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Forces of Production: A Social History of Industrial Automation


Forces of Production: A Social History of Industrial Automation Cover


Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Focusing on the design and implementation of computer-based automatic machine tools, David F. Noble challenges the idea that technology has a life of its own. Technology has been both a convenient scapegoat and a universal solution, serving to disarm critics, divert attention, depoliticize debate, and dismiss discussion of the fundamental antagonisms and inequalities that continue to beset America. This provocative study of the postwar automation of the American metal-working industry-the heart of a modern industrial economy-explains how dominant institutions like the great corporations, the universities, and the military, along with the ideology of modern engineering shape, the development of technology. Noble shows how the system of numerical control, perfected at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and put into general industrial use, was chosen over competing systems for reasons other than the technical and economic superiority typically advanced by its promoters. Numerical control took shape at an MIT laboratory rather than in a manufacturing setting, and a market for the new technology was created, not by cost-minded producers, but instead by the U. S. Air Force. Competing methods, equally promising, were rejected because they left control of production in the hands of skilled workers, rather than in those of management or programmers. Noble demonstrates that engineering design is influenced by political, economic, managerial, and sociological considerations, while the deployment of equipment-illustrated by a detailed case history of a large General Electric plant in Massachusetts-can become entangled with such matters as labor classification, shop organization, managerial responsibility, and patterns of authority. In its examination of technology as a human, social process, Forces of Production is a path-breaking contribution to the understanding of this phenomenon in American society.

Book News Annotation:

This reprint of the late author's 1984 work on labor history and the development of computerized industrial automation in the twentieth century provides a new generation of readers access to this important critique of blind adoption of "improvements" and the deeper cultural and economic implications of technology. The volume focuses on the introduction of industrial CNC machining, the separation of skilled workers from the design process, the introduction of white collar, non-union engineers into the work process and the effects of this division of labor on the power of unions and the efficiency of production. Annotation ©2011 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Product Details

Noble, David F.
Transaction Publishers
Business & Economics : General
Social Aspects
United States
Science Reference-Technology
Publication Date:
Grade Level:

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Related Subjects

History and Social Science » Law » General
History and Social Science » US History » General
Humanities » Philosophy » General
Reference » Science Reference » General
Reference » Science Reference » Technology

Forces of Production: A Social History of Industrial Automation New Hardcover
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