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Spreading the Word

This is the most important book on the subject which has appeared in recent years.…It should be read by every industrial and social administrator, by industrial and social workers of every grade, and by every politician.
Review of Elton Mayo’s The Human Problems of Industrial Civilization, in the journal The Human Factor, 1934

The Depression and massive layoff of employees at Western Electric helped bring the Hawthorne experiments to a grinding halt in the early 1930s. But the studies took on a new life in public lectures given by Mayo, accounts of the experiments in headlines from New York to Texas, and Fortune magazine’s 1946 feature article praising Mayo’s studies. In keeping with its research mission, Harvard Business School published numerous monographs and articles on the studies, and reviews appeared in professional journals.

Classic texts on the experiments included The Industrial Worker, by Harvard Business School professor Thomas North Whitehead in 1938, and the 600-page, best-selling tome Management and the Worker, by Roethlisberger and Hawthorne supervisors William Dickson and Harold Wright in 1939. In 1933, Mayo published The Human Problems of an Industrial Civilization. Modern society, he wrote, had destroyed “the belief of the individual in his social function and solidarity with the group.”11 It would be up to an administrative elite to develop methods for improving worker morale and ultimately securing national stability at a time of economic and social unrest.

Elton Mayo, The Human Problems of an Industrial Civilization. New York: MacMillan, 1933, p. 159.

© 2012 President and Fellows of Harvard College