Forging Harmony in the Social Organism: Industry and the Power of Psychometric Techniques

This article analyses the initiating role of the steel industry in educational
selection by means of psychometric techniques used in the psycho-physiological
laboratory associated with a vocational school in Luxembourg founded in 1914.
It first considers the origins of, and initial meanings bestowed upon, this first
(and perhaps also last) Luxembourg Laboratory of Psychophysiology. Second, it
investigates whether and, if so, to what extent psychometric techniques developed
in this laboratory for vocational orientation were used strategically to foster
an ethic of individual harmony by means of objectified observation and categorisation
of the aptitude. What hidden agendas underpinned the industry’s rhetoric
regarding the rebirth of the individual and the empowerment of personal vocation
through science-oriented processes like quantification, measurement and
rational assessment? Did such rhetoric legitimise the industry’s self-image as a
privileged force in structuring the social fabric as well as individual lives?

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