William Scott's Troublemakers explores how a major change in the nature and forms of working-class power affected novels about U.S. industrial workers in the first half of the twentieth century. With the rise of mechanization and assembly-line labor from the 1890s to the 1930s, these laborers found that they had been transformed into a class of "mass" workers who, since that time, have been seen alternately as powerless, degraded victims or heroic, empowered icons who could rise above their oppression only through the help of representative organizations located outside the workplace.
Analyzing portrayals of workers in such novels as Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, Dalton Trumbo's Johnny Got His Gun, and Jack London's The Iron Heel, William Scott moves beyond narrow depictions of these laborers to show their ability to resist exploitation through their direct actions-sit-down strikes, sabotage, and other spontaneous acts of rank-and-file "troublemaking" on the job-often carried out independently of union leadership. The novel of the mass industrial worker invites us to rethink our understanding of modern forms of representation through its attempts to imagine and depict workers' agency in an environment where it appears to be completely suppressed.
About the Author
WILLIAM SCOTT is an associate professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh. His articles have appeared in a number of journals, including Callaloo, MLN, and American Literature.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Power-Representation-Fiction 1
Part 1 The Making of the Mass Worker 23
1 The Powerless Worker and the Failure of Political Representation: "The lowest and most degraded of human beasts" 33
2 The Empowered Worker and the Technological Representation of Capital: "Out of this furnace, this metal" 65
Part 2 Strategyand Structure at the Point of Production 107
3 The Disempowering Worker and the Aesthetic Representation of Industrial Unionism: "I am the book that has no end! 121
4 The Powerful Worker and the Demand for Economic Representation: "They planned to use their flesh, their bones, as a barricade" 183
Conclusion: Making Trouble on a Global Scale 236
Works Cited 267