Bodies and Structures

Scientific Management

Hoshi Pharmaceuticals drew inspiration from American business examples not just for production methods and store design, but for ideas concerning how to better control the most uncontrollable of inputs -- the worker. Taylorism, above all, was about labor productivity, and its popularity owed much to the enduring tale of superman Schmidt, the apocryphal pig iron hauler at Bethlehem Steel. To Hoshi, the brilliance of scientific management linked the "power of science to the power of the people." Hoshi Pharmaceuticals taught the principles of scientific management at its affiliated Business School for franchise managers and company employees, and Hoshi Hajime even authored a textbook on the subject, which adapted Taylor's themes to drug store management.

In the 1910s and 1920s, Japanese corporations like Hoshi sung the praises of American store clerks for their politeness, formality, and "spirit of faithful duty" (chūkin no seishin) -- an image that may seem foreign to those exposed to the contemporary stereotypes of the overly polite Japanese convenience store clerk or the Japanese salaryman as samurai literally dying from overwork (karōshi), so often used to critique the indolence and moral disrepute of American manufacturing and sales workers in the 1980s. Decades before, the American people as a whole, another company article claimed, actually had a "businesslike temperament" (shōjin-teki kishitsu) of hard work, practicality, and a desire to get ahead. But even hardworking people could benefit from management's strategic prodding. Hoshi praised techniques such as working on commission (futeki shūnyū), recording workers' domestic lives, and forcing workers to stay in the workplace, to be under constant surveillance. Bonuses were not automatically doled out, but were tied to performance. Management needed to convince its workers to buy into efficiency improvements. To this end, the company advocated the use of suggestion boxes that solicited opinions from workers. Although minor improvements may not have seemed like much, combined they would be "dust piling up to a mountain" (chiritsumotte yama to naru). It was a delicate skill to balance stick with carrot, and, to Hoshi, no company did it better than Ford Motor Company. Indeed, Henry Ford's Detroit-based auto company served as Hoshi's inspiration to aspire to, both for its pioneering of Taylorist-infused mass production principles, called "Fordism," as well as for its treatment of workers. Hoshi Hajime even styled himself as a Japanese Henry Ford, with the publication of a hagiographic 1924 work, Hoshi and Ford (Hoshi to Foodo), which attempted to portray Hoshi as a revolutionary company of equal importance to society as Ford.

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