Charles Eugene Bedaux (1886-1944): 'cost killer' or Utopian Socialist?

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Charles Eugene Bedaux is best known by social scientists for his labour organisation method. This method was a great success with companies during the interwar years, thus enabling its author to set up a multinational business consultancy. The Bedaux method was, however, violently contested by employees and their unions, who organised many strikes to protest against it. Some of those who knew Bedaux, however, claimed that his method was in reality merely one part of a larger system, a simple component working towards a broader and more generous vision of society (known in French as equivalisme). His project was inspired by the Utopian Socialists of the last century, intended to provide a solution to the widespread disorder experienced by industrial societies during the interwar period. This paper explores the credibility of this project from two perspectives: a critical examination of his biographies and investigations conducted in the places where experiments in 'equivalism' were supposedly undertaken.

Keywords: Bedaux; France; business history; consulting; twentieth century

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Lille University of Sciences and Technologies, GREMCO LEM (UMR CNRS 8179)/Lille Graduate School of Management, Lille, France 2: Laboratoire Orleanais de Gestion, Universite d'Orleans, France

Publication date: July 1, 2009

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