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The Efficiency Movement was a major dimension of the Progressive Era in the United States. It flourished 1890-1932. Adherents argued that all aspects of the economy, society and government were riddled with waste and inefficiency. Everything would be better if experts identified the problems and fixed them. The result was strong support for building research universities and schools of business and engineering, municipal research agencies, as well as reform of hospitals and medical schools. Perhaps the best known leader was engineer Frederick Winslow Taylor, who proclaimed there was always "one best way" to fix a problem.

In U.S. federal politics, the most prominent figure was Herbert Hoover, a trained engineer. Democrats blamed the Great Depression on him and helped to somewhat discredit the movement, though the demand for efficiency and elimination of waste remains an important component of American values. John D. Rockefeller was also an avid supporter of the efficiency movement. In his many philanthropic pursuits, Rockefeller believed in supporting efficiency. He once said,

"To help an inefficient, ill-located, unnecessary school is a is highly probable that enough money has been squandered on unwise educational projects to have built up a national system of higher education adequate to our needs, if the money had been properly directed to that end."[1]


Relation to other movements

Later movements had echoes of the Efficiency Movement and were more directly inspired by Taylor and Taylorism. Technocracy, for instance, more of a fad than a movement, and others flourished in the 1930s and 1940s.

Postmodern opponents of nuclear energy in the 1970s broadened their attack to try to discredit movements that saw salvation for human society in technical expertise alone, or which held that scientists or engineers had any special expertise to offer in the political realm.

See also


  1. ^ Rockefeller, John D.; Random Reminiscences of Men and Events (1933), [1]


  • Samuel P. Hays "Conservation and the Gospel of Efficiency: The Progressive Conservation Movement 1890-1920". Harvard University Press, 1959.
  • Brian R. Fry; Mastering Public Administration: From Max Weber to Dwight Waldo (1989)
  • Haber, Samuel. Efficiency and Uplift: Scientific Management in the Progressive Era, 1890-1920. University of Chicago Press, 1964.
  • Jensen, Richard. "Democracy, Republicanism and Efficiency: The Values of American Politics, 1885-1930," in Byron Shafer and anthony Badger, eds, Contesting Democracy: Substance and Structure in American Political History, 1775-2000 (U of Kansas Press, 2001) pp 149-180; online version
  • Kanigel, Robert. The One Best Way: Frederick Winslow Taylor and the Enigma of Efficiency. Penguin, 1997.
  • Knoedler; Janet T. "Veblen and Technical Efficiency" in Journal of Economic Issues, Vol. 31, 1997
  • Jordan, John. Machine-Age Ideology University of North Carolina Press, 1994.
  • Lamoreaux, Naomi and Daniel M. G. Raft eds. Coordination and Information: Historical Perspectives on the Organization of Enterprise University of Chicago Press, 1995
  • Nelson, Daniel. Frederick W. Taylor and the Rise of Scientific Management The University of Wisconsin Press, 1980.
  • Nelson, Daniel. Managers and Workers: Origins of the Twentieth-Century Factory System in the United States, 1880-1920 2d ed. University of Wisconsin Press, 1995b.
  • Noble, David F. America by Design Oxford University Press, 1979.
  • Rockefeller, John D.; Random Reminiscences of Men and Events (1933) [2]
  • Taylor, Frederick Winslow, Scientific Management, edited by H.S. Person. (1947).


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