Roofless factory

Roofless factory July 17, 2006

The “roofless factory” of some contemporary capitalist theory and practice reverses one of the basic drives of modern economic life. Bringing all workers into a single location under a single roof was one of the main features of the early modern factory system, and provided not only the economic benefit of concentrated activity and production, but the disciplinary benefit of increased oversight and ease of management. Writing in 1913, V. Dauphin suggested that “The order and inspection that must be maintained require that all workers be assembled under the same roof, so that the partner who is entrusted with the management of the manufactory may prevent and remedy abuses that may arise among the workers and arrest their progress at the outset.” Suspicious of everything, Foucault finds this nefarious; seems like good practice to me. As a historical matter, however, the reversal of this economic centralization may prove to be a shift of epochal proportions – a return to home-based work, or work decentralized among various small specialty operations.

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