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Ray, R.B. (1995). Barcelona. Psychoanal. Rev., 82(2):313-317.

(1995). Psychoanalytic Review, 82(2):313-317

Film Notes


Robert B. Ray

Let us imagine a providential world, a Borgesian universe of chance-redeemed-by-design, where the coincidences that abound, far from being incidental, provide the means for glimpsing the connections among events which would otherwise seem utterly discrete. Let us say, for example that in 1856, the year of Freud's birth, another man is born who will become, like the founder of psychoanalysis, one of the principal architects of modern life (first coincidence). At first, the resemblances between the two men remain invisible. In 1881, when Freud graduates from medical school in Vienna the other man, still employed as a factory worker in a large Pennsylvania steel plant, wins the U.S. National Doubles Championship with a tennis racket of his own design. In 1893, however, both men produce their first important writing (second coincidence) and quickly establish themselves as consultants in fields which they simultaneously invent and describe (third coincidence). Although working in different arenas, both will point to the fundamental irrationality at the heart of everyday life, while insisting on reason's capacity to ameliorate even the most mundane conditions (fourth coincidence).

This second man, of course, is not imaginary at all. His name was Frederick Winslow Taylor, the founder of “scientific management,” that system of analysis and training promising that maximum productivity inevitably results from the single most “efficient” behavior, discoverable through time-and-motion-studies, reproducible through selection and instruction. From Taylor's perspective, the typical factory foundered in chaos: it was a place where even the most basic tasks, like shoveling, were likely to be performed in dozens of different ways by individual workmen.

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