ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

“The Ahmedabad experiment” – Technological change and the emergence of ‘scientific’ wages as part of human resources management


Haensel Catharina - Scuola Normale Superiore, Global History and Governance, Pisa, Italy


41 – Managerialism and the Transformation of Indian Capitalism in the Mid-Twentieth Century: The Experience of Ahmedabad


 This paper looks at the process of rationalisation in the Ahmedabad textile industry and its implications for regimes of working time regulations and wages. Tracing the changes in business strategies on shop-floor management, it discusses two distinct projects conducted during the 1950s – the “Ahmedabad experiment” organised by the London-based Tavistock Institute and the “Productivity Mission” of the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

By introducing payments by results, both interventions sought to move away from direct, coercive forms of supervision towards greater collaboration and individualised forms of managing working time and productivity. Modifications occurred with regards to (re-) definitions of payment periods, time-rated and piece rated remunerations, as well as quality and quantity bonuses. As these new payment structures were linked to efficiency and productivity norms elaborated in these studies, they became part of emerging categories of “scientific” wages. This in turn redefined the process of collective bargaining with regards to remuneration between the Ahmedabad Millowners Association (AMA) and the trade union (Textile Labour Association, TLA). The paper thus aims at contextualising these projects both at the level of local politics as well as within the realm of emerging “management studies” in Ahmedabad and beyond.