America's Assembly Line

America's Assembly Line

by David E. Nye
     
 

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The mechanized assembly line was invented in 1913 and has been in continuous operation ever since. It is the most familiar form of mass production. Both praised as a boon to workers and condemned for exploiting them, it has been celebrated and satirized. (We can still picture Chaplin's little tramp trying to keep up with a factory conveyor belt.) In America's

Overview

The mechanized assembly line was invented in 1913 and has been in continuous operation ever since. It is the most familiar form of mass production. Both praised as a boon to workers and condemned for exploiting them, it has been celebrated and satirized. (We can still picture Chaplin's little tramp trying to keep up with a factory conveyor belt.) In America's Assembly Line, David Nye examines the industrial innovation that made the United States productive and wealthy in the twentieth century.The assembly line -- developed at the Ford Motor Company in 1913 for the mass production of Model Ts -- first created and then served an expanding mass market. It also transformed industrial labor. By 1980, Japan had reinvented the assembly line as a system of "lean manufacturing"; American industry reluctantly adopted the new approach. Nye describes this evolution and the new global landscape of increasingly automated factories, with fewer industrial jobs in America and questionable working conditions in developing countries. A century after Ford's pioneering innovation, the assembly line continues to evolve toward more sustainable manufacturing.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Nye thoroughly examines the backbone of mass production and consumerism in the 20th century and today, detailing the disparate elements that in 1913 synthesized into the assembly line under the roof of Henry Ford's Highland Park, Michigan, automobile plant. Nye, a professor of American History, contextualizes industrial processes before the introduction of assembly line techniques and then traces the methods' effects on production and industry, society, and its citizenry. It is fascinating to see how quickly mass production infiltrated industry and was embraced by all manner of society before being shunned for its soul-deadening monotony, repetition, and exploitation. The book hits a high point when discussing the rise of Japanese industry and its lean production innovations compared to the antiquated American assembly methods. It is thus ironic to observe that the evolution of Japanese mass production was helped considerably by adopting, combining, and improving on existing American manufacturing practices—ones then "re-exported" back to the United States in efforts to revive its flagging manufacturing industry. Although clear and concise, the dry subject matter fails to fully engage the reader. Nevertheless, Nye manages to highlight what increasingly appears to be the United States' moment as the industrial leader of the world. 50 b/w photos. (Mar.)
From the Publisher
"Nye's fascinating book deserves a wide readership" — Howard Segal, Times Higher Education
Times Higher Education - Howard Segal

Nye's fascinating book deserves a wide readership.

American Historical Review - Amy Sue Bix

Nye's beautifully written interpretation covers so much ground that historians of technology, labor, business, international economics, and American culture will all find it an invaluable resource, offering new reasons to appreciate the hundred-year history of the assembly line.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780262312929
Publisher:
MIT Press
Publication date:
02/15/2013
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
352
File size:
8 MB

What People are saying about this

Merritt Roe Smith

It is hard to think of a manufacturing technology that has had a greater economic and social impact than the moving assembly line. In America's
Assembly Line
, David Nye shows us how this new technology emerged,
expanded, stalled, and was reinvented, setting in train the age of mass production and consumerism as well as many of the subsequent environmental problems we experience today. Nye's beautifully nuanced and perceptive treatment of the subject indicates why he is one of the most distinguished historians of technology and culture working today.

Robert Casey

To make sense of their twenty-first-century world, people need to understand the profound influence of the twentieth-century technology known as the assembly line. David Nye's sweeping analysis of the origins and development of 'the line' is the place to start.

From the Publisher
"To make sense of their twenty-first-century world, people need to understand the profound influence of the twentieth-century technology known as the assembly line. David Nye's sweeping analysis of the origins and development of 'the line' is the place to start." — Robert Casey, former Senior Curator of Transportation, Henry Ford Museum

"It is hard to think of a manufacturing technology that has had a greater economic and social impact than the moving assembly line. In America's Assembly Line, David Nye shows us how this new technology emerged, expanded, stalled, and was reinvented, setting in train the age of mass production and consumerism as well as many of the subsequent environmental problems we experience today. Nye's beautifully nuanced and perceptive treatment of the subject indicates why he is one of the most distinguished historians of technology and culture working today." — Merritt Roe Smith,Cutten Professor of the History of Technology, MIT

"Crafted with immense erudition, America's Assembly Line is a fascinating cultural history, combining extensive archival research and theoretical sophistication. Nye shows how America's growing economy in the twentieth century was powered by the assembly line and how deeply this 'general purpose technology' was intertwined with American culture, from the exuberance of the Rockettes to the dysphoria of the American worker. He offers a lucid,historically informed reading of the problems that beset America today, in a changed global economy that has adapted assembly-line technology to its advantage even as the American worker has been marginalized." — Miles Orvell,Temple University, author of The Death and Life of Main Street: Small Towns in American Memory, Space, and Community

Miles Orvell

Crafted with immense erudition, America's Assembly
Line
is a fascinating cultural history, combining extensive archival research and theoretical sophistication. Nye shows how America's growing economy in the twentieth century was powered by the assembly line and how deeply this 'general purpose technology' was intertwined with American culture, from the exuberance of the Rockettes to the dysphoria of the American worker. He offers a lucid,
historically informed reading of the problems that beset America today, in a changed global economy that has adapted assembly-line technology to its advantage even as the American worker has been marginalized.

Meet the Author

David E. Nye is Professor of American Studies at the Danish Institute of
Advanced Study at the University of Southern Denmark, He is the author of
Technology Matters: Questions to Live With and When the
Lights Went Out: A History of Blackouts in America
, both published by the
MIT Press, and other books.

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