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Minding the machine : languages of class in early industrial America /
Stephen P. Rice.
imprint
Berkeley, Calif. : University of California Press, 2004.
description
xiii, 230 p.
ISBN
0520227816 (cloth)
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
Berkeley, Calif. : University of California Press, 2004.
isbn
0520227816 (cloth)
catalogue key
5207846
 
Includes bibliographical references and index.
A Look Inside
About the Author
Author Affiliation
Stephen P. Rice is Associate Professor of American Studies at Ramapo College of New Jersey.
Excerpts
Flap Copy
"Minding the Machine is an illuminating contribution to our understanding of antebellum mechanization and the origins of the modern middle class. Carefully focusing on key antebellum discussions of mechanical knowledge, training, control, opportunity, bodily and mental health, Rice convincingly shows how deeply these were pervaded by conceptions of social and class authority."--John F. Kasson, author of Amusing the Million: Coney Island at the Turn of the Century "Stephen Rice has brought provocative questions and fresh research to bear on that vexed topic-the origins of the American middle class. Using the increased mechanization of production during the antebellum decades as his focus, he has provided a fascinating picture of workplace changes and the cultural responses they elicited."--Joyce Appleby, author of Inheriting the Revolution: The First Generation of Americans "Rice's book explores the intellectual processes by which the emerging middle class in antebellum America strove to understand and control the new industrial order, mapping class relations onto less contested social and technical terrain. Within strange and unusual places and movements seemingly removed from the center of workplace change and conflict--such as health reform and the creation of chess playing automatons--crucial questions of power and authority were debated."--David Zonderman, author of Aspirations and Anxieties: New England Workers and the Mechanized Factory System, 1815-1850
Flap Copy
" Minding the Machine is an illuminating contribution to our understanding of antebellum mechanization and the origins of the modern middle class. Carefully focusing on key antebellum discussions of mechanical knowledge, training, control, opportunity, bodily and mental health, Rice convincingly shows how deeply these were pervaded by conceptions of social and class authority."--John F. Kasson, author of Amusing the Million: Coney Island at the Turn of the Century "Stephen Rice has brought provocative questions and fresh research to bear on that vexed topic-the origins of the American middle class. Using the increased mechanization of production during the antebellum decades as his focus, he has provided a fascinating picture of workplace changes and the cultural responses they elicited."--Joyce Appleby, author of Inheriting the Revolution: The First Generation of Americans "Rice's book explores the intellectual processes by which the emerging middle class in antebellum America strove to understand and control the new industrial order, mapping class relations onto less contested social and technical terrain. Within strange and unusual places and movements seemingly removed from the center of workplace change and conflict--such as health reform and the creation of chess playing automatons--crucial questions of power and authority were debated."--David Zonderman, author of Aspirations and Anxieties: New England Workers and the Mechanized Factory System, 1815-1850
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 2005-04-01:
In his first book, Rice (American studies, Ramapo College) wades bravely into the debates regarding class and class formation in the antebellum US. According to class-based interpretations, industrialization formed the basis for the emergence of a class society in the US. Rice argues that "antebellum Americans constructed a class society in a broad popular discourse on mechanization." Using a wide variety and huge quantity of contemporary printed materials as well as archival and other sources, Rice explains that Americans created a public discourse that represented a conceptual struggle between an older craft artisanship and the new machine-oriented production systems. In the process of this negotiated discourse, middle-class perceptions of cooperation won out over working-class antagonism and confrontation. Class society, therefore, emerged from a negotiated public discourse characterized by idealized cooperative pairings: head and hand, mind and body, human and machine. Middle- and working-class Americans had equally important, if very different, roles to play in a proper understanding of industrial society. ^BSumming Up: Highly recommended. Advanced undergraduates and above. J. Rogers Louisiana State University at Alexandria
Reviews
This item was reviewed in:
Choice, April 2005
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Summaries
Bowker Data Service Summary
'Minding the Machine' is a survey of class in America when the country was being opened up by steamboats & railways, & when industrialisation was gathering pace. The social consequences of an increasing reliance upon machinery exercised many minds: would they free men from toil, or make them slaves?
Long Description
In this innovative book, Stephen P. Rice offers a new understanding of class formation in America during the several decades before the Civil War. This was the period in the nation's early industrial development when travel by steamboat became commonplace, when the railroad altered concepts of space and time, and when Americans experienced the beginnings of factory production. These disorienting changes raised a host of questions about what machinery would accomplish. Would it promote equality or widen the distance between rich and poor? Among the most contentious questions were those focusing on the social consequences of mechanization: while machine enthusiasts touted the extent to which machines would free workers from toil, others pointed out that people needed to tend machines, and that that work was fundamentally degrading and exploitative. Minding the Machine shows how members of a new middle class laid claim to their social authority and minimized the potential for class conflict by playing out class relations on less contested social and technical terrains. As they did so, they defined relations between shopowners--and the overseers, foremen, or managers they employed--and wage workers as analogous to relations between head and hand, between mind and body, and between human and machine. Rice presents fascinating discussions of the mechanics' institute movement, the manual labor school movement, popular physiology reformers, and efforts to solve the seemingly intractable problem of steam boiler explosions. His eloquent narrative demonstrates that class is as much about the comprehension of social relations as it is about the making of social relations, and that class formation needs to be understood not only as a social struggle but as a conceptual struggle.
Main Description
In this innovative book, Stephen P. Rice offers a new understanding of class formation in America during the several decades before the Civil War. This was the period in the nations early industrial development when travel by steamboat became commonplace, when the railroad altered concepts of space and time, and when Americans experienced the beginnings of factory production. These disorienting changes raised a host of questions about what machinery would accomplish. Would it promote equality or widen the distance between rich and poor? Among the most contentious questions were those focusing on the social consequences of mechanization: while machine enthusiasts touted the extent to which machines would free workers from toil, others pointed out that people needed to tend machines, and that that work was fundamentally degrading and exploitative. Minding the Machine shows how members of a new middle class laid claim to their social authority and minimized the potential for class conflict by playing out class relations on less contested social and technical terrains. As they did so, they defined relations between shopowners-and the overseers, foremen, or managers they employed-and wage workers as analogous to relations between head and hand, between mind and body, and between human and machine. Rice presents fascinating discussions of the mechanics institute movement, the manual labor school movement, popular physiology reformers, and efforts to solve the seemingly intractable problem of steam boiler explosions. His eloquent narrative demonstrates that class is as much about the comprehension of social relations as it is about the making of social relations, and that class formation needs to be understood not only as a social struggle but as a conceptual struggle.
Table of Contents
Illustrationsp. ix
Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Introductionp. 1
The Antebellum Popular Discourse on Mechanizationp. 12
The Mechanics' Institute Movement and the Conception of Class Authorityp. 42
The Manual Labor School Movementp. 69
Popular Physiology and the Health of a Nationp. 96
Steam Boiler Explosions and the Making of the Engineerp. 115
Epiloguep. 145
Notesp. 157
Bibliographyp. 199
Indexp. 223
Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.

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