Prager Vorträge: Baťas People

Rationalisation, Social Engineering and Categorization in Company Town Zlín, 1918–1939

Date of event
24. 4. 2024, 17:00 – 24. 4. 2024, 18:30
Place of event
Collegium Carolinum, 3th floor, Valentinská 91/1, Praha 1

On the eve of the Second World War, the Baťa company produced affordable shoes for the world market, as well new men and women. The company comprehensively rationalised industrial production in its Zlín factories and applied these organisational principles to its personnel management and the development of an efficient and loyal workforce. Baťa trained workers and employees in company-run schools, rewarded them according to their work performance and offered them the opportunity for significant social advancement with high wages and comfortable company housing. In addition to hard work, Baťa demanded loyalty and a rational lifestyle from its employees. In this way, the company created a specific sense of identification as Baťovec that was adopted, modified and, especially in retrospect, nostalgically glorified by long-term employees.

The talk will discuss the personnel and social policy of the shoe company Baťa as a private and capitalist project of social engineering. In the inter-war period, Baťa and the Baťovci contributed to a global discourse of radical social reform that included Fordism and totalitarian attempts to create the new man and made their own contribution to global development. Ultimately, Baťa‘s ideas also influenced the further development of Czechoslovakia after 1948.

Gregor Feindt is a researcher at the Leibniz Institute of European History in Mainz, Germany. His work focuses on the cultural and social history of East-Central Europe in the twentieth century and European memory. For his project on social engineering in the Baťa shoe company, he received a grant from the German Research Foundation. His most recent publications include the book chapter “Making the new man: Baťa, Batism and the Sacralisation of Social Engineering in Interwar Czechoslovakia” (Open Access).

Lecture series Prager Voträge are organised by Collegium Carolinum, Deutsches Historisches Institut Warschau and Leibniz Institut für Geschichte und Kultur des östlichen Europa in cooperation with the Masaryk Institute and Archives of the CAS and other institutions.


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