Human Resources: Social Engineering in the 20th Century, explores the complex interaction between mechanical philosophy, behaviorism, and capitalism which seeks to modify human behavior to maximize modern production. The film examines the development of scientific management – social engineering and hierarchical control mechanisms which developed through corporate funded Eugenics research which classifies individuals by race, ethnicity and desirable genetic traits.
The film discusses the broad social aspects of large scale attempts to manipulate employee behavior. The initial desire to increase workplace efficiency and reduce worker rebellion has led to adverse social effects such as increased anxiety, neurosis and dysfunctional social relationships. The emphasis on individual competition has increased hostilities by pitting individuals against one another.
The frustration-aggression hypothesis suggests that an individual’s feelings of aggression increase in direct proportion with the perceived frustration of their desired goals. When the source of the frustration cannot be challenged, aggression is displaced onto an innocent target leading to scapegoating and heightened cultural violence. These responses are in turn, manipulated by unscrupulous individuals seeking to deflect attention away from systematic and institutional controls to maintain the status quo.
The filmmaker’s propose that the solution to resolving much of our social conflict is through allowing individuals greater participation in their economic outcomes through employee ownership and workplace democracy. The heightened perception of fairness and equity results in increased creativity, collaboration and heightened personal fulfillment, leading to a less aggressive and higher functioning society.