Recasting The Machine Age

Recasting The Machine Age

by Howard P. Segal
     
 

"Recasting the Machine Age" recounts the history of HenryFord's efforts to shift the production of Ford cars and trucks from the large-scale factories he had pioneered in the Detroit area to nineteen decentralized, small-scale plants within sixty miles of Ford headquarters in Dearborn. The visionary who had become famous in the early twentieth century for his huge and… See more details below

Overview

"Recasting the Machine Age" recounts the history of HenryFord's efforts to shift the production of Ford cars and trucks from the large-scale factories he had pioneered in the Detroit area to nineteen decentralized, small-scale plants within sixty miles of Ford headquarters in Dearborn. The visionary who had become famous in the early twentieth century for his huge and technologically advanced Highland Park and River Rouge complexes gradually changed his focus beginning in the late 1910s and continuing until his death in 1947.

According to Howard P. Segal, Ford decided to create a series of "village industries," each of which would manufacture one or two parts for the company's vehicles. Although he imagined that the rural setting of these decentralized plants would allow workers to become part-time farmers, Ford's plan did not represent a reaction against modern technology. The idea was to continue to employ the latest technology, but on a much smaller scale—and for the most part it worked. All nineteen of these village industries helped save their communities from decline, in several cases ensuring their survival through the Great Depression. The majority of workers in the village industries, moreover, appear to have preferred their working and living conditions to those in Detroit and Dearborn.

Ford may well have been motivated to spend great sums on the village industries in part to prevent the unionization of his company. But these industrial experiments represented much more than "union busting." They were significant examples of profound social, cultural, and ideological shifts in America between the World Wars as reflected in the thought and practice of one notable industrialist. Segal recounts the development of the plants, their fate after Ford's death, their recent revival as part of Michigan's renewed appreciation of its industrial heritage, and their connections to contemporary efforts to decentralize high-tech working and living arrangements.

"A fascinating subject, one well deserving of a modern scholar's attention. . . . The book makes a significant impact on our understanding of Henry Ford's auto industry, America's machine age, and patterns of industrial decentralization."— Amy Sue Bix, author of "Inventing Ourselves out of Jobs?: America's Debate over Technological Unemployment"

"Howard Segal's treatment of his subject is the best I have read, going far beyond anyone else's work and being as definitive as we likely shall see. 'Recasting the Machine Age' is fair, objective, scholarly, and up-to-date."— David L. Lewis, author of "The Public Image of Henry Ford: An American Folk Hero and His Company"

HOWARD P. SEGAL is professor of history at the University of Maine and author of "Future Imperfect: The Mixed Blessings of Technology in America" (University of Massachusetts Press, 1994).

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781558496422
Publisher:
University of Massachusetts Press
Publication date:
05/19/2008
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
280
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.80(d)

Table of Contents

Introduction : Henry Ford, centralization, and decentralization1
Ch. 1Henry Ford's village industries : origins, contexts, rationales6
Ch. 2Decentralized technology in the village industries : scale, scope, system, vision17
Ch. 3Farm and factory united27
Ch. 4Buildings and workforce35
Ch. 5Administration and relationship to local communities51
Ch. 6Workers' experiences59
Ch. 7Unionization75
Ch. 8The decentralists and other visionaries87
Ch. 9American industry also preaches decentralization108
Ch. 10Decline of the village industries during World War II and after121
Ch. 11Contemporary renewal of the village industries in high-tech America130
Conclusion : Henry Ford evolves from mechanical to social engineer152
AppBasic facts about and present status of the nineteen village industries161

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