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Encyclopedia > Efficiency Movement

The Efficiency Movement was a major dimension of the Progressive Era in the United States. It flourished 1890-1932. Adherents argued that all aspects of the economy, society and government were riddled with waste and inefficiency. Everything would be better if experts identified the problems and fixed them. The result was strong support for building research universities and schools of business and engineering, municipal research agencies, as well as reform of hospitals and medical schools. Perhaps the best known leader was engineer Frederick Winslow Taylor , who proclaimed there was always "one best way" to fix a problem. In politics the most prominet figure was Herbert Hoover, a trained engineer. Democrats blamed the Great Depression on him and helped to somewhat discredit the movement, though the demand for efficiency and elimination of waste remains an important component of American values. In the United States of America, the Progressive Era was a period of reform that began in Americas urban regions from, approximately the 1890s and lasted through the 1920s, although some experts say it lasted from 1900 to 1920. ... Frederick Winslow Taylor (March 20, 1856 - March 21, 1915) was an American engineer who sought to improve industrial efficiency. ... Herbert Clark Hoover (August 10, 1874 – October 20, 1964), the 31st President of the United States (1929-1933), was a successful mining engineer, humanitarian, and administrator. ... Dorothea Langes Migrant Mother depicts destitute pea pickers in California, centering on Florence Owens Thompson, a mother of seven children, age thirty-two, in Nipomo, California, March 1936. ...


  • Brian R. Fry; Mastering Public Administration: From Max Weber to Dwight Waldo (1989)
  • Haber, Samuel. Efficiency and Uplift: Scientific Management in the Progressive Era, 1890-1920. University of Chicago Press, 1964.
  • Jensen, Richard. "Democracy, Republicanism and Efficiency: The Values of American Politics, 1885-1930," in Byron Shafer and anthony Badger, eds, Contesting Democracy: Substance and Structure in American Political History, 1775-2000 (U of Kansas Press, 2001) pp 149-180; online version
  • Kanigel, Robert. The One Best Way: Frederick Winslow Taylor and the Enigma of Efficiency. Penguin, 1997.
  • Janet T. Knoedler; "Veblen and Technical Efficiency" in Journal of Economic Issues, Vol. 31, 1997



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