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Inventing Ourselves Out of Jobs? : America's Debate over Technological Unemployment, 1929-1981 - Amy Bix

Inventing Ourselves Out of Jobs?

America's Debate over Technological Unemployment, 1929-1981

By: Amy Bix

Paperback Published: 1st February 2002
ISBN: 9780801869136
Number Of Pages: 392
For Ages: 22+ years old

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Americans today often associate scientific and technological change with progress and personal well-being. Yet underneath our confident assumptions lie serious questions. In Inventing Ourselves Out of Jobs? Amy Sue Bix locates the origins of this confusion in the Great Depression, when social and economic crisis forced many Americans to re-examine ideas about science, technology, and progress. Growing fear of "technological unemployment" -- the idea that increasing mechanization displaced human workers -- prompted widespread talk about the meaning of progress in the new Machine Age. In response, promoters of technology mounted a powerful public relations campaign: in advertising, writings, speeches, and World Fair exhibits, company leaders and prominent scientists and engineers insisted that mechanization ultimately would ensure American happiness and national success.

Emphasizing the cultural context of the debate, Bix concentrates on public perceptions of work and technological change: the debate over mechanization turned on ideology, on the way various observers in the 1930s interpreted the relationship between technology and American progress. Although similar concerns arose in other countries, Bix highlights what was unique about the American response: "Discussion about workplace change," she argues, "became entwined with particular musings about the meaning of American history, the western frontier, and a sense of national destiny." In her concluding chapters and epilogue, Bix shows how the issue changed during World War II and in postwar America and brings the debate forward to show its relevance to modern readers.

Industry Reviews

No historian before [Bix] has examined systematically what she rightly calls the American debate over the role of machines in either reducing or increasing jobs... A first-rate historical study that simultaneously speaks to our high-tech present. -- Howard P. Segal * Nature *
Amy Bix's fine book, carefully researched and gracefully written, surveys the extent of everyday hardship during the Great Depression. She concentrates on the debates over technological unemployment in the United States, debates that were 'entwined with particular musings about the meaning of American history, the western frontier, and a sense of national destiny.'. -- Ester Fano * Technology and Culture *
This book succeeds splendidly as an intellectual history of automation as it has been generally understood for most of this century by business and labor leaders, intellectuals, engineers, politicians, and publicists. -- George Lipsitz * American Historical Review *
This superb account of the uproar, beginning in the 1930s, over 'technological unemployment' brings to life an unexplored area of popular economics and policy debate through much of the twentieth century. -- Howard Brick * Business History Review *
A very thorough and balanced analysis. -- Gary Cross * Journal of American History *
Inventing Ourselves Out of Jobs? is an able and lucidly written account of the ongoing debate in the United States over the effects of technology on employment. -- Robert H. Ziegler * EH.NET *
It is to be hoped her book stimulates interest and provides the basis for further inquiry into the consequences of these aspects of the Information Revolution. -- Don Lamberton * Prometheus *
This excellent study examines the multiple strands of concern about the threat to employment posed by mechanisation and automation, with the primary focus being on attitudes during the 1930s. -- M. J. French * Business History *

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Prologue: Technology as Progress?p. 1
"Economy of a Madhouse": Entering the Depression-Era Debate over Technological Unemploymentp. 9
"Finding Jobs Faster Than Invention Can Take Them Away": Government's Role in the Technological Unemployment Debatep. 43
"No Power on Earth Can Stop Improved Machinery": Labor's Concern about Displacementp. 80
"Machinery Don't Eat": Displacement as a Theme in Depression Culturep. 114
"The Machine Has Been Libeled": The Business Community's Defensep. 143
"Innocence or Guilt of Science": Scientists and Engineers Mobilize to Justify Mechanizationp. 168
"What Will the Smug Machine Age Do?": Envisioning Past, Present, and Future as America Moves from Depression to Warp. 204
"Automation Just Killed Us": The Displacement Question in Postwar Americap. 236
Epilogue: Revisiting the Technological Unemployment Debatep. 280
Notesp. 313
Essay on Sourcesp. 361
Indexp. 365
Table of Contents provided by Syndetics. All Rights Reserved.

ISBN: 9780801869136
ISBN-10: 0801869137
Series: Studies in Industry and Society
Audience: Professional
For Ages: 22+ years old
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 392
Published: 1st February 2002
Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 22.23 x 14.61  x 2.54
Weight (kg): 0.64

Earn 130 Qantas Points
on this Book