Herbert Hoover and the construction of modernity

Par Lawrence Busch
Herbert Hoover occupied two important roles prior to his presidency. At the Food Administration during World War I, Hoover learned the importance of eliminating waste, and establishing efficient delivery systems across firms and industries. As Secretary of Commerce he applied those principles in an attempt to improve living standards through the standardization of living. He charged the Bureau of Standards with creating (1) uniform specifications for purchases, (2) simplification to eliminate ‘unnecessary’ variation and (3) standards of quality for thousands of industrial products. He saw this as a moral endeavor in which engineers would create a third way between capital and labor. What Hoover failed to notice was that newly created standards promoted dominance by large corporations. Indeed, it helped to pave the way for the audit society in which we currently live and – despite its innovativeness as an approach – limited innovations to those proposed by management.
JEL Codes: N00, N12
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