Walter D. Scott and the Rating of the Modern Self
This paper focuses on Northwestern Professor and industrial psychologist Walter Dill Scott. Scott wrote some of the first works ever on the psychology of advertising, labor motivation, and personnel management. His goal was usually the same: How to get people to do what capitalists wanted. By far his most influential invention was a 5-point rating scale which required bosses to rate their workers on such things as “appearance,” “loyalty,” “manner” “tact”, “energy” and “personality.” After testing this rating system on officers during World War 1, these scales took off in the early 1920s – despite pushback from unions. Unlike industrial laborers whose productivity could often be tracked, white-collar and service workers required a new form of Taylorism which relied not on objective measures but subjective opinion. In an emerging consumerist society in which smiling, energetic, loyal and clean-cut salespeople and managers were not really selling goods as much as they were selling a part of themselves, Scott's rating of the modern self became the perfect disciplinary device.
Respondent: Cindy Hahamovitch, University of Georgia
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About the History of Capitalism Seminar
The History of Capitalism Seminar provides a works-in-progress forum for work from scholars at all levels. Proposals may consider a variety of subjects, including the history of race and racism, gender and feminist studies, intellectual history, political history, legal history, business history, the history of finance, labor history, cultural history, urban history, and agricultural history. Elizabeth Tandy Shermer (Loyola University Chicago) and Andrew Hartman (Illinois State University) are the co-coordinators of the seminar.