Vladimir Lyushin “Building the Ural-Kuznetsk plant.” 1931

Where do Taylor and his system appear in We?

The ideology of FW Taylor is taught to the Numbers at a young age. His importance to them extends greater than that of a great leader, celebrity, or philosopher, instead, he exists nearly god-like in the minds of the Numbers; “yes, this Taylor was unquestionably the greatest genius of the ancients. True, his thought did not reach far enough to extend his method to all of life, to every step, to the twenty-four hours of every day. He was unable to integrate his system from one hour to twenty-four. Still, how could they write whole libraries of books about some Kant, yet scarcely notice Taylor, that prophet who was able to see ten centuries ahead?” (Zamyatin 33, 1999).

D-503, the narrator of We, is very quick to celebrate the importance of the government organized, mandatory schedule for the Numbers, “oh, why am I not a poet, to render fitting praise to the Table, the heart and pulse of the One State!” (Zamyatin 11, 1999).

Just as perfected time management was crucial to Taylor, the Table of Hours is obediently followed by the Numbers under penalty of death. Even personal hours are expected to be strictly followed, as D-503 explains, “at night, numbers must sleep; it is their duty, just as it is their duty to work in the daytime. Not sleeping at night is a criminal offense… And yet, I could not and could not. I am perching. I am unable to fulfill my obligations to the One State…” (Zamyatin 58, 1999).

When D-503 disobeys the orders on the Table, he feels as though he is committing a sort of treason. He knows that it is his duty as a Number to submit and toil for the One State. D-503 feels unwell for a while and misses work. Even with a certified excuse, he still feels the crushing weight of his responsibility to the state, “he had given us certificates that we were ill and could not report to work. I was stealing my services from the One State, I was a thief, I saw myself under the Benefactor’s Machine” (Zamyatin 73, 1999).

Though D-503 feels a fairly universal feeling of responsibility for his job, he takes it even further by suggesting that he is, in fact, part of the machine of the One State. This feeling of being physically tied to the One State goes further when he willingly skips an assigned lecture. D-503 laments, “everyone else was in the auditorium, as prescribed by the Table of Hours, and only I was alone… It was essentially an unnatural sight; imagine a human finger cut off from the whole, from the hand-a separate human finger, running, stooped and bobbing, up and down, along the glass pavement. I was that finger. And the strangest, the most unnatural thing of all was that the finger had no desire whatever to be on the hand, to be with the others” (Zamyatin, 103-104, 1999).

Russian WWI Poster

As overseer to the project “Integral,” D-503 spends much time watching its progress. When he observes, he loses sight of the individual workers and instead sees them as one whole mechanized being, working simultaneously for the One State. In one scene, D-503 seems nearly mesmerized by the sight of the workers laboring so perfectly, “I watched the men below move in regular, rapid rhythm, according to the Taylor system, bending, unbending, turning like the levers of a single huge machine” (Zamyatin 82, 1999).

Further degrading each worker into a faceless cog in the machine, when some are killed during a testing of the Integral, D-503 does not mourn. In fact, he seems rather proud of the other workers’ focus on their task. He beams, “during the first firing, a dozen or so numbers from the dock neglected to get out of the way-nothing remained of them except some crumbs and soot. I record with pride that this did not disturb the rhythm of our work for even a moment. No one recoiled; both we and our machines continued our straight line and circular motions with the same precision as before, as though nothing had happened” (Zamyatin 107, 1999).