Forces Of Production

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Overview

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.

A provocative study of how automation is a technological as well as a social process that reflects very real divisions and pressures within our society.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“[P]rovides a new generation of readers access to this important critique of blind adoption of “improvements” and the deeper cultural and economic implications of technology.”

Book News Inc.

Book News Inc.
“[P]rovides a new generation of readers access to this important critique of blind adoption of"improvements" and the deeper cultural and economic implications of technology." —
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781412818285
  • Publisher: Transaction Publishers
  • Publication date: 2/1/2011
  • Pages: 444
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

David F. Noble is professor in the department of social and political thought at York University and is best known for his work on the social history of automation. He was the co-founder (with Ralph Nader and Al Meyerhoff) of National Coalition for Universities in the Public Interest. He is also the author of numerous books including Beyond the Promised Land, Digital Diploma Mills, andThe Religion of Technology.

David F. Noble is professor in the department of social and political thought at York University and is best known for his work on the social history of automation. He was the co-founder (with Ralph Nader and Al Meyerhoff) of National Coalition for Universities in the Public Interest. He is also the author of numerous books including Beyond the Promised Land, Digital Diploma Mills, andThe Religion of Technology.

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Table of Contents

Preface to the Transaction Edition ix

Preface xi

Acknowledgments xvii

Part 1 Command and Control

Chapter 1 The Setting: The War Abroad 3

Chapter 2 The Setting: The War at Home 21

Chapter 3 Power and the Power of Ideas 42

Chapter 4 Toward the Automatic Factory 57

Part 2 Social Choice in Machine Design

Chapter 5 By the Numbers I 79

Chapter 6 By the Numbers II 106

Chapter 7 The Road Not Taken 144

Part 3 A New Industrial Revolution: Change without Change

Chapter 8 Development: A Free Lunch 195

Chapter 9 Diffusion: A Glimpse of Reality 212

Chapter 10 Deployment: Power in Numbers 230

Chapter 11 Who's Running the Shop? 265

Epilogue: Another Look at Progress 324

Appendices 355

Notes 367

Index 399

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