Cover image for Inventing ourselves out of jobs? : America's debate over technological unemployment, 1929-1981
Inventing ourselves out of jobs? : America's debate over technological unemployment, 1929-1981
Bix, Amy Sue.
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Publication Information:
Baltimore, Md. : Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000.
Physical Description:
x, 376 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm.
Prologue : technology as progress? -- "Economy of a madhouse" : Entering the Depression-era debate over technological unemployment -- "Finding jobs faster than invention can take them away" : Government's role in the technological unemployment debate -- 'No power on earth can stop improved machinery" : labor's concern about displacement -- "Machinery don't eat" : displacement as a theme in Depression culture -- "The machine has been libeled" : the business community's defense -- "Innocence or guilt of science" : scientists and engineers mobilize to justify mechanization -- "What will the smug machine age do?" : Envisioning past, present, and future as America moves from Depression to war -- "Automation just killed us" : the displacement question in postwar America -- Epilogue : revisiting the technological unemployment debate.
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HD6331.2.U5 B59 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Americans today often associate scientific and technological change with progress and personal well-being, yet underneath this confident assumptions lie serious questions. In this work, 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.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

If ever a title fails to do justice to the content of a book, this title is a prime example. Bix (history, Iowa State Univ.) has produced a comprehensive study that goes far beyond most standard treatments of technological change in the 20th-century US and its impact on the workplace. Rather than limiting herself to an examination of a few key industries or technological improvements, Bix approaches the issue from a multifaceted perspective. Ranging from the impact of sound movies on theatrical musicians in the 1920s to the delusional antitechnology writings of the so-called Unabomber in the 1990s, she addresses the inherent, deep-seated tension between the uniquely American obsession with the notion of progress and the human costs associated with the unplanned, uncontrolled introduction of new productive processes. During the Depression, for example, persistent, high unemployment was negatively linked with the rapid technological changes of the 1920s. Conversely, the Allied victory in WW II was directly attributed to the wonders rolling out of America's laboratories and factories. Although the book is somewhat overlong and dense, it raises important issues for policy makers and the public at large as society grapples with the impact of cyber-technology at the dawn of a new century. Recommended for public, academic, and professional collections. H. Harris; Pennsylvania State University, New Kensington Campus