History, Repeating

I was listening to the always interesting Slate Afterword podcast today, in which June Thomas interviewed Anne Applebaum about her new book, Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe 1944-1956. Anyway, a really interesting portion jumped out at me when Dr. Applebaum (I assume she is a phD) was discussing the spread of Stalinist programs and systems throughout Eastern Europe. She talked specifically about the “shock workers” who would insert themselves into workplaces to set the pace of work, or to increase productivity in other ways, to accomplish particularly grueling tasks. These workers apparently eventually became participants in labor competitions that were used to incentivize workers through prizes and so forth.

I have to say that her discussion, albeit brief, of these methods of motivating workers in a “nonprofit” work-space was fascinating. I am definitely going to read up on these practices. This is not to say that nonprofits, as they are conceptualized and executed today, as similar to Communist factories, but the principles at work for the individual workers, in terms of motivation, are potentially similar? I don;t know, this might be a bridge too far.

Can you imagine if we had competitions to see who could write the “best” end of year appeal? Or is that just what conferences are?


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