Condensed Capitalism: Campbell Soup and the Pursuit of Cheap Production in the Twentieth Century

Condensed Capitalism: Campbell Soup and the Pursuit of Cheap Production in the Twentieth Century

by Daniel Sidorick, D. Sidorick, D. SIDORICK
     
 

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Corporations often move factories to areas where production costs, notably labor, taxes, and regulations, are sharply lower than in the original company hometowns. Not every company, however, followed this trend. One of America's most iconic firms, the Campbell Soup Company, was one such exception: it found ways to achieve low-cost production while staying in

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Overview

Corporations often move factories to areas where production costs, notably labor, taxes, and regulations, are sharply lower than in the original company hometowns. Not every company, however, followed this trend. One of America's most iconic firms, the Campbell Soup Company, was one such exception: it found ways to achieve low-cost production while staying in its original location, Camden, New Jersey, until 1990.

The first in-depth history of the Campbell Soup Company and its workers, Condensed Capitalism is also a broader exploration of strategies that companies have used to keep costs down besides relocating to cheap labor havens: lean production, flexible labor sourcing, and uncompromising antiunionism. Daniel Sidorick's study of a classic firm that used these methods for over a century has, therefore, special relevance in current debates about capital mobility and the shifting powers of capital and labor. Sidorick focuses on the engine of the Campbell empire: the soup plants in Camden where millions of cans of food products rolled off the production line daily. It was here that management undertook massive efforts to drive down costs so that the marketing and distribution functions of the company could rely on a limitless supply of products to sell at rock-bottom prices. It was also here that thousands of soup makers struggled to gain some control over their working lives and livelihoods, countering company power with their own strong union local.

Campbell's low-cost strategies and the remarkable responses these elicited from its workers tell a story vital to understanding today's global economy. Condensed Capitalism reveals these strategies and their consequences through a narrative that shows the mark of great economic and social forces on the very human stories of the people who spent their lives filling those familiar red-and-white cans.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Daniel Sidorick has written a lively account of the conflicts between labor and capital at the Campbell Soup company during its years in Camden, New Jersey. . . . In addition to providing an overview of the historiographical landscape of the process of globalization, Sidorick provides insight into the changing worker culture at Camden—the ebb and flow of ethnic groups and immigrants. He also gives a first-rate account of the politics of the place and a valuable history of the remarkable union there. The workers at Camden who formed and sustained one of the most important and fascinating unions of the mid-twentieth century are this book's centerpiece."—Journal of American History

"Condensed Capitalism is a first-rate study of labor-management relations at Campbell Soup. This is business history that places the struggles between workers and their unions and the management at the center of the story. Daniel Sidorick has produced a lively narrative that vividly recreates the endemic tensions of industrial America. Condensed Capitalism is 'Mm, Mm, Good.'"—Robert Korstad, Kevin D. Gorter Associate Professor of Public Policy Studies and History, Duke University

"The union at Campbell Soup's Camden plant was one of the most remarkable progressive unions in the mid-twentieth century. Daniel Sidorick's superb Condensed Capitalism tells us about its accomplishments, as well as the impact of late-twentieth-century capitalism on its demise."—Roger Horowitz, Center for the History of Business, Technology, and Society at the Hagley Museum and Library, University of Delaware

"Three decades ago, I read UCAPAWA/FTA News cover to cover and in locating material for my dissertation, I came across fascinating stories about union workers at Campbell Soup. I thought someday they will have their history told. That someday has arrived! Condensed Capitalism is labor history at its best, an accessible and intelligent integration of the global stage and the shop floor."—Vicki L. Ruiz, University of California, Irvine

"Daniel Sidorick has written a volume that should be required reading for labor historians, scholars of American business enterprise, and all those interested in the peculiar features of twentieth-century U.S. capitalism. His careful study of labor and capital at Camden's most famous company focuses on the way in which management's rule was necessarily incomplete—constantly contested by working people and structured by national and global forces beyond its immediate control. Given the current economic malaise gripping the country, this is a book for our times."—Rick Halpern, University of Toronto

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780801447266
Publisher:
Cornell University Press
Publication date:
02/26/2009
Pages:
312
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.00(d)

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