Hanging Tongues Essay

1326 Words May 19th, 2010 6 Pages
In the article “Hanging Tongues: A Sociological Encounter with the Assembly line” Thompson (1983) there are many connections between the Physical structure of the beef processing plant and the social structure of those working within it. The layout, design and decor of the beef plant both directly and metaphorically impact on the social structure within the plant, pertaining to (among other examples) a sense of isolation, hierarchies, formalisation and standardisation.

The physical layout of the beef processing plant appears to be similar to many other assembly line factories, the ‘kill floor’ as Thompson refers to it, being a large open space with work stations located around the area. Thompson describes an “Overhead stainless
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Sealed cement floors and Ceramic tile walls are cold and impersonal. Everything is cleaned down at every break and shift change, as if the workers had never been there. There is no sense of individualism for the workers, instead we see in action the “metaphor of the organisation as a machine” Morgan (1998). Whereby the workers are not considered as individuals, but as functioning parts of a machine, objects that do their part in order to create a finished product (in this case a butchered cow).

Another example of the decor observed by Thompson was that of the safety posters plastered over the walls, reminding workers that they should be wearing safety equipment, and working carefully at all times. This decor around the workspace (where we can imagine that management have pictures of their families instead) creates another division between “us” (the workers) and “them” (management). The posters also serve to remind the workers that their jobs are undeniably dangerous, workers being forced to face the fact that every day they are working they are in physical danger from the jobs they do.

One last observation about the decor in the factory is the lack of clocks. Management try to control certain aspects of the workers day, this is one way in which they do it. By not letting workers know that their break / end of shift is going to arrive management are trying to avoid the inevitable ‘slacking off’ before the

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