Les images du travail à la chaîne dans les usines Renault de Boulogne-Billancourt (1917-1939) : Une analyse des sources visuelles : cinéma, photographies, plans d'implantation

Abstract : This Ph.D. thesis deals with the introduction of the assembly line in the Renault factories (1917-1939). It treats the technical, social and cultural aspects of this innovative production technique, basing the analysis on visual sources such as films, photographs and industrial drawings. My first point concerns the way those images can be used to portray the reality of the work they represent, not as visual evidence or mere illustrations, but as a first hand source for the historian. In this perspective, I develop a methodological analysis of the pictorial documents. The first part of the thesis analyses the way films were used to show the spectacular side of industrial work. Phtographs are summoned up in the second part to point out technological transformations in the workshop. Finally industrial drawings make it possible to localize the activities and distinguish the different scales of their accomplishment. In a micro based perspective, these visual documents help understand the way different types of assembly lines actually functioned within the workshop. Renault's case is a good example to show how the mass prodction ideal did not do away with other forms of manufacturing. The American experiences were a model for the French automobile industry. But the technologies that were transferred to France had more to do with the French industrial context than wwith the American model : direct copying was not considered an option nor was it feasible to implement a continual flow to the whole process. The workshop gave different images of it's activity to make it look as though the assembly line was actually implanted as it should be. During a first period (1905-1918), the Renault Company organized line production for a few components. Then (1919-1926), it started mechanizing a succession of operations, but only on limited fragments of lines. In the followinf period (1926-1936), the effort was made in the organization and in the mechanization of coherent sections of the process. Finally (1936-1939) the question of the overall coordination between those flexible sections was considered. This Ph.D. thesis shows how this rational utopia imposed cohesive restrictions and hardship on the work force. It was able to function efficiently because by the end of the 1920's a consensus was reached. The workshop agreed to make the necessary concessions to have the finished product at the end of the line. In analysing the films, photographs and industrial drawings, we have a tool which help to show the social, technical and ideological construction of a process and of it's representations : both labor and assembly lines.
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Submitted on : Thursday, July 25, 2019 - 3:23:00 PM
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Alain P Michel. Les images du travail à la chaîne dans les usines Renault de Boulogne-Billancourt (1917-1939) : Une analyse des sources visuelles : cinéma, photographies, plans d'implantation. Histoire. EHESS - Paris, 2001. Français. ⟨tel-02170080⟩

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