become a philosophy professor had been blocked by sexist practices, popularized rationalized housekeeping. In De la méthode ménagère ou la vie en rose (translated roughly as, On Housekeeping Methods or the Comfortable Life, 1928) Bernège wed Frederick's taylorism to indigenous Fayolist ideas, yielding a book rife with organization charts and timed task tables (Figs. 3 and 4). Moreover, she combined the taylorist-fayolist synthesis with a specifically European notion of the mechanical efficiencies of the human body as a motor to give domestic rationalization conceptions a peculiarly ergonomic twist. From this perspective, she offered a study of plans for rationally configured public housing developments (later in 1928) and for the rational home laundry (1932).[65] Other designers followed with layouts for rational kitchens and rational bathrooms, both of which had explicit notions of work flows, even down to rubber arrows embedded in the bathroom floor[66] (Figs. 5 and 6).

Bernège's De la méthode ménagère was, however, more than a silly exercise in vacuum cleaner gymnastics. It was a very real effort to redefine the social position of women with the domestic sphere. Within the ideology of progress, association with technological objects identifies someone as being a part of emerging technological styles--the breeder reactor in eastern France is equally significant as a device for showing that France has entered the high tech world than it is useful for producing electricity. Ensconced in the clinical-white kitchen or abreast her new washing machine, the new French housewife was to become a veritable household engineer. What is more, armed with functional organization charts, the modern housewife would become a manager of a mechanized productive environment. The educated middle class woman could at best hope for a secretarial or administrative assistant job, but at home, she could be a chief executive officer. This enhanced social status at home would elevate the standing of women's domestic sphere.[67]

The domestic rationalization movement, like its industrial twin, also connected with indigenous philosophical traditions. Based on the biological theories of Claude Bernard and the thermodynamics of Sadi Carnot, university researchers had maintained a conception of the body as energy consuming, biological motor or machine. Countering their industrial counterparts who were enamored with a taylorism that treated the body as a black box, biodynamicists studied the work process as the conversion of raw energy--sugars and carbohydrates--into useful work.[68] In this way, they supplemented taylorism by scientifically defining the frontiers of human fatigue. Domestic rationalizers similarly tried to analyze appliance-aided housework as a biodynamic efficiency improvement. In the state-funded home economics schools and laboratories, domestic scientists showed that vacuuming was more efficient than sweeping by placing gas masks, attached to CO2 monitors to measure the burning of sugars, on women operating brooms and vacuums[69] (Fig. 7). More credible than subtle allusions to class-bound tastes or to a language of liberation, biodynamic studies used science to prove the virtues of new domestic technology.

Similarly, working class cooking and elite gastronomy were reinvented as gastrotechnique, a new scientific domain which examined the dynamic chemical interactions of foodstuffs in the preparation process. Doctor Edouard de Pomiane, France's leading gastrotechnicien, a member of the Institut Pasteur, promised a new scientism for educated women as they performed traditional cooking tasks:

The modern woman who has had a good education must concern herself with culinary art. She should do it not in the least because cooking is at the same time an experimental science. In no other situation will the woman with a baccalauréat have a better opportunity to apply the theories of physics and chemistry that she has learned. For her, the kitchen will be an attractive laboratory. The educated young woman will be impassioned by making many different sauces if in the process she finds an interesting problem of applied science.[70]

Though the kitchen-as-laboratory was an import from the United States, French commentators remained confident that the French art of haute cuisine would not be the American propensity to ignore quality for the sake of quantity--the kitchen was to be a laboratory, a parallel to the work-process design shop, not a factory.[71]

French modernists had to compromise with certain indigenous values which simply contradicted the new technological agenda, and an article by Doctor d'Heucqueville, in a 1933 issue of L'Art ménager (a French version of Good Housekeeping) underlined the dilemma. For a variety of reasons, French society strongly rejected bottle feeding in favor of breast feeding. Part of this was linked to a conception of the mother-infant relationship as a deeply organic one which would be violated by the interposition of mechanical object between the two.[72] In contrast, many Americans at the time thought breast feeding to be barbaric and somehow animalistic. Hypnotized by things American, French modernists, Dr. d'Heucqueville among them, wanted to support bottle feeding. In addition, the same issue of L'Art Ménager ran a multi-color full page ad for a brand of baby formula. The good doctor opens his article, translated as, "Can the Young Mother of the Future Nurse?," with a discussion about how lactation doesn't begin immediately upon birthing. He notes that peasant women (the bane of modern Parisians) had puppies suckle on the woman's breasts to initiate lactation--note the association of animals with breasts. To avoid this, he recommends a breast pump, either electrical or manual. He then observes that for working women, less-than-well-endowed women, women who must travel, and women in less than perfect health--in short, women who are not in the lap of rosy, domestic housewifery, probably the majority of the female population--normal breast feeding is impossible. His solution is derived from an extremely rare American practice, the development of human milk dairies (laiteries). He continues, "In this country where everything is industrialized there are, in effect, human breast milk banks, where children who do not have access to milk from their own mothers can have rational and normal nursing."[73] By proposing the mythic American breast milk banks, the expert's rhetorical invention ended up advocating bottle feeding through a discursive back door. Other articles in homemaking and hygiene publications also began to support the bottle in the 1930s.

French society also reinvented the American artifacts that were to be the devices for implanting Fordism in the French home, and the tortured history of the washing machine in interwar France underlines this problem.[74] Since the 1880s, most domestic laundering had been performed with the lessiveuse, a device that boiled laundry and percolated hot, chemical-ridden water through the load, accomplishing its task with a minimum of agitation. The lessiveuse was uniquely suited to the French environment (it could operate on any heat source, even placed upon a cast-iron stove, hence avoiding the necessity for utility hookups) and it conformed to what French women understood to be the correct laundering process: boiling, soaking, and chemical treatment. Laundering with the lessiveuse required considerable time for soaking and boiling, but time-saving washing machines could not accomplish what many considered proper laundering which, by definition, took lots of time. American washers began to be imported into France in the early 1920s, and they had American conceptions of laundering designed into them: agitation, hot (but not boiling) water, and a short duration. Moreover, the American designs presumed that the machine would be plumbed into hot and cold water supplies, wired into electrical circuts, and connected to a drain--as well as being placed in a room large enough to accommodate the contraption. While the promise of automated laundering appealed to French women, the American machine fit neither their preconceptions of proper laundering nor their common physical environment: one without running hot water, and one using coal or briquets for a basic heat source. French (and German) manufacturers redesigned American washing machines to meet local demands, placing a firebox below--which allowed both a long boil and a freedom from utility hookups (the need for an additional chimney notwithstanding)--and replacing the aggressive agitator with a percolation device and a gentler agitator. Ironically, through all of the redesign, the "automated" washer was redeployed as a reinvented lessiveuse, at about ten times the price. Though few bought the new machine, it was a center of attraction at the Salons. The American social script of domestic liberation was preserved as the artifact was entirely reinvented, yet because so few machines were purchased the utopian promise of the new machine could not be contradicted by real-world experience.

French women often refused to follow the scripts written for them by the experts and moralists. In particular, they were reluctant to have the babies demanded from them by male authorities in the press, Church, and parliament. Profoundly pacifist, many women seemed to resist producing sons who would only become cannon fodder.[75] More practically, as a flurry of working class budget studies showed, children were expensive and many families simply couldn't afford them, especially if that meant the loss of the wife's earnings. Even with employer- and later, state-funded baby bonuses, most men simply couldn't earn enough to support large families.

Women were also often unwilling to give up the dreams of higher incomes, power within the family, and professional autonomy that regular jobs offered. Labor statistics indicate a slight recomposition of the female labor force in France at the time, reflecting a decline of traditional sectors for poor women's employment such as the cloth trades, along with the emergence of commercial, pink collar, and professional women's employment.[76] By the late 1920s, this trend became clear and women began to look at domestic activities and appliances with a hard-headed sense of usefulness and cost, increasingly aware of the tradeoffs between their earnings, leisure, and domestic tasks. The "modern" French woman began to see herself as a busy person with many demands on her time, for whom some appliances would offer labor-saving virtues.[77] Some advertisers recognized this. For example, a Birum-Lutra ad in 1928 offered a dense text on the tough, industrial quality of their floor polisher--an appeal to the practicality of the woman, while picturing a well dressed sleek woman deftly operating the device while sporting high heels--to allay the husband's fears that the machine might defeminize the woman[78] (Fig. 8).

With the exception of a very few feminist discussions and an obscure anarchist analysis[79], the commentaries of the Communist, Socialist, business, and popular press assumed that men were somehow incapable of performing any part of household tasks.[80] Without jettisoning the agenda of French women as hyperfertile baby producers, for ideologues this meant that the new, middle-class woman would have three jobs: stressful professional work, technologized housework, and birthing. In order for women to have appropriate role models for this social script, French modernists needed Superwoman, and they invented her based on rare Americans like Lillian Gilbreth.[81] Not unlike the darling feminine consumer of Madison Avenue in the 1980s, the French Superwoman elegantly pursued a highly successful professional career, did all of the housework, and enjoyed the adoration of a devoted husband and above-average children. To this was added another image of women, the self-sacrificing mom ritualistically adored in the Mothers' Day festivals imported from America[82] and commemorated by a massive monument on the boulevard Kellermann in Paris. As it became clearer through the interwar era that access to the paraphernalia of modernism was financially restricted to the middle and upper classes, Superwoman became the model for the bourgeoise and the heroic Mom for the ouvrière.

The domestic revolution did not lack for influential promoters on either the political or social fronts. Rightists such as Louis Marin and leftists such as Henri Sellier allied with Edouard Labbé, a near-permanent fixture within the Ministry of Education (and the Director-General of the 1937 Exposition) to advocate home economics in the school curriculum, along with special courses and schools for homemaking practices. The Parisian gas and electric distributors offered their own homemaking workshops and centers, along with cookbooks and manuals based on the new principles. Larousse publishers gave its seal of approval to the movement by starting its annually-revised Larousse Ménager, largely a codification of the new techniques, in 1926. By 1930, Larousse Ménager seems to have become a standard gift for newly-wed women.[83] The Salon itself enjoyed over 100,000 visitors in its first year (1923), and by 1939, over 600,000 people attended.[84] It was, indeed, a major popular event in Paris during the winter months.

The greatest irony in French domestic technology in the interwar era was the gap between rhetoric and practice. Progress talk for the home presented an idealized world of tomorrow, soon to be accessible to all, and by the late 1930s, nearly a million people attended the Salon des Arts Ménagers. The message was popular, but few bought the goods for their homes. The "tomorrow" of the modernists never arrived between the wars. Most French families simply couldn't afford appliances,[85] and French residences were too small to justify either the installation space or expense. This does not mean that washing machines, dishwashers, and vacuum cleaners were never purchased. In the most direct reinvention of American objects, collective establishments, from hospitals to schools, hotels and company lunchrooms, widely adopted the new appliances. This reflected a number of differences between American and French culture and society. In particular, French people seemed to prefer collective investments over private ones and, as a continuation of the war experience, the public expected employers and the state to provide collective facilities, ranging from lunchrooms to vacation centers. In addition, the French preference to have the large meal in the middle of the day combined with the distancing of workplaces from homes to necessitate some sort of massive dining facilities at work. This tendency for employer-provided dining rooms and vacation facilities burgeoned after the Second World War. In fact, collective facilities made financial sense--the limited use a single family would have made of, say, a dishwasher or clothes washer could not justify the vast expense, but collective use could.[86] Home appliances thus found their place not in the home, but in institutions.

French society thus adopted much of the American discourse about technology and progress in the interwar era and made surprisingly few modifications to it. Fordist notions of linking mass production to mass consumption and visions of a revolution in domestic technology were imported largely intact. However, as French society began to use the new objects, people adapted their use and meaning to a different cultural and social context. In so doing, at least in the interwar era, they rarely noted the gap between the utopian character of their new progress talk and the very limited diffusion of the new practices. They adopted the script for progress, but not the objects associated with it. Combined with an emerging transpolitical and apparently unassailable enthusiasm for new technology, this insulated progress talk from real criticism. By the late 1930s, the collective cognitive dissonance created by the juxtaposition of panglossian progress rhetoric with stagnant material conditions began to form the mentality of post-1945 French society, one that was willing to jettison once-valued traditions in favor of a national technological renaissance. Technology and America had come to be intimately associated in French popular ideology, but in a constructively ambiguous fashion--success could be attributed to the virtues of French culture and failure could be ascribed to American bad taste, freeing French technologists and their devices largely immune from attack. The American Dream could be also the French Dream, but considerable divergences in cultural meaning could hide under the glossy surface.


[1] Support for this research was provided by the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (Paris) and the National Science Foundation, and the author thanks those organizations. The author would like to thank Hans-Joachim Braun, Stewart Campbell, Judith Coffin, Yves Cohen, Helmut Gruber, Margaret Hedstrom, Bryan Pfaffenberger, Janet Ralston, Warren Roberts, Raymond Stokes, and Gerald Zahavi for their invaluable comments and advice.

[2] As innovative conceptually as it might be, Kristin Ross' Fast Cars, Clean Bodies: Decolonization and the Reordering of French Culture (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1995) studies the promulgation of the values and imagery of a new culture of consumerism and technology, not its reception, nor the divergences between social prescriptions and social practices.

[3] In a very direct way, I am pursuing the perspective of Victoria de Grazia, who argues that studies of americanization need to work simultaneously from the perspective of what is being culturally exported and the meanings attached to those artifacts locally; see her "Americanism for Export," Wedge (Winter-Spring, 1985), 74-81.

[4] One can find a fascinating recent study of the elision between eroticism and exoticism in Tyler E. Stovall, Paris Noir: African Americans in the City of Light (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1996). See also Phyllis Rose, Jazz Cleopatra: Josephine Baker in her Time (New York: Doubleday, 1989).

[5] For an apt statement of this genre of perceptions, see the remarks of André Siegfried, in "Civilisation européen et civilisation américaine. Conference," Le Musée social XXXVII:6 (June 1930), 190-191.

[6] A major publicist for this vision was the automobile manufacturer, André Citroën, who consciously presented himself as a French version of Henry Ford. See Sylvie Schweitzer Des engrenages à la chaîne. Les usines Citroën, 1915-1935 (Lyon: Presses Universitaires de Lyon, 1982), 11-16; see also Ernest Mercier, "Le Redressement Français," Speech to the Comité National d'Études, 28 January 1926, pamphlet (Paris: Redressement Français, 1926).

[7] Martha Banta, Taylored Lives: Narrative Productions in the Age of Taylor, Veblen, and Ford (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993).

[8] Mary Nolan, Visions of Modernity: American Business and the Modernization of Germany (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994).

[9] See Moutet, "Ingénieurs et rationalisation en France de la guerre à la crise (1914-1929)," in André Thépot, ed., L'Ingénieur dans la société française (Paris: Éditions Ouvrières, 1986).

[10] Thomas P. Hughes, American Genesis: A Century of Invention and Technological Enthusiasm (New York: Viking-Penguin, 1989), 9. Again, Citroën was an exemplar of this tendency: he admired Ford's vision and production process, yet criticized his lack of esthetic judgement in making down-scale Model Ts; see Schweitzer, Des engrenages, 16.

[11] In a kinder fashion, see Yves Cohen, "Management, Organization, and Production in French and American Automobile Industries Between the Two World Wars: Some Aspects," paper delivered to the annual meetings of the Society for the History of Technology, Cleveland, October 1990. For a broader statement of this difference, see Eda Kranakis, "Social Determinants of Engineering Practice: A Comparative view of France and America in the Nineteenth Century," Social Studies of Science XIX:1 (January 1989), 5-70.

[12] For the latest rendition of the "French decline and decadence" argument, see Eugen Weber, The Hollow Years: France in the 1930s (New York: Norton, 1994).

[13] On the "crisis of the 75s" and the beginnings of rationalized war production, see Laura L. Downs, "Women in Industry, 1914-1939: The Employers' Perspective" (doctoral dissertation, Columbia University, 1987), Ch. 2. See also her book, Manufacturing Inequality: Gender Division in the French and British Metalworking Industries, 1914-1939 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1995), Ch. 1.

[14] For studies of industrial rationalisation in France During WWI and after, see: Aimée Moutet, "Introduction de la production à la chaîne en France du debut du XXe siècle à la grande crise en 1930," Histoire, économie société (January-March 1983), 63-82, and idem., "Patrons de progrès ou patrons de combat? La politique de rationalisation de l'industrie française au lendemain de la Première Guerre mondiale," Recherches 32/33 (September 1977), 449-489.

[15] This was due in no small part to the urging of Thomas: see his papers, Archives Nationales (AN) série 94 AP 348 and 546, and AN série F22 538 (Ministry of Labor).

[16] Frederick W. Taylor, The Principles of Scientific Management (New York: Norton, 1967), Chap. 2.

[17] Labor inspectors during and after the war paid particular attention to details of the production process; their reports are in AN série F22 555. See also archives of the Service Historique Armée de Terre série 10 N 63. Losing the sense of production as a broader system was an implicit danger in taylorism. By starting at the micro level of hand motions, the sense of a totality could easily be lost.

[18] For a synopsis of the doctrines of Henri Fayol, see Donald Reid, "Fayol: Excès d'honneur ou excès d'indignité,?" Revue française de gestion 70 (September-October 1988), 151-161, and Reid, "Genèse du fayolisme," Sociologie du travail (April-June 1986). On the issue of fragmenting the production process, it is interesting to observe that in an article by J. Le Roy Ladurie in L'Information (24 July 30), the author notes that André Siegfried defined four aspects of rationalization: 1) mechanization, 2) Taylorization (defined as the "utilisation de la main d'oeuvre au maximum"), 3) standardization (which, he says, makes mass production possible), and 4) centralization. None of these regimens so much as implies a systems or flow conception of the production process.

[19] C. Bonnet, "Une étape vers le système Taylor dans l'organisation de l'atelier," Arts et métiers 10 (October 1921), 310.

[20 ] Pilgrims to the Ford plant included Hyacinthe Dubreuil of the CGT and André Citroën. A CGT official, Dubreuil wrote glowingly of his experiences with American industry in Standards (Paris: Grasset, 1929); the book's preface was by Henri Le Chatelier, a management consultant.

[21] Donald Reid appreciates that a similar process had taken place in mining even earlier, where, in place of the task masters sur le tas that they once had been in overseeing subcontractors, mine engineers became rational organizers of wage labor: see his "Industrial Paternalism: Discourse and Practice in Nineteenth-Century French Mining and Metallurgy," Comparative Studies in Society and History XXVII:4 (October 1985), 579-607. This implies, correctly, in this author's view, that taylorism was indeed a key tool used by engineers to gain greater control in the production process.

[22] For an incisive study of contrasting political-economic traditions, see Frank Dobbin, Forging Industrial Policy: The United States, Britain, and France in the Railway Age (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994). The key work on interwar French political economy remains Richard F. Kuisel, Capitalism and the State in Modern France (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1981).

[23] Patrick Fridenson, "Un tournant taylorien de la société française (1914-1918)," Annales E.S.C. XLII:5 (September-October 1987), 1044-1046. For an exposé of union reaction to taylorism during the war and its propensity to ease the employment of women, see "L'Emploi des femmes à l'usine," Rapport de la Camarade Roux lu au Congrès du Syndicalisme National le 26 octobre 1917 à Paris, L'Avenir syndical, undated.

[24] On Merrheim, see Nicholas Papayanis, Alphonse Merrheim: The Emergence of Reformism in Revolutionary Syndicalism, 1871-1925 (Boston: M. Nijhoff, 1985), 69; on Thomas, see Madeleine Rebérioux and Patrick Fridenson, "Albert Thomas, pivot du reformisme français," Le Mouvement social 87 (April-June 1974), entire, and on Dubreuil, see Martin Fine, "Hyacinthe Dubreuil: Le Témoignage d'un ouvrier sur le syndicalisme, les relations industrielles et l'évolution technologique de 1921 à 1940." Le Mouvement social 105 (1977), entire. Merrheim was seriously taken to task by his comrades in the first metalworkers' congress after the war; see CGT-Federation des Ouvriers des Métaux, 5e Congrès National; Rapport Moral et Compte Rendu des Débats. Tenu à Lille 20-23 juillet 1921 (Paris, CGT, 1921), intervention of Verdier, 127-132.For a discussion of labor discourse as a critique of an unproductive bourgeoisie, see Olivier Christin, "L'Enjeu de la rationalisation industrielle," mémoire de maîtrise (Paris: Université de Paris VIII, 1982), pp. 92-92, and my "Mechanical Dreams: Democracy and Technological Discourse in Twentieth-Century France" in L. Winner (ed.), Democracy in a Technological Society (Dordrecht: Kluwer Publishers, 1992), 51-80.

[25] The most succinct statement of this position was in a pamphlet by Jules Moch of the Socialist Party: Socialisme et rationalisation (Brussels: L'Eglantine, 1927). The best work on the connections between taylorism and macroeconomic rationalization remains that of Charles Maier; see his article, "Between Taylorism and Technocracy: European Ideologies and the Vision of Industrial Productivity in the 1920s," Journal of Contemporary History 5 (1970): 27-61, and his book, Recasting Bourgeois Europe: Stabilization in France, Germany, and Italy in the Decade after World War I (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1975). Maier does, however, tend to confuse the prescriptions of pundits for the practices of real people.

[26] For a succinct summary of labor's reformism and its enthusiasm for expanded leisure based on its ability to increase productivity through rationalization, see Gary Cross, A Quest for Time: The Reduction of Work in Britain and France, 1840-1940 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989), Chaps. 8 and 9. Cross argues that labor was often far more enthusiastic about rationalization that management was, for in greater productivity workers saw the possibility of higher pay or more leisure.

[27] The response of the Communist Unified General Labor Confederation to rationalization at Citroën in 1927 was that capitalist rationalisation was a contradiction in terms, given the anarchic character of the market economy. See the press clippings and strike meeting reports in AN série F22 190: Ministère de Travail, Rapports des Grèves (1927). This attitude can no doubt be traced in part to Lenin's enthusiasm for taylorism.

[28] One must avoid confounding persistent anarcho-syndicalist language about "workers' control" with the more corporatist proposals for deferential workers' representatives in productivity circles. The were a few unionists who did take strong exception to the Panglossian perspective of the pundits of progress. After a tour to River Rouge, some judged that Ford's process animalized workers or turned them into mindless and unskilled automatons; see H. Labe, "A propos d'une delegation en Amérique. Une visite chez Ford," Le Peuple 222 (8 February 1927).

[29] R. Boyer, "L'introduction du taylorisme en France à la lumière de recherches récentes. Quels apports et quels enseignements pour le temps présent?," Travail et emploi (October-December 1983), cited in Fridenson, "Un tournant taylorien," 1058, note 74. This is also shown by a systematic reading of the salary information in the strike reports in AN series F22, cartons 182-232. See also Jacques Lewkowicz and Renée Douillet, "L'Action syndicale et le taux de profit dans la métallurgie entre les deux guerres," Mémoire DES en Sciences économiques, Université de Paris, 1969. This position was often posed by the Communists who, nonetheless, advocated Taylorism once a workers' state was erected; see the articles on this subject in Cahiers du bolshevisme of October 1926, August 1928, and November 1929, as well as a tract to workers at Citroën and Thomson in 1931: "Dans l'anarchie du régime capitaliste impuissant à organiser ou repartir la production, parce que recherchant uniquement à accroître des benefices scandaleux," in AN série F7/13775: Police Générale.

[30] See, for example, Union Sociale des Ingénieurs Catholiques (USIC), Echo, July 1928 (special issue). Even traditionalist conservative employers recognized the legitimacy of demands for employer-provided benefits; see Eugène Mathon (Président du Comité Central de la Laine), "Crise économique et crise morale. Discours prononcé au déjeuner ayant suivi la XIIe Assemblée Générale annuelle du Comité Central de la Laine," 19 avril 1934, pamphlet (Paris: Comité Central de la Laine, 1934).

[31] On Catholic engineers' organizations, see André Grelon, "L'ingénieur catholique et son rôle social entre les deux guerres," paper delivered to the conference, "Techniques et figures du social d'une guerre à l'autre," La Villette CRHST, Paris, October 1989, and Luc Boltanski, Le cadres, Formation d'un groupe social (Paris: Éditions de Minuit, 1982), Ch. II:1. For specific realizations of employers, anon., "Les Oeuvres familiales à Rouen," Dossiers de l'Action Populaire 25 décembre 1924, and anon., "Ce que le Patronat désire faire pour la famille," Dossiers de l'Action Populaire, supplement to issue of 25 April 1924.

[32] For a fascinating study of women social workers in interwar factories, see Annie Fourcaut, Femmes à l'usine (Paris: Maspero, 1982). At Michelin, the social programs included baby bonuses, in-house training and apprenticeships, company housing for single women and families alike (on streets named Wisdom Street, Duty Street, and the like), company stores, an infirmary, and annual best family prizes; see Georges Ribeill, "Le système social Michelin, Un essai de dissection," conference paper, La Villette conference, "Cultures locales et pratiques scientifiques," Paris, May 1990. By contrast, however, when Michelin recounted its experience in taylorizing its production, it omitted any reference to social programs; see Michelin & Cie, Comment nous avons taylorisé notre atelier de méchanique d'entretien (Clermont-Ferrand: Michelin, 1927). On nineteenth century paternalism in coal, see Donald Reid, "Industrial Paternalism," 579-607. For the programs at one of the major electrical utilities, see Charles Malégarie, L'Électricité à Paris (Paris: Baranger, 1946), Chs. 4 and 5.

[33] For an excellent study of traditions among elite engineers in France and their opposition to economic liberals and businessmen, see Cecil O. Smith, "The Longest Run: Public Engineers and Planning in France," American Historical Review XCV:3 (June 1990), 657-692.

[34] Fridenson, "Un tournant taylorien," 1037.

[35] Generally, see Henri Fayol, Administration industrielle et générale (Paris: Dunod, 1916), entire.

[36] An argument justifying the high inventory costs--that low costs for working capital relative to a high percentage of labor costs as a portion of total production costs minimized the impact of excess inventory against expensive labor--does not seem to have been made.

[37] See, for example J.-M. Caquas, "L'Analyse du prix de revient," in Conférence de l'Organisation Française, ed., L'Organisation scientifique 1923 (Paris: G&M Ravisse, 1924), 197, as well as other papers at the annual l'Organisation Française conferences, and J. Androuin, "Du prix de revient en industrie mécanique," Arts et Métiers (October 1920), 15. Androuin writes, "In order to calculate total production expenses, one applies to labor costs a certain percentage of general expenses. In principle, this percentage would be, for a given period such as a year, the ratio of the sum of expenditures other than those for materials and labor to the total of all labor expenses." Ironically, this can be characterized as echoing a marxist labor theory of value!

[38] For a lucid discussion of the Bedaux system, see David Montgomery, The Fall of the House of Labor (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987), 440-441, and for an acerbic denouncement of Bedaux and his system, see Craig R. Littler, The Development of the Labour Process in Capitalist Societies (London: Heinmann Educational Publishers, 1982), 105-116.

[39] Indeed, in her discussion of rationalization efforts in the 1930s, Aimée Moutet argues that by about 1935 or so, labor had been speeded up to the breaking point, and that such was the shop floor origin of the massive strike wave of May-June 1936; Aimée Moutet, "Une rationalisation de travail dans l'industrie française des années trente," Annales E.S.C. XLII:5 (September-October 1987), 1075.

[40] Richard Vahrenkamp, "Frederick Winslow Taylor - Ein Denker zwischen Manufaktur und Großindustrie," in F.W. Taylor, Die Grundsätze wissenschaftlicher Betriebsführung (Weinheim: Beltz, 1977), LII-IXC, cited in Fridenson, "Un tournant taylorien," note 32. Jonathan Zeitlin has elegantly made the connection between the flexibility of both the pre- and post- taylor industrial environments, Charles Sabel and Jonathan Zeitlin, eds., Worlds of Possibility: Flexibility and Mass Production in Western Industrialization (forthcoming). See also Alain Dewerpe, "Flexible Industrial Production in Historical Perspective: A Case Study of Rural Industry in Nineteenth-Century France," paper presented to the Social Science History Association annual meeting, Baltimore, November 4-7, 1993.

[41] In his important master's thesis, Olivier Christin argues that this adaptation was one of dilution of the taylorist agenda; see his "L'enjeu de la rationalisation industrielle," 6-14.

[42] The first wave of magazinière job titles is found during the Great War in the armaments plants; see reports in AN F7 13366 and F22 534, 348, and 555. Though documentation tends to be lacking on this job title in the interwar era, it is probably safe to assume that it survived the war. Industrial expert discussions, synthesizing Fayolist employee selection concerns with Taylorist task preoccupations (see Julien Fontègne, "L'Orientation professionnelle à la base de l'apprentissage," in Conférence de l'Organisation Française, ed., L'Organisation scientifique 1923 (Paris: G&M Ravisse, 1924) 147-156) imply that the women were suited to such tasks, and the evolution of employment in interwar metals also implies that there were a number of quasi-sedentary women's jobs which included both secretaries and magasinières. See Catherine Rhein, "Jeunes femmes au travail dans le Paris de l'entre-deux-guerres," doctoral dissertation (Paris: Université de Paris VII, 1977), 157-158, Marie-France Lamberioux-Chapet, "Les ouvrières pendant l'entre-deux-guerres (1920-1936)," thèse de DEA (Paris: Université de Paris VII, 1982), 10 (on notions of women's innate capacities), and 17-20. On the contrary, see Downs, "Women in Industry," chapter 5. In Les functions des femmes dans l'industrie (Paris: Mouton, 1966, p. 68), Madeleine Guilbert bemoans the dearth of information on women's job titles in this period.

[43] Ernest Mattern, "Exemple vécu de la formation d'un ingénieur d'usine," typescript, 1941 (provided by Yves Cohen, École des Haûtes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris). See also Moutet, "Une rationalisation," 1067-1068, and Yves Cohen, "Le système de la pratique: Un organisateur-directeur, Les automobiles Peugeot, 1917-1939," Actes du GERPISA 2 (special issue: "Travail et automation dans l'industrie automobile," 1986), 3-23. Other valuable works on industrial rationalization in interwar France include Aimée Moutet, "Patron de progrès ou patrons de combat? La politique de rationalisation de l'industrie française au lendemain de la Première Guerre mondiale," Recherches 32/33 (September 1978), 449-492, idem., "Ingénieurs et rationalisation..., idem, "Introduction de la production à la chaîne en France du début du XXe siècle à la grande crise en 1930," Histoire, economie societe (1983), and de Maurice Monmollin and Olivier Pastré, eds. Le Taylorisme (Paris: Éditions La Découverte, 1984).

[44] Ernest Mattern, Création, organisation et direction des usines (Paris: Dunod, 1926), 34-35, compared to Javel plant configuration from Sylvie Schweitzer Des engrenages, 49-53.

[45] See in particular the comments of the members of the Conseil Economique in the context of contract extensions in 1938: AN série F22/1587.

[46] For the best discussion of this productivity boom in the airframe construction industry, see Herrick Chapman, State Capitalism and Working Class Radicalism in Twentieth Century France: Industrial Politics in the French Aircraft Industry, 1928-1950 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990), 164-165. Chapman notes that after 1938 in the five largest airplane firms, productivity rose 30% per worker in terms of the number of planes. This was technically achieved by simplifying designs, developing specialized machine tools, implementing a conception of materials flow throughout each plant, and developing a division of labor across plants.

[47] On the tradeoffs among time, work, money, goods, and leisure, see Gary S. Cross, Time and Money: The Making of Consumer Culture (New York: Routledge, 1993).

[48] For a bold statement of this agenda, see Ernest Mercier, "Le Redressement Français," speech to the Comité National d'Études, 28 January 1926, pamphlet. Mercier, the head of France's largest electrical utility holding company, had made the pilgrimage to River Rouge in 1923.

[49] Aimée Moutet consistently argues that most French industrial sectors were too small to achieve the necessary scale for mass production; see in particular, "Une rationalisation de travail," entire. With admittedly little quantitative support, I have argued that on the contrary, key sectors such as autos, tires, appliances, garments, steel, and appliances were certainly large enough to achieve technical economies of scale; see my "Cultures industrielles aux USA et en France entre les deux guerres," conference paper, La Villette conference, "Cultures locales et pratiques technologiques," Paris, May 1990.

[50] For a superb theoretical discussion of how technological artifacts can only be understood as social and cultural constructs, see two articles by Madeleine Akrich, "How Can Technical Objects be Described?," in Shaping Technology/Building Society: Studies in Sociotechnical Change, Wiebe E. Bijker and John Law, eds. (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1992)., and "From Accusations to Choses," conference paper, Society for the History of Technology meetings, Wilmington, DE, October 1988. See also Bruno Latour, Science in Action (Cambridge, MA,: Harvard University Press, 1987), Ch. 3.

[51] Such was the unremitting message of the Salon des Arts Ménager's annual catalogs and its monthly magazine, L'Art Ménager, published from 1928 until 1939. Both are held, along with the voluminous archives of the Salon at the Archives nationales, CNRS série 850023. For a terse capsule of the liberatory discourse, see: Hélène Dufays, "Chronique familiale. La directrice d'intérieur," L'Aube 5 mars 1936, or any of the numerous writings of Paulette Bernège. On the problem of domestics: Francine, "Impressions d'une femme au Salon des Arts Ménagers," Le Miror du monde, 1 juin 1936, 120-123.

[52] See, for example, Dr. Léon Bizard, La Syphilis et les domestiques (Paris: Imprimerie Tancrède, 1923; offprint from Bulletin de la Société Française de Prophylaxie Sanitaire et Morale nos. 2, 3, & 5 (mars, avril, et juillet 1922), et no. 1 (février 1923)). A common "public health" image of bonnes was that they often carried tuberculosis and spread its germs in intimate family spaces, and that they often lured innocent husbands in sons into their chambres to commit unspeakable debaucheries, hence passing syphillis. It is significant that this author's broad survey of published materials on interwar domestic service turned up nothing on the sexual assaults to which the bonnes were probably subjected. The literature that mentioned sex between bonnes and their employing families consistently cast the bonne as seductress.

[53] Louis Le Guillant, "L'Affaire des soeurs Papin," Les Temps modernes (novembre 1963); see also Geneviève Fraisse, Femmes toutes mains. Essai sur le service domestique (Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1979), 115ff, and Anne Martin-Fugier, La Place des bonnes (Paris: Grasset, 1979), 312-361.

[54] Jean Fourastié et Françoise Fourastié, "Le Gendre de vie," Chapter XIII in Alfred Sauvy, Histoire économique de la france entre les deux guerres, Vol. III (Paris: Economica, 1984), 212, anon. "Les Conditions sociales de l'existence d'un famille ouvrière," Dossiers de l'Action Populaire (10 December 1928), 1-12, and anon., "Budgets ouvriers. Le Travail et la Famille," Dossiers de l'Action Populaire, (25 December 1923), 1-12, and even promoters of appliances in the home implicitly admitted this fact; see Georges Etienne et André J.L. Breton, "Gisèle ou de la comptabilité ménagère (VI)," L'Art ménager 19 (August 1928), 642-643, 663.

[55] anon., "L'<<embourgeoisiement>> des ouvriers et paysans français," Dossiers de l'Action Populaire, 10 January 1925, 1-16.

[56] Derived from the discussion of prices and marketing in Patrick Fridenson, Histoire des usines Renault (Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1972), 157-175, and in the price lists of Panhard et Levassor, Archives Nationales series 186 AQ 10 (Mi 644/1) against income distribution figures. Though Ernest Mattern argued that the market would grow were production costs and hence, sales prices to fall (see Cohen, "Le système de la pratique," 16-17), prices could not be sufficiently compressed. On irons, see François Robert, "Gestion du personnel et esprit-maison dans une entreprise lyonnaise entre 1913 et 1955," Dossier de Recherche no. 26 (June 1989) (Paris: Centre d'Études de l'Emploi), 10-17, Minutes of the monthly meetings of the Conseil de Direction of Thomson, 1919-39 (Thomson archives, St-Denis), and on radios, Alain Roux, "L'Evolution du recepteur radio-domestique en France entre 1931 et 1940," doctoral thesis, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, 1987, 49-50.

[57] Rent controls were strict in much of France after the Great War, causing landlords to flee from property construction and maintenance--rents were low, but availability was sharply limited, and crowding and low quality were pervasive problems; see Françoise Cribier, "Le logement d'une génération de jeunes parisiens à l'époque du Front populaire," in Susanna Magri and Christian Topalov, Villes Ouvrières, 1900-1950 (Paris: L'Harmattan, 1990), 109-123. Nonetheless, about 90% of Paris region housing units did have electrical services (ibid., 115), though generally not sufficient for more than about 100 watts of lighting. Even for those who were wired for power it was not uncommon to use electricity for lighting only the salon, leaving bedrooms to be lit by candles and eschewing "power" (as opposed to lighting) tariffs entirely: Jean-Pierre Goubert, De luxe au confort (Paris: Belin, 1988), 71-73. For a ravishing study of suburbanization, see Tyler E. Stovall, The Rise of the Paris Red Belt (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990). Urbanites faced a dire shortage of quality housing, and presumably, additional domestic expenditures would first go toward housing itself: Peggy Phillips, "The Lonely House: Paris and France," Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Western Society for French History (1986), and communication with author.

[58] In the context of describing the markets for mass-produced goods, André Siegfried described Europeans as psychologically "individualistic" and Americans as "conformist;" Siegfried presentation, p. 193.

[59] Louise Cariou, "Cents mille visiteurs dans deux baraques: C'était le premier salon en 1923," Contact 116 (March 1971), 6-7, and AN série 850023/4 [CNRS]: Salons des Arts Ménagers, summary of relevant statistics on annual Salons.

[60] For an excellent discussion of the natalist movement in France in the 1920s, see Mary Louise Roberts, Civilization Without Sexes: Reconstructing Gender in Postwar France, 1917-1927 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994), Ch. 2, and Marie-Monique Huss, "Pro-Natalism in the Interwar Period in France," Journal of Contemporary History XXV:1 (1990): 39-68. Cheryl Koos, a graduate student at the University of Southern California is now completing what should be a solid, comprehensive dissertation on French natalism.

[61] Even Catholic writers, themselves dedicated to returning the mother to domestic life, admitted that working class male wages were so low that families could not get by without the paid labor of the wife. This position was revealed by a series of studies by Action Populaire, published in Dossier de l'Action Populaire from 1920 to 1927. Nonetheless, as late as 1931, more conservative Catholics insisted that for moral reasons, mothers should not work outside the home; see Eve Badouin, La Mère au travail et le retour au foyer (Paris: Bloud & Gay, 1931). To this end, Badouin quotes Cardinal Manning: "The woman who commits herself to her husband at the altar in essence contracts with him so that she gives him children, but she has no right to enter into yet another contract with a patron, through which she commits all of her time and energy;" Badouin, 42.

[62] The only systematic study of the Salons is a beautifully produced volume, Jacques Rouaud, 60 ans d'arts ménagers (Paris: Syros, 1989). It focuses more on the objects and designs than on the social history of the Salon.

[63] Martine Martin, "Femmes et société: le travail ménager (1919-1939)," doctoral dissertation, Université de Paris VII, 1984, 37-39 and Rhein, "Jeunes femmes au travail," 154.

[64] On 27 and 28 January 1938, deep in the Depression, Le Figaro, Action Française, Excelsior, l'Epoque, and Le Petit Bleu all ran items bewailing the continuing shortage of domestic labor.

[65] A curriculum vitae for Bernège is in AN series 850023 (CNRS), carton 193. De la méthode ménagère ou la vie en rose (Paris: Dunod, 1928), Le blanchissage domestique (Paris: Dunod, 1932), and Si les femmes faisaient les maisons (Paris: Mon chez moi, 1928).

[66] For the bathroom, see Michel Kamenka et Hila de Han, "Salles de bains à circuit complet," L'Art ménager 96 (April 1935): 303-305; for the kitchen, André Hermant, "Cuisine-type," L'Art ménager 97 (May 1935): 364-365, reprinted from March 1935 issue of l'Architecture d'aujourd'hui. One might note the presence of a rotating stool in each of these designs; evidently, this object derived from protective legislation of 1912, which provided that in order to retain a well-shaped uterus, women workers not be forced to work standing for long periods of time.

[67] On the professionalization of housework, see Martine Martin, "Menagère: une profession? Les dilemmes de l'entre-deux-guerres," Le Mouvement social 140 (July-September 1987), 89-106; on the images of professionalization, see Françoise Werner, "Du ménage à l'art ménager: l'évolution du travail ménager et son écho dans la presse féminine française de 1919 à 1939," Le Mouvement social 116 (October-December 1984), 61-89. On the domestic rationalization movement more generally, see Martine Martin, "La rationalisation du travail ménager en France dans l'entre-deux-guerres," Culture technique 3 (special issue on "Machines au foyer," September 1980), 157-163.

[68] William H. Schneider, "Henri Laugier, the Science of Work and the Workings of Science in France," Cahiers pour l'histoire du CNRS 5 (1989), 7-20, and Anson Rabinbach, "The European Science of Work: The Economy of the Body at the End of the Nineteenth Century," in Stephen L. Kaplan and Cynthia J. Koepp, eds., Work in France: Representations, Meaning, Organization, and Practice (Ithaca, NY: Cornell U.P., 1988), 475-513. For a discussion of the rivalry between ergonomists and Taylorists in France, see Christin, "L'enjeu de la rationalisation industrielle," 39-42.

[69] The experiments were done in 1934 by a Mlle. Weinberg of the Institut de Psychologie de la Sorbonne for the L'École de Haut Enseignement Ménager.

[70] Edouard de Pomiane, "Le Home," AN series 850023/65 [CNRS]: Catalogue Officiel, IIe Salon des Arts Ménagers (1924), 101.

[71] See, for example, Paulette Bernège, "Le foyer sans femme," Je sais tout, 1 December 1930, 537.

[72] The preference for bottle feeding over breast feeding also arose from a specific set of problems at the turn of the century, when one design of baby bottle used a long tube to deliver milk to the baby. The tube could not be sufficiently cleaned and as a result a number of infants died from them.

[73] Le Docteur Heucqueville, "La future jeune maman pourra-t-elle nourrir?," L'Art ménager, February 1933, 165.

[74] For a complete history of the French washing machine in the interwar era, see my, "La machine à laver des années 30: Inventer le consommateur en inventant l'objet," in Michel Callon, Bruno Latour et Patrick Fridenson, eds., Des objets en série. Entre luxe et modernité (forthcoming, Paris: La Découverte, 1997), as well as Marie-Noëlle Denis, "Systèmes culturels et technologie: histoire de la machine à laver," Culture technique 17 (1987), 206-212.

[75] Evelyne Sullerot, "Condition de la femme," Chapter XII in Alfred Sauvy, Histoire économique de la france entre les deux guerres, Vol. III (Paris: Economica, 1984), p. 206.

[76] Madeleine Guilbert, "L'Évolution des effectifs du travail féminin en France depuis 1866," Revue française du travail 9 (1947), Rhein, "Jeunes femmes," 143-164, Martin, "Femmes et société," 34-40, and Sylvie Zerner, "De la couture aux presses: l'emploi féminin entre les deux guerres," Le Mouvement social 140 (July-September 1987), 11.

[77] Feminists had recognized this aspect of domestic technology from the outset of the Salons and the domestic taylorist movement; see Abel Vautrin, "Le Taylorisme ménager," La Nouvelle France 26 (15 April 1924), 9-10. Bernège had always trod a fine line between overt feminism and support for more traditional women's roles, but as time went by, she became increasingly feminist. In particular, she often linked the US' lead in domestic technology to the assertion that American women had far more civil rights and higher status in their paid labor; see Paulette Bernège, "Le foyer sans femme," Je sais tout, 1 December 1930, pp. 535-536.

[78] L'Art ménager of February 1928, facing p. 416.

[79] Marthe Bigot, "Après le Salon des Arts Ménagers," La révolution prolétarienne, April 1927; this article was also among the first to recognize that perhaps the best place for "home" appliances would be in institutions, not the home. Bernège suggested collectively-owned appliances for new apartment buildings. See also Suzanne Balitrand, "Le Salon des Arts Ménagers," Eve 5 March 1927.

[80] This is clear from a systematic reading of the press clippings files of the Salon des Arts Ménagers, AN series 850023 packets 554-565.

[81] Paulette Bernège. "Le `Home Service' des compagnies gazières américaines," L'Art Ménager 49 (February, 1931), 50-51, 116. Bernège argues that women were common in gas company management in the US, particularly in public relations and marketing capacities. She discusses a Mrs. Peterson of the Chicago Gas Company, a grandmother who supervises a staff of forty women, even testing recipes herself--all the while maintaining a warm and happy home. She also lauds Lillian Gilbreth, mother of twelve children and an expert in rationalization who was highly active even after becoming a widow. Ms. Gilbreth is probably best known as the wife in Cheaper by the Dozen.

[82] See the press clippings file at the Marguerite Durand library, DOS 394 MER, "Fête des Mères." See also Marianne Peyrat, "La fête des mères de 1932 à 1950," master's thesis, Université de Paris I, 1980, Ch. 2. Though Napoléon had introduced an early version of Mother's Day during the First Empire and linked it to the promulgation of the principles behind the new Civil Code, the festival disappeared during the Restoration.

[83] The scope of public awareness and enthusiasm for the new domesticity is discussed throughout Arts Ménagers, publicity brochure, (Paris: Salon des Arts Ménagers, s.d. (probably1949)). Non-paginated.

[84] File labeled "Paul Breton," AN série 850023/3 (CNRS).

[85] Louis Vallon, "Salaries et niveaux de vie," pamphlet (Paris: Publ. de l'Institut Supérieur Ouvrier, 1938), compared to prices for appliances listed in the annual Salons de Arts Ménagers catalogs, AN série 850023/65 (CNRS). In 1928 a regular stand-up vacuum cleaner by Mors cost 855 francs and a skilled male textile worker made 5 to 6 francs per hour.

[86] On the failure to implant collective facilities of this sort in the US, see Ruth Schwartz Cowan, More Work for Mother (New York: Basic Books, 1983), Ch. 5. A reading of the professional press in France, from Le Hôtellerie moderne to Couverture et plomberie, retained in the massive press clippings files of the Salon indicate the shift to collective uses, see AN series 850023 (CNRS), packets 554-565.

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