Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times Movie Analysis

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Mary Woodling
Org. Communications
Film Analysis Paper
9/2/10
Chaplin’s Vision of Scientific Management
The 1930’s were a period of economic misfortune, industrial standardization, and social struggle. Entertainment of the thirties was laced with powerful depictions of the period’s culture. One such example can be seen in the work of Charlie Chaplin, specifically his film “Modern Times”. The wisely constructed scenes of this film portrayed Chaplin’s opinions of the period’s prominent management styles. The production elements of the workshop scene, in particular, display Chaplin’s criticism of classical management ideas of specialization, standardization, replaceability and centralization.

At the time this film was made the U.S. was trapped in an economic slump that lead to high unemployment and dwindling corporate earnings. With these economic hardships came an unrelenting obsession with saving time and money as a means to raise profit. Industry leaders and business owners began turning to the ever-enlightened minds of scientist for help with profitability. During this period the strong consensus was that math and science would solve every problem humans faced. Scientists were making rapid advances in many fields, including efficiency of labor. Unfortunately for the humans within the labor force, this “Scientific Age” and scientific view lead to great injustices. Science minds like Fredrick Taylor began to suggest that employees be managed as mechanized entities, not as humans. Managers and CEO’s accepted the suggestion of classical management theorists and placed these proposals to work in their factories, just as in the scene from “Modern Times”.

“Modern Times” opens by juxtaposing a heard of crazed sheep with a street hustling with a mass of rushing workers. This image suggests a correlation between the mindless animal and the uneducated workers of this time period. Uneducated workers were seen as one of the many malfunctions within an unsuccessful...
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