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Behemoth: A History of the Factory and the Making of the Modern World

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In an accessible and timely work of scholarship, celebrated historian Joshua B. Freeman tells the story of the factory and examines how it has reflected both our dreams and our nightmares of industrialization and social change. He whisks readers from the early textile mills that powered the Industrial Revolution to the factory towns of New England to today’s behemoths maki In an accessible and timely work of scholarship, celebrated historian Joshua B. Freeman tells the story of the factory and examines how it has reflected both our dreams and our nightmares of industrialization and social change. He whisks readers from the early textile mills that powered the Industrial Revolution to the factory towns of New England to today’s behemoths making sneakers, toys, and cellphones in China and Vietnam. Behemoth offers a piercing perspective on how factories have shaped our societies and the challenges we face now.


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In an accessible and timely work of scholarship, celebrated historian Joshua B. Freeman tells the story of the factory and examines how it has reflected both our dreams and our nightmares of industrialization and social change. He whisks readers from the early textile mills that powered the Industrial Revolution to the factory towns of New England to today’s behemoths maki In an accessible and timely work of scholarship, celebrated historian Joshua B. Freeman tells the story of the factory and examines how it has reflected both our dreams and our nightmares of industrialization and social change. He whisks readers from the early textile mills that powered the Industrial Revolution to the factory towns of New England to today’s behemoths making sneakers, toys, and cellphones in China and Vietnam. Behemoth offers a piercing perspective on how factories have shaped our societies and the challenges we face now.

30 review for Behemoth: A History of the Factory and the Making of the Modern World

  1. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    Joshua B. Freeman's Behemoth: A History of the Factory and the Making of the Modern World was more than an intellectual experience, for I was reading about the forces behind my personal family history. My Greenwood ancestors were cotton mill workers in Lancashire, England, at least going back to my great-great-great grandfather. My grandfather worked at Standard Steel in Burnham, PA as a teenager to money for college. During WWII, Gramps and his family lived in a 'temporary' housing project when h Joshua B. Freeman's Behemoth: A History of the Factory and the Making of the Modern World was more than an intellectual experience, for I was reading about the forces behind my personal family history. My Greenwood ancestors were cotton mill workers in Lancashire, England, at least going back to my great-great-great grandfather. My grandfather worked at Standard Steel in Burnham, PA as a teenager to money for college. During WWII, Gramps and his family lived in a 'temporary' housing project when he worked at  Chevrolet Aviation Engine Division of GMC testing airplane struts. He later relocated to Detroit to work for GM. My dad's mother worked at Remington Rand in Tonawanda, NY, as did my mom. My brother is a Ford engineer. While in college, my husband worked summers as a welder at Buick. His father worked for Fisher Body in Flint. And his widowed grandmother worked at GM, the only female on the factory floor. When she was wanted, the men called out for "Girl" and that became her family nickname. She brought food to strikers during the famous GM sit-down strike and was a proud union member. When Dad was hired by Chrysler in 1963, about 24% of American workers were employed in manufacturing, but only 8% today. How did we evolve to now, with overseas mega-factories paying abysmal wages and the struggle for young adults to retain their parents' middle class status? What happened? Once factories were associated with progress, modernity, and social betterment. Today we think of empty ruins in the Rust Belt, or overseas cheap labor turning out Apple iPhones and expensive running shoes with logos. Old factory, 1979, in  Kensington, Philadelphia, where once Stetson Hats and Quaker Lace and other textile factories employed thousands of workers. The book left me overwhelmed, in a good way. Each chapter sent my head spinning with information and insights. Some things I knew about, like the Lancashire mills where my Greenwood ancestors worked, or the New England Mills that many quilt historians write about. And of course, Detroit's auto factories and war effort manufacturing, and the Detroit Institute of Arts famous mural by Diego Rivera of Detroit Industry. It was satisfying to know more details about these aspects of the history of the factory. But what really caught me by surprise was how interesting the later chapters were on issues such as how America helped the Soviets build factories after WWI and how mass merchandizing's demand for cheap products led to the growth of factories in countries with cheap labor sources.  The book brought together information in a narrative that helped me to better understand the Modern world. I thought this would be a fascinating book when I requested it from the publisher through NetGalley. It kept my interest to the end.  I received a free ebook from the publisher through Edelweiss in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Helio

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This book covered more than just factories as it delved into their history, the labour movement and immense size and logistics of factories in Asia today.  A fascinating piece of history was how Stalin got American companies to design, supervise construction and begig operations of some 500 factories in Russia.  Those factories, east of Moscow, in turn facilited the successful war against Germany, indirectly aiding the allies. Factories got started with mechanizing fabric production and broadened This book covered more than just factories as it delved into their history, the labour movement and immense size and logistics of factories in Asia today.  A fascinating piece of history was how Stalin got American companies to design, supervise construction and begig operations of some 500 factories in Russia.  Those factories, east of Moscow, in turn facilited the successful war against Germany, indirectly aiding the allies. Factories got started with mechanizing fabric production and broadened into making iron for train rails.  It was a slow process of achieving the quaity of iron and lengths needed but railways went from 4500 miles worldwide in 1840 to 228,400 by 1880.  That in turn facilited mass disribution of goods and more factories. Two Singer sewing machine plants produced 75% of the world's output, turning out half a million mactines a year. Workers became extensions of machinery, at the mercy of its pace (p127).  One worker said "If i keep putting on Nut 86 for 86 more days, i will be Nut No. 86 in the Pontiac bughouse." Swelling Model T sales went from 450 employees in 1908 to 14,000 in 1913 (to 42,000 in 1924).  When the assembly line was introduced Ford had a 370% employee turnover.  10% of employees did not show up on a given day.  You'd think they could have given different duties on different days. Switching over to the Model A production cost Ford $250 million (3.5 billion in 2017 dollars) and the economy tanked just a few years later (p142). Overall union membership reached 14.8 million in 1945.  Strikes closed down plants which led manufacturers to build factories in other locations (e.g. In the south where labour more plentiful and less likely to unionize). In Russia peasants were attracted to factories and vertical housing because thnse places had stairs (that were exciting to climb). Russian magazines glamorized factories coming putting out gorgeous innovative publications including cloth components when presenting clothing plants and an aluminum cover devoted to a new airplane design.  The magazines had pop-ups, inserts, overlays, vertical and horizontal fold outs (p212). Factories in China (built post 1970 with foreign capital for overseas consumption) sometimes employed 300,000 - 400,000 employees. A 2006 film (Manufactured Landscapes) started with an eight minute tracsing shot moving down the aisle of a factory in Xiamen City to show how immense it was; and it only employed 20,000.  More than 40% of the workforce (many women) worked in industry in China.  By 2014 more than 270 million migrant workers were employed (double all civilian workers in the USA).  Conditions were hard with lengthy days.  When employees went home for the holidays millions did not return to work (p288). Suicides at Apple iPad and iPhone plants were investigated but Apple still uses those facilities to mass produce their products.  In June 2010 Apple sold 1.7 million iPhones 4s in three days; in 2012 5 million iPhone 5s and in 2015 13 million iPhone 6s. The economies of scale rewarded large factory placements and although there was some strikes Communist control over the workplace reduced having to build plants elsewhere.  That was until they depleted the rural workforce in a province so factories were built further inland and now expansion into Ethiopia. Yuwa, China, had 600 factories producing 60% of the world's Xmas ornaments when manl of the employees didn't know what Christmas meant. In Viet Nam it was legal to strike and better working conditions were achieved in their enormous factories. The author discusses the economic impact of large factories and how feeder units have to bow to their requirements as they wave such a massive hold on production.  The author also notes that Vanguard Group mutual fund is a major owner of Foxconn, a large factory buider (eg of Apple products) and that as a shareholder he inadvertently supports exploitation of labour. I missed there not being a chapter on Japan's production and high quality production values.  Japan's factories were a bridge between American factories and Chinese behemoths.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Mehrsa

    A world history through the factory. It's an ambitious and interesting book. What was once the sign of progress and the portal to the future is now a situs of exploitation and a relic of the past. Actually, it seems factory work has always been exploitative. This book, or the history of the factory, is also a history of the labor movement. What's also really interesting is Freeman's insistence that the factory was not about capitalism--in fact, it was a centerpiece of the communist project as we A world history through the factory. It's an ambitious and interesting book. What was once the sign of progress and the portal to the future is now a situs of exploitation and a relic of the past. Actually, it seems factory work has always been exploitative. This book, or the history of the factory, is also a history of the labor movement. What's also really interesting is Freeman's insistence that the factory was not about capitalism--in fact, it was a centerpiece of the communist project as well and the USSR held its factories as central to state-building efforts. There, as well as here (and now in China and Africa), the factory ran on forced labor or at least on exploitative conditions. The flaw in this book is that there aren't any alternative histories considered. Was the factory necessary? Seems like it was very efficient. And if not, could history have gone another way? In other words, what are we to make of the history of the factory? Are we to lament it or just shrug and enjoy our factory-made iphones? The gendered character of the new factory (female) vs. the old (male) was fascinating. It seems that when it was male, it was robust and glamorous and now, it's just boring.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Jaffe

    I have read quite a lot of industrial labor history but nothing that attempts to think the factory across capitalism and communism in the way this book does. Really engrossing, and full of great information and food for thought.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Michael Burnam-Fink

    Factory-made goods are perhaps the defining feature of modern life. Looking around the hundreds of objects in my home office (there are a lot of bookshelves), only a handful of handicrafts did not come out of a factory. More broadly, except for a few decorative arts and crafts, everything in my house is a product of mass production machinery, and that's likely true unless you are either A) some kind of weird primitivist, or B) wealthy beyond all comprehension. Freeman traces the origins of the fa Factory-made goods are perhaps the defining feature of modern life. Looking around the hundreds of objects in my home office (there are a lot of bookshelves), only a handful of handicrafts did not come out of a factory. More broadly, except for a few decorative arts and crafts, everything in my house is a product of mass production machinery, and that's likely true unless you are either A) some kind of weird primitivist, or B) wealthy beyond all comprehension. Freeman traces the origins of the factory, starting the textile mills of 18th century England. These 'dark satanic mills' provided the prototype for heavily capitalized large enterprises, where expensive machinery turned out cheap commodities with an exploited labor force. English mills set the broad strokes of conflicts between workers and managers, and concerns about the social consequences of mass production. The two key conflicts were over machine time, the need for all workers to move at the pace of the factory rather than their own periods of intense exertion and lulls, and compensation for this grinding labor. The next chapters move through American textile mills at Lowell, and the massive steel production of the late 19th century, but even during the industrial revolution, factories were relatively uncommon. Most shops had fewer than 10 employees, and factory owners were inherently conservative, choosing to find profits in efficiency and faster pace rather than possibly expensive innovation. Henry Ford offered the first major break in the factory system, with the invention of the assembly line. Instead of a series of fixed machines or stations, with parts shuttled between workers doing moderately complex tasks, the work would flow continuously from end to end, each worker doing one task very precisely with the aid of expensive tool and die machines. Ford found new efficiencies with the Model T, which he plowed into vertically integrated megafactories such as the River Rouge complex, capable of taking in raw ores at one end and sending cars out the other. Factories were now miniature cities with hundreds of thousands of employees. Fordism and the megafactory found a natural home in the Soviet Union, which in the years prior to Stalin's purges hired American experts to develop a domestic heavy industrial base. But the megafactory proved prone to labor disruption, and post-war Western practice saw factories scattered to smaller, distributed units, with containerized shipping and highways providing a virtual 'logistic space' extension of the factory. The narrative closes with the new megafactories of the Shenzen special economic zone, where everything from sneakers to smartphones are produced by millions of Chinese workers. This last section is hampered by the secrecy of modern manufacturing. Unlike older factories, which had PR campaigns to show how modern they were, the people who actually make stuff today would prefer no one think about it. Freeman has a special focus on labor disputes and how the image of the factory, as a social problem, symbol of progress, or thing to be swept out of mind has evolved through history. Aside from a nod towards how Marx's theories developed from factories, and how factories developed in response to labor pressure, this book is light on theory. And while it's valuable background, it leaves aside the pressure of automation, and how while US industrial output has risen, the number of people employed in industry has remained relatively steady, or risen at a much slower rate. The valorization of labor is mixed with the fact that factory jobs are deskilled, deliberately designed to use humans as one more input. High turnovers, at some points in excess of 100%, are a recurrent feature of factory work, and one which deserves closer examination. While interesting, this book is a survey, and misses the grit of machines, the social environment of the assembly line, and the broader picture of factory-driven consumerism.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Babbs

    Fits in well with several other books I’ve read recently and a large portion centers around the greater Boston area, where I live, so that definitely added to my personal enjoyment. Actual rating between 3 and 4 stars but was rounded up.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Doug Gordon

    This is a very interesting, well written book. Having spent my career in and around the automotive manufacturing business, and having been inside my share of factories, I was familiar with some of the material -- especially the auto factories in the Detroit area -- but still found much here that I didn't know. Henry Ford and Alfred Kahn are major icons in these parts, but I learned a lot about their early work and approach to manufacturing. The early chapters on the textile mills -- the first rea This is a very interesting, well written book. Having spent my career in and around the automotive manufacturing business, and having been inside my share of factories, I was familiar with some of the material -- especially the auto factories in the Detroit area -- but still found much here that I didn't know. Henry Ford and Alfred Kahn are major icons in these parts, but I learned a lot about their early work and approach to manufacturing. The early chapters on the textile mills -- the first real factories -- were also of interest and something I had known little about, but I found the chapters on the industrialization of the Soviet Union in the 20s and 30s, and of China somewhat later to be fascinating. I had no idea of the involvement of American industrialists, including Mr. Ford and Mr. Kahn, in building up the tractor factories and other facilities in the pre-WWII USSR. And of course the book concludes with a chapter on Foxconn and the other Asian megafactories that produce so many of our consumer goods these days. The author's explanation of how this came to be and why those factories are so different from their precursors in the West was very enlightening. This book would be a good read for anyone involved in or interested in manufacturing technology and the shaping of our modern world, warts and all.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Paul moved to LibraryThing

    To much history and too little (next to none) of technology, psychology or sociology.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Todd Stockslager

    Review title: Early in the morning factory whistle blows The Industrial Revolution was born in the minds and laboratories of thinkers and doers like Robert Fulton and Henry Ford, but build in factories that changed the physical, social and political landscape of the world. When I saw a review of Freeman's Behemoth just after reading about the Battle of Homestead (see The River ran red: Homestead 1892, referenced by Freeman in his brief discussion of Homestead here) which took place in the most ad Review title: Early in the morning factory whistle blows The Industrial Revolution was born in the minds and laboratories of thinkers and doers like Robert Fulton and Henry Ford, but build in factories that changed the physical, social and political landscape of the world. When I saw a review of Freeman's Behemoth just after reading about the Battle of Homestead (see The River ran red: Homestead 1892, referenced by Freeman in his brief discussion of Homestead here) which took place in the most advanced steel factory in the world, I knew I needed to read this book. Freeman focuses on the "giants", factories defined by their outsized buildings and large work forces. He documents how these new features changed the shape of the landscapes and the workers who populated them, starting with textile mills in the north of England. Factories represented not just large buildings but new ways of working, living, and keeping track of time. While Freeman describes the architecture and layout of the buildings, he is more interested in the labor relations and social aspects of these new large workforces. In the north of England those aspects included the beginnings of accurate timekeeping, the employment of young women and children outside the home, and te relocation of the workforce to the towns and villages near the factory (which were often in rural landscapes). He moves forward through factory history devoting chapters to the American textile mills of New England, the steel mills of western Pennsylvania in the late 19th century, Henry Ford's assembly line innovations and huge Highland Park and River Rouge factories, the spread of huge factories to socialist economies in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and Asia during and after the Cold War. The capitalist management methods developed in the 19th century and refined by Ford for the modern assembly line, Freeman documents, were both adopted and adapted to the command and control environments of the socaliast economies. Freeman defines the giants by the size of the workforce, from 2,000 in the early textile mills to 10,000 in the late 19th century steel mills, to 50,000-plus in the mid 20th century automobile factories and the 200,000 in the massive Asian factories making shoes and iPhones. While American manufacturers moved away from the large single site because of the possibility of a work slowdown or strike by a small number of workers idling a much larger workforce and putting the entire output of a company at risk, the same considerations didn't always apply to the Russian or Chinese workplace. One piece of data that would have helped make Freeman's argument and been an interesting addition to each chapter would be a table of the top factory owners, locations, and workforces for each era. And while there are a few pictures in the text, missing are any full page color prints or pictures of factories and workers. Freeman includes a section on graphical representations of factories with almost no pictures, an inexcusable absence only partially corrected by footnotes referencing other sources for those representations. One of the best elements of Behemoth is Freeman's discussion of how the common stereotypes of factory work grew out of the history of the factory as a workplace. My review title comes from one of the best musical and lyrical pictures of the factory from Bruce Springsteen's pen, and as I kept hearing these lyrics in my head while reading Behemoth, I'll use them to conclude my review: Early in the morning factory whistle blows,  Man rises from bed and puts on his clothes,  Man takes his lunch, walks out in the morning light,  It's the working, the working, just the working life.  Through the mansions of fear, through the mansions of pain,  I see my daddy walking through them factory gates in the rain,  Factory takes his hearing, factory gives him life,  The working, the working, just the working life.  End of the day, factory whistle cries,  Men walk through these gates with death in their eyes.  And you just better believe, boy,  somebody's gonna get hurt tonight,  It's the working, the working, just the working life.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Marks54

    This book presents a new history of really big factories. This is not a work of new and original research. He author no doubt has done some, but much other work is referenced effectively, for example Kotkin’s visits to the Soviet industrial cities. The stories of most of the cases in the book are not new - the stories of factories since the first industrial revolution have fueled quite a bit of fiction and nonfiction from Dickens to Engels. We have known about really large factories for some tom This book presents a new history of really big factories. This is not a work of new and original research. He author no doubt has done some, but much other work is referenced effectively, for example Kotkin’s visits to the Soviet industrial cities. The stories of most of the cases in the book are not new - the stories of factories since the first industrial revolution have fueled quite a bit of fiction and nonfiction from Dickens to Engels. We have known about really large factories for some tome - even Foxconn. The cases fit together well, although that was not obvious at the start of the book. The overall effect is impressive and the book is well written. What is more distinctive to me is that Prof. freeman is actually telling multiple stories about each factory. First there is the technical/economic story, focusing on how efficient the factory exploits scale economies. How do these big factories work? How could Ford turn out a new model T every few minutes? Why was the process different for airplanes at the Willow Run plant? How did people come to design these huge facilities so that they actually worked? Why were they so big? Freeman alludes to the choices that were made and rightly suggests that many of the economies associated with production in these plants were exhausted at levels of aggregation that were smaller than the sizes attained by the big factories. Second, there is the political and control story of the dynamics among management, workers, and publics and how valuable effective control is for those in charge. This is also a well known story about factories that is especially popular among their social critics. Freeman does a good job at bringing out the control dynamics behind the large plants - for example how the success of the unions at exploiting the vulnerabilities of large plants via sit down strikes led to subsequent decisions to have more and smaller plants that were more geographically dispersed, especially to management friendly parts of the country. Control and efficiency of course went together, even if they pulled in different directions from time to time. Third, there is a cultural story of what the factory means as part of society. Freeman provides a wonderful example of the Diego Rivera murals in Detroit. It is well worth a visit to see these. Factories have also provided subjects for movies, TV, photography, and books, both fiction and nonfiction. For example, if you want to get of sense of life in the Foxconn factories, Leslie Chiang’s book “Factory Girls” is a must read. I had the opportunity to do summer work in factories as a teenager, but that is less common in post-industrial America. The work was moderately challenging but I remember to experiences to this day. The overall issue for me in assessing Freeman’s book is how he combines the multiple stories he is telling about the mega-factories. Overall, it seems to work but I remain a bit unclear. Are the British and American textile mills the best comparisons for Foxconn? Working in Stalinist factories was no doubt very different from Detroit in the 1930s even though the same American firms designed the plants. Freeman ties the stories together around the ability of the large plants to focus political activities and generate unintended consequences for bosses, such as union strife and political opposition, such as in Poland. This seems a bit different from the story of these plants in China and Vietnam, although that story is still developing, along with globalization and de globalization. For example, the 2009 documentary film “Last Train Home” shows the world of migrant workers in China travelling from the countryside to work in the factories in the eastern economic zones. This involves a greater migration in a single year than the entirety of the European migrations to the US in the 19th century. Think about that and see the movie, in which these workers only get to go home over the Chinese New Year - and they all take the same trains. I am not sure how far the analogies to Manchester and Lowell can be stretched to cover this situation. Overall, it is worth the time see what Professor Freeman has to say about big factories, but then again I was already sold on how interesting they were.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

    An excellent overview of the history of giant factories. Almost everything we use come from factories. 1. Industrialisation started in England. Luddites smashes machines because of poor working conditions and low wages, not because they are technophobic. The struggle between labor and capitalists will continue forever. 2. When machines spread to America, at first young unmarried women flocked to them to make some extra money; they were not poor. They were treated quite well until there was an ex An excellent overview of the history of giant factories. Almost everything we use come from factories. 1. Industrialisation started in England. Luddites smashes machines because of poor working conditions and low wages, not because they are technophobic. The struggle between labor and capitalists will continue forever. 2. When machines spread to America, at first young unmarried women flocked to them to make some extra money; they were not poor. They were treated quite well until there was an excess supply of labourers, when wages were cut. Nonetheless new poor immigrants the the States continued to do the job. Ford made multi storey Behemoths to make his cars. 3. Factories grew big because of efficiency gains. However later it was found that that made them prone to strikes by militant unions: a few workers can paralyse the whole factory. After that smaller factories were built smaller and in less militant states. 4. The Soviet Union asked Americans to help them build gigantic factories and factory workers were treated relatively well in communist countries because they were the proletariats. Factories can be huge because of the lower chance of industrial strikes (police tends to be much more brutal in those countries). Unfortunately they don’t perform like the ones in the West because of poor training, infrastructure, lack of raw materials. 5. Factories in communist countries represented modernity, but tended to drain the rural areas of manpower and raw material. Thus the great famine caused by Mao’s Great Leap Forward. In the end the stuff made were of low quality so the millions died in vain. 6. Globalisation helped capitalists move factories to Asian Tigers, then China and Vietnam, and then Bangladesh and Ethiopia. Even in China they are being moved inland for want of ever lower wages. 7. Factories are but temporary, creating whole towns which revolve around them. When they eventually leave the result is devastating; people are left with no jobs or hope. The empty buildings constantly remind them of the glorious past. With Trump’s trade war, the movement of factories out of China must hasten even more.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Meredith

    This book is slightly tinged with pink because the author keeps saying “Socialism” instead of “Communism”, and the US and Britain were the only western nations involved in WWII. Another curious pity is that Japan is barely mentioned (perhaps its factories are not or were not big enough?). But at least it didn’t self-flagellate or end with the almost obligatory lecture on how global warming will kill us all. The book addresses the rise of factory gigantism, the development of labour unions and com This book is slightly tinged with pink because the author keeps saying “Socialism” instead of “Communism”, and the US and Britain were the only western nations involved in WWII. Another curious pity is that Japan is barely mentioned (perhaps its factories are not or were not big enough?). But at least it didn’t self-flagellate or end with the almost obligatory lecture on how global warming will kill us all. The book addresses the rise of factory gigantism, the development of labour unions and companies’ subsequent efforts to regain control over production, the Russian industry getting its start in the 1920s because of technologies and management principles purchased from American industry, and most of the sordid details about how Chinese mega-factories are run today, most of which I’d always suspected. As someone who has spent over two decades working in a factory that was built in 1891 by a company that you’ve heard of but I won’t name, there’s a lot here that made me nod my head in agreement and wasn’t too surprising. I lived a lot of it during the first days of enthusiasm over rushing everything to “low cost countries”. No big company really gives a shit about its employees or its community. They may start out that way, but as soon as they have to show a return to shareholders and their management is detached from any specific location, it all turns into hot air. And when the brand is disconnected from production via outsourcing, the slide happens even faster.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Darian Onaciu

    Growing up in post-dictatorial Romania, I remotely witnessed the disappearance of the 'combinat', the giant factories that dictator Nicolae Ceausescu built. After the revolution in 1989 there were privatization attempts riddled with scandals and accusations of corruption, all of them having a greatly reduced workforce or being disbanded altogether. Although my parents didn't work in factories and I didn't have the chance to visit them, I know the working conditions were bad. This is because I had Growing up in post-dictatorial Romania, I remotely witnessed the disappearance of the 'combinat', the giant factories that dictator Nicolae Ceausescu built. After the revolution in 1989 there were privatization attempts riddled with scandals and accusations of corruption, all of them having a greatly reduced workforce or being disbanded altogether. Although my parents didn't work in factories and I didn't have the chance to visit them, I know the working conditions were bad. This is because I had the chance to work for a few years at an american factory's local site. With over 2 thousand employees on site, some of those who worked in production had previous experiences in the communist factories. Invariably they highly praised the working conditions and safety here compared with previous experiences they had elsewhere, even after the fall of communism. I find it very interesting that if you take a look around it's extremely hard to find something not made in a factory. How much time would it take for one individual to make a needle or a shoe? How much will automation change how factories operate and output goods in the future? Will there be 3D printed solutions for every problem? There are lots of interesting questions and the factories are here to stay so I highly recommend this awesome history of the factory and how it shapes humanity - definitely worth a listen / read!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Ari

    This is not quite a history of factories. Rather, it's a set of case studies of "big factories in various eras", starting with the Manchester mills of the 1810s, Lowell, Carnegie's steel mills near Pittsburgh, auto factories and specifically River Rouge, Magnitogorsk, and finally the Foxconn plants in Shenzhen. The book was readable, full of detail, and keeps one eye on economics and one on social history. I would have liked a bit more analytic depth, but for what it was, it was quite good. A few This is not quite a history of factories. Rather, it's a set of case studies of "big factories in various eras", starting with the Manchester mills of the 1810s, Lowell, Carnegie's steel mills near Pittsburgh, auto factories and specifically River Rouge, Magnitogorsk, and finally the Foxconn plants in Shenzhen. The book was readable, full of detail, and keeps one eye on economics and one on social history. I would have liked a bit more analytic depth, but for what it was, it was quite good. A few points I noticed: - Often the biggest factories are prestige projects, and well beyond the point of maximum efficiency. This is especially true for Soviet-bloc factories. - Waterpower wasn't originally in cities, and therefore the Lancashire and Lowell factories were often in rural places. - After the development of efficient steam engines, and especially after electricity, it made more industrial sense to have low flat factories, rather than multi-story buildings; and therefore they became land-intensive and therefore were pushed out of cities. - In both these cases, employers found themselves needing to house workers, and this often meant a considerable investment in making housing seem appealing. - In Lowell in the 19th century and Shenzhen today, turnover is high and workers will try the factory thing for a few months and then move home.

  15. 5 out of 5

    David

    4.5 stars, really. There has been a cottage industry of books published over the last twenty-odd years purporting to explain how some phenomena (a commodity, or a work of art, or an invention) has "changed the world." I think this got going in earnest with the publication of Mark Kurlansky's "Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World." What's great about Joshua Freeman's "Behemoth: A History of the Factory and the Making of the Modern World" is that the author delivers on the promise t 4.5 stars, really. There has been a cottage industry of books published over the last twenty-odd years purporting to explain how some phenomena (a commodity, or a work of art, or an invention) has "changed the world." I think this got going in earnest with the publication of Mark Kurlansky's "Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World." What's great about Joshua Freeman's "Behemoth: A History of the Factory and the Making of the Modern World" is that the author delivers on the promise to explain modernity by describing a half dozen or more "giant" factory complexes, starting in newly-industrialized 18th century Britain and ending in present-day Addis Ababa. He shows how these facilities both created and came to symbolize the changes associated with modern economic development. Along the way, readers learn much about industrial engineering and architecture, labor history and the impact of factory work on arts, literature and music. It's a well-written, comprehensive study. Some of the set pieces on big factories like Ford's River Rouge auto plant and Poland's Nowa Huta steel mill are superbly interesting.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    A history that starts with the textile mills in the UK and ends up with the massive globaltech companies such as Foxconn. How 'gigantism' - building as big as possible-made it possible to streamline production into profit. Some interesting observations : how the Soviets built their factories with American expertise; (Trotsky was a fan of Taylorism, the 'scientific management' that would drive the revolution.) Well-researched,covering some of the early photographers as well; it makes the telling o A history that starts with the textile mills in the UK and ends up with the massive globaltech companies such as Foxconn. How 'gigantism' - building as big as possible-made it possible to streamline production into profit. Some interesting observations : how the Soviets built their factories with American expertise; (Trotsky was a fan of Taylorism, the 'scientific management' that would drive the revolution.) Well-researched,covering some of the early photographers as well; it makes the telling observation that the early mills were showpieces, displayed as achievements,unlike the secrecy that surrounds modern-day factory cities,scared of bad publicity that could affect their profits.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Csparrenberger

    I picked this up at the library. After reading 60 pages, I decided this topic was not of interest to me and stopped reading.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Joel Hathaway

    Behemoth: A History of the Factory and the Making of the Modern World, by Joshua B. Freeman, is a survey of large industry complexes and companies from the middle industrial age to the current day. In the first chapter, the author lays out the emergence of large textile factories made possible by the invention of machines. Chapter two focuses on the development of the large-factory textile industry in New England, with emphasis upon the utopian vision that modernity offered the New World. Chapte Behemoth: A History of the Factory and the Making of the Modern World, by Joshua B. Freeman, is a survey of large industry complexes and companies from the middle industrial age to the current day. In the first chapter, the author lays out the emergence of large textile factories made possible by the invention of machines. Chapter two focuses on the development of the large-factory textile industry in New England, with emphasis upon the utopian vision that modernity offered the New World. Chapter three focuses on advances in and mechanization around steelmaking. Chapter five examines how the large factory was adopted, and eventually abused, by Communist Russia. Chapter six examines the post-World Wars and cold-war era mega factory. Chapter seven reviews factory giantism in China, and the book concludes with reflection on the impact of massive industry upon the world as a whole. On the positive side, the development of giant factories contributed to unprecedented improvements in life expectancy and quality of life. Freeman points out that: The factory led a revolution that transformed human life and the global environment. For most of human history, up to the initial stirrings of the Industrial Revolution and the creation of the first factories in the early eighteenth century, the vast majority of the world population was rural and poor, living precarious existences plagued by hunger and disease. In England, in the mid-eighteenth century, life expectancy did not reach forty, while in parts of France only half of all children lived to see their twentieth birthday. Average annual per capita growth of global economic output during the period between the birth of Jesus and the first factory was essentially zero. But in the eighteenth century it began nudging up and between 1820 and 1913 approach 1 percent. In the years since it has been higher, with a peak, between 1950 and 1970, of nearly 3 percent. The cumulative effect of the increased production of goods and services has been utterly transformed, measured most basically in life expectancy, now over eighty in the United Kingdom, a bit higher in France, and nearly sixty-nine globally. (Introduction) Interestingly enough, in the early days, large factories resembled shared work spaces not dissimilar to the recent emergence of the same. Freeman writes: …factories housed large numbers of workers using hand-powered equipment. Also, until the 1820s, it was common for mills to rent space and power to multiple small employers. In 1815, two-thirds of Manchester cotton firms occupied only part of a factory. One Stockport mill housed twenty-seven master artisans, who collectively employed 250 workers, a system not unlike that common in metalworking factories, where artisans rented individual work spaces and access to steam power. This point is of particular interest, demonstrating that factories were not inherently at odds with the other spheres of life: family, rest and recreation, and religion. Only as consumer demands for goods, corporate maximization of profits, and governmental involvement put pressure on the factory optimization were the basic rights of workers, and sometimes their very lives, threatened. In order to understand these interconnected forces of competing interests, one must understand what came to be called “the factory system.” Freeman explains: An imprecise term, the “factory system” generally referred to the whole new mode of production that came with the factory, including the workforce that had to be assembled, the conditions of labor and of life for those workers, and the impact of the factory on economic and social arrangements. Cooke Taylor, allied with the new manufacturers, recognized that because England was “already crowded with institutions,” the rapid development of mechanized factory production “dislocated all the existing machinery of society.” “A giant forcing his way into a densely-wedged crowd,” he wrote, “extends pain and disturbance to the remotest extremity: the individuals he purses aside push others in their turn...and thus also the Factory system causes its presence to be felt in districts where no manufactures are established: all classes are pressed to make room for the stranger.” As such forces as corporation and nationalism elevated profit over person, giant factories, corporate industry, and the people who owned and ran them were perpetual abusers of human rights—from its early development up to the current day. Describing conditions in England in the 1850s, Freeman writes: For many of its critics, and even some of its supporters, the exploitation of labor, particularly of child labor, became their focus in judging the new system... In any case, mill owners did not want adult men for most positions, preferring women and children whom they could pay less and who did not have the sense of pride and craft that came from apprenticeship training. He goes on to write: Conditions for mill workers were harsh. Entering a factory for the first time could be a terrifying experience: the noise and motion of the machinery; the stifling air, full of cotton dust, in many mills kept oppressively warm to reduce breakage; the pervasive stench from the whale oil and animal grease used to lubricate the machinery (before petroleum products were available) and from the sweat of hundreds of laboring people; the pale countenance and sickly bodies of the workers; the fierce demeanor of the overseers, some of whom carried belts or whips to enforce their discipline. Under cold-war Communist Russia, conditions were little better. “For many newcomers, Nowa Huta, especially in the early years, proved a disappointment, with its challenging living and working conditions, including high rates of industrial accidents…” Today, in China, these inhuman conditions remain: Assembly-plant jobs that require the rapid repetition of a series of motions for long periods of time are exhausting and even debilitating, reminiscent of early English textile mills where child workers suffered physical damage from doing the same tasks over and over again. At the Foxconn Chengdu plant, some workers’ legs swelled so badly from standing all day that they had difficulty walking. Extremely long working hours compound the problem. Though Chinese laws stipulate a normal workweek of forty hours and limit overtime to nine hours a week, factories routinely ignore them, scheduling much longer workweeks. Schedules of well over sixty hour sare not uncommon. At Foxconn, workdays of twelve hours (including overtime) are common, but there and elsewhere, when order deadlines approach, workdays can stretch even longer. Foxconn workers switch between day and night shifts once a month, much like American steelworkers used to rotate shifts every two weeks, leading to sleep loss and disorientation. A summary of the broad human-right violations of factory giantism can be found in Freeman description of early 19th century England: Great Britain often has been portrayed as a freer society than continental Europe. Some scholars…suggest this was one reason why the Industrial Revolution took off their first. But for workers, especially factory workers, Britain was far from a free society. Factories grew up under an autocratic political regime, at least as far as it concerned working people. Workers did not have the right to vote, they did not have the right to join together to bargain collectively with their employers, they did not have the right to quit their jobs whenever they wanted to, they did not have the right to say whatever they thought. Nothing better symbolized the support the state gave the emerging industrial system than the hanging of workers for the crime of not attacking persons but inanimate objects, breaking machines. Later to be extolled as the triumph of a new kind of freedom, the factory system was nurtured by severe restrictions on the rights of those whose labor made it possible. It took--and continued to take--the repressive power of the state to enable the giant factories to take root in unbroken soil. Concluding his work, Freeman does little to reflect on the future of factory behemoths, instead attempting to summarize the human and environmental impact factory giantism has had over the last 250 years: Whatever the future of the giant factory might prove to be, it already has left behind a transformed world. In some ways, industrial giants have fulfilled the dreams of their promoters, having been part and parcel of an extraordinarily rapid and large improvement in social well-being, comfort, longevity, material possession, and security, one without precedent in human history. The Industrial Revolution, which the giant factory pushed forward, contributed to not only higher living standards but also the creation of the modern state, urbanized society, and a transformed face of the planet. It also helped create a “new man.” Perhaps not exactly a new man at one with the automatic machinery and industrial processes of the giant factory as envisioned, in their own ways, by Henry Ford, Alexei Gastev, and Antonio Gramsci. But a new man and a new woman nonetheless, with a time sense dictated by the needs of mass, coordinated activity and the rhythms of machinery; with a commitment to the idea of progress through technical innovation and increasing efficiency; worshiping factory products and an industrial aesthetic; and taking for granted the idea of sacrifice for future gain. In short, the giant factory helped produce modernity, the now we inhabit still, even if it no longer has the awe-inspiring novelty it once had.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Manteegs

    Overall, this was a solid history of the mega-factory, exploring the first factories in Europe, the subsequent transition to the United States during/after the World Wars, and lastly, the shift to Asian countries that we've seen today. On a sentence level, sometimes the author lost sight and the descriptions became convoluted. Shorter, more condensed sentences could increase readability. Overall, this was a solid history of the mega-factory, exploring the first factories in Europe, the subsequent transition to the United States during/after the World Wars, and lastly, the shift to Asian countries that we've seen today. On a sentence level, sometimes the author lost sight and the descriptions became convoluted. Shorter, more condensed sentences could increase readability.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Charlene

    Comprehensive history of how factories changed society on a local and global level. Freeman delved deep into how factories changed not only human's overall quality of life making useful products but also into how all of this intersected with workers rights, child labor laws, moral expectations of factory workers, and what it meant for the landscape of places where factories were popping up. He looked at how different companies tried to address efficiency issues (turns out the Ford Model of busin Comprehensive history of how factories changed society on a local and global level. Freeman delved deep into how factories changed not only human's overall quality of life making useful products but also into how all of this intersected with workers rights, child labor laws, moral expectations of factory workers, and what it meant for the landscape of places where factories were popping up. He looked at how different companies tried to address efficiency issues (turns out the Ford Model of business was something to be emulated), which forced them to learn to spend money in the right places, demand enough from their workers but support their workers enough to create a lower turnover rate. I was surprised at how much drunkenness was an issue for factory owners who had to figure out how to get their workers to stay sober enough to work. With little pay, cramped conditions, and long working hours that leave little time for recreation, and little investment in the future of the factory worker, it is easy to understand why it was hard to find people who would consistently put up with these conditions. Freeman discussed how owners had to come up with the right incentives and acceptable conditions to recruit the best workers available. Ford seemed to be one of the first to understand how to begin to achieve this. They didn't always succeed but seemed to learn more from their mistake than other companies. Every time I read about what it was like for people who lived in generations past, I imagine my life in their time -- being chained, as a child, to a coal mine and forced to work all day long; working a factory where I am locked in and sweating to death and people are watching my every movement whether I am at work or in my "free" time; working a field since there is no grocery store; etc. It all seems horrible and I am so thankful for everyone who suffered so greatly so that more and more humans can have leisure time. I wonder if generations from now humans will have more and more free time. To think that kids were forced to work in mines and doing other jobs while today's children sit in school or home on their iPads. We have come a long way in so many respects. We still have a long way to go if we want to see that kind of privilege spread globally. Freeman illustrated some examples of factories in the recent past and in the present day that have faced the same issues of factories when they first appeared on Earth. It was interesting to read about the different conditions around the world and the different stages of progress each country is experiencing. He talked about what are assumed to be horrific conditions in Chinese factories but said it was hard to verify because of lack of access. Russia had a rough time gettin their factories to run like the ones in America. There were so many promising aspects of factory building in Russia. It was one of the better parts of the book.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Mary Rude

    The history of giant factories is a very interesting topic, and I'm glad to see it addressed in its own book. Freeman writes in a very clear, straight-forward style, with each chapter dedicated to a different geographic area and time period (such as 19th century New England textile mills or early 20th century Soviet heavy industry). Unfortunately, I thought this book was a little too straight-forward, to the point of being someone predictable and repetitive. I feel like different chapters could The history of giant factories is a very interesting topic, and I'm glad to see it addressed in its own book. Freeman writes in a very clear, straight-forward style, with each chapter dedicated to a different geographic area and time period (such as 19th century New England textile mills or early 20th century Soviet heavy industry). Unfortunately, I thought this book was a little too straight-forward, to the point of being someone predictable and repetitive. I feel like different chapters could have been structured in a different way to be more exciting or engaging, and I would have liked more from the perspective of the on-the-ground workers, with intimate details of the challenges they faced, rather than just blanket statements about how conditions for workers were hard. If you're fairly well-versed in history, a lot of this information will not be new to you. I already knew quite a bit about American and Soviet factories and the Foxconn complex, so I was already quite familiar with much of the information in these chapters, which was pretty basic. I really just wish this book had more. The book is only about 300 pages long, which is not a lot of space to cover so many different eras of factory production. It could have gone into far more detail about how the factories functioned and how the workers lived, but often just skimmed the surface of these topics. Each chapter felt no more in-depth than a long magazine article, and the conclusion offers little more than the assurance that factories have changed our lives and they are here to stay.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    I found this on the new books shelf at my public library. It starts with a historical look at the development of factories in the UK and the USA, through the development of "Fordism" and the mass production of automobiles. There is coverage of what and how the factories became the efficient way to produce goods and what it meant for the workers in these factories. There is also description of how factories were portrayed in the arts that serves as a transition to the description of Soviet factor I found this on the new books shelf at my public library. It starts with a historical look at the development of factories in the UK and the USA, through the development of "Fordism" and the mass production of automobiles. There is coverage of what and how the factories became the efficient way to produce goods and what it meant for the workers in these factories. There is also description of how factories were portrayed in the arts that serves as a transition to the description of Soviet factories in the 1920s-1930s, along with the connecting role of American (and other) specialists in getting Soviet industrialization going. I know something about Russian and Soviet history - I thought the description of the development of Soviet large factories under Stalin's first five year plan in this book had some good aspects, but it understates the necessity for the kind of authoritarian power that existed in Soviet Russia then to make it happen. I then ran out of time with the library and didn't read the section on FoxConn city. This was an interesting attempt to describe and make comparisons of how factories developed in very different places and different historical periods that led the author to use rather different approaches. Even though I sensed the effort that must have gone into this, I didn't find it worked for me. Certainly understanding factories and their history is useful in our times, and this contributes to such an understanding. I wished I had been more engaged with reading it.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Ricky

    I thought I was interested in industry and heavy machinery and other manly stuff, but I have to admit I found this book bit boring. On the other hand, I like that the author didn't sensationalize the subject matter, like many other modern "non-fiction" books. Everything was very matter of fact and the implications and differing opinions made known. It reads like a textbook, or perhaps a very long thesis paper on the history of factories. It goes deeper into things we all learned about in high sc I thought I was interested in industry and heavy machinery and other manly stuff, but I have to admit I found this book bit boring. On the other hand, I like that the author didn't sensationalize the subject matter, like many other modern "non-fiction" books. Everything was very matter of fact and the implications and differing opinions made known. It reads like a textbook, or perhaps a very long thesis paper on the history of factories. It goes deeper into things we all learned about in high school history, so nothing was a surprise or a revelation. It was heavy on the primary sources even when they didn't add very much - "One factory worker complained about the long hours according to his diary: "I am a factory worker and I think the hours are too long."" Even though I enjoy history I found the modern era the most interesting. I wouldn't recommend this as a complete read-through, but if you are researching factories or the industrial revolution it would be a good choice.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Luke

    3.5 stars. Liked this book a lot: it zips along and is never boring, I learned a great deal. But I never got pulled all the way into Freeman’s sense of the under-appreciated centrality of factories in modern history. And I found myself wondering over and over about the rest of the industrial landscape at any point in the story. Giant factories have never constituted the majority of world manufacturing output. Why not? That’s an unfair complaint, perhaps, given that he never claims to be writing 3.5 stars. Liked this book a lot: it zips along and is never boring, I learned a great deal. But I never got pulled all the way into Freeman’s sense of the under-appreciated centrality of factories in modern history. And I found myself wondering over and over about the rest of the industrial landscape at any point in the story. Giant factories have never constituted the majority of world manufacturing output. Why not? That’s an unfair complaint, perhaps, given that he never claims to be writing a general history of modern manufacturing. Obviously, giant factories are the star of the book and its raison d’etre. But I couldn’t get that thought out of my head, the comparison with what most manufacturers have been doing throughout the 300 years since the first textile mills sprang into being in England. Anyway, good book.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Martin Empson

    Freeman's book is a subtle study of the role of the factory in the development of capitalism, and what that means in the 21st century. He never loses sight of the fact that the factory always requires men and women whose labour is squeezed from them and turned into profits - so at every stage he notes the resistance, the rebellion, the attempts to organise and the strikes - that have terrified the bosses from England in the 18th century to China in the 21st. Freeman is not afraid of using the un Freeman's book is a subtle study of the role of the factory in the development of capitalism, and what that means in the 21st century. He never loses sight of the fact that the factory always requires men and women whose labour is squeezed from them and turned into profits - so at every stage he notes the resistance, the rebellion, the attempts to organise and the strikes - that have terrified the bosses from England in the 18th century to China in the 21st. Freeman is not afraid of using the unfashionable work of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky to understand the factory system's history - and this means that he understands the interplay between capitalism and worker well. My full review is here: http://resolutereader.blogspot.com/20...

  26. 5 out of 5

    Max

    An account of the history of industrial 'gigantism' in textile mills in England and New England, steel and auto factories in the US Midwest and the Soviet Union, and electronics manufacturing cities in China's Pearl River Delta. In Freeman's depiction industry plays a complicated social role, exploiting migrant and immigrant labor while also creating the conditions for the existence of a dignified urban working class. Particularly compelling is his argument that labor militancy and state respons An account of the history of industrial 'gigantism' in textile mills in England and New England, steel and auto factories in the US Midwest and the Soviet Union, and electronics manufacturing cities in China's Pearl River Delta. In Freeman's depiction industry plays a complicated social role, exploiting migrant and immigrant labor while also creating the conditions for the existence of a dignified urban working class. Particularly compelling is his argument that labor militancy and state responsiveness to strike demands are as influential in shaping the industrial workplace as are concerns of efficiency and consumer demand.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Richard Thompson

    I didn't feel that I learned anything from this book. It was high school level history. A lot of information, but not very deep and no interesting point of view. There is a lot more to be considered and commented on in the history of the factory and how it related to and was affected by various social and philosophical movements and the general development of society. I kept feeling that I was getting a simplified presentation for a general audience. It was an opportunity missed. I didn't feel that I learned anything from this book. It was high school level history. A lot of information, but not very deep and no interesting point of view. There is a lot more to be considered and commented on in the history of the factory and how it related to and was affected by various social and philosophical movements and the general development of society. I kept feeling that I was getting a simplified presentation for a general audience. It was an opportunity missed.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Benjamin

    An excellent history of the modern factory and the origin of the industrial system we live in. Following the evolution of the factory through time, as it moves from continent to continent each time extracting wealth from the countryside and exploiting cheap labor before it chokes on its own waste and the culture of organized labor it creates. The factory is both a system of extraction, exploitation as well as liberation and prosperity. Interestingly (or perhaps predictably) this is true regardle An excellent history of the modern factory and the origin of the industrial system we live in. Following the evolution of the factory through time, as it moves from continent to continent each time extracting wealth from the countryside and exploiting cheap labor before it chokes on its own waste and the culture of organized labor it creates. The factory is both a system of extraction, exploitation as well as liberation and prosperity. Interestingly (or perhaps predictably) this is true regardless of whether the factory is pressed into service at the hands of socialists or just allowed to take its presumably "natural" capitalistic course. The most intriguing portion for Americans may very well be the history of Soviet industrialization, which was helped along by willing American companies, over-riding the socialist voices that argued the factory must be re-imagined for the worker rather than the other way round as had happened in the West. The work closes on the mega-factories of China and perhaps future factories in Africa as the factory system runs out of new territory to expand, as well as a reflection on the 1950-1970's manufacturing in American, where despite shrinking workforce numbers and the monotony of work, wages rose and the era would become to be seen as a golden era for blue collar work. Charist G. Julian on the 1851 Chicago exposition "plunder, wrung from the people of all lands, by their conquers, the men of blood, privilege, and capital." Paul LaFarge 1889 Paris fair "the capitalists have invited the rich and powerful... to observe and admire the product of the toil of workers forced to live in poverty in the midst of the greatest wealth human society has ever produced." S.S. Marquis "as we adapt the machinery in the shop to turning out the kind of automobile we have in mind, so we have constructed our educational system with a view to producing the human product in mind." On Ford's educational system. H.J. Freyn "a modern business enterprise can scarcely be operated or managed by applying the principles of democracy" on the Taylor or "scientific" method of management still used today. So it's nice to see our problems are nothing new.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jeff Rowe

    What percentage of items within arm's distance were made in a factory? 90%? It's ridiculous really. One cannot overstate the enormous impact this institution continues to have on modern life. Individuals, society, art and technology have all been forever changed. We don't even think about anymore even though the giant factory has only been with us for 200 years or so. What a great story. Factories have been very different and served different purposes in the era in which they emerged. English tex What percentage of items within arm's distance were made in a factory? 90%? It's ridiculous really. One cannot overstate the enormous impact this institution continues to have on modern life. Individuals, society, art and technology have all been forever changed. We don't even think about anymore even though the giant factory has only been with us for 200 years or so. What a great story. Factories have been very different and served different purposes in the era in which they emerged. English textile mills operated under entirely different condition than their later counterparts in America. The author describes this in fascinating detail. The attractive young women represents the factory industry archetype during the textile age. Amazing, considering the transformation to the sweating burly male applying brute force to the machines after steel became king. Once Henry Ford introduced the assembly line, all elements of modern society are in place, including the transformation of politics and the notion of Labor as a social class. The forced industrialization of the Soviet Union introduces another phase of the evolution of the factory. This is industrialization for its own sake and not necessarily for the products that it churns out. Factories have become symbols to control entire populations. Finally, the author gives a very illuminating treatment of the Chinese factory. These are far larger than anything ever seen, yet they remain cloaked in secrecy. Unlike Henry Ford's showcase Willow Run assembly line, that was featured in new car brochures as a selling point, modern US companies benefit from a hidden manufacturing process. They deliberately distance themselves to avoid association with large exploitation of labor because social awareness and modernity is how they market products. A really great story. Highly recommended.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Jackson

    I read this book and it gives an overview on the origins of factories in England and how they migrated to America and cotton/textile mills and than River Rogue, Detroit, and Ford. Talks about the Soviet union too! He talks about China and east Asia and how American tech companies utilize their countries with low labor laws and how foreign governments and countries are cooperative with American Business demands. HOWEVER, I guess I picked up this book to learn and understand the labor laws and labo I read this book and it gives an overview on the origins of factories in England and how they migrated to America and cotton/textile mills and than River Rogue, Detroit, and Ford. Talks about the Soviet union too! He talks about China and east Asia and how American tech companies utilize their countries with low labor laws and how foreign governments and countries are cooperative with American Business demands. HOWEVER, I guess I picked up this book to learn and understand the labor laws and labor disputes in America and what led to the demise of Detroit and places like Toledo Ohio which was tire factories. While he talks about different strikes that were significant in American history, he does not go into detail about different recessions and its affects on manufacturing he does not discuss Chrysler needing a bail out 1979, he does not discuss unionbusting which led to The decrease in union membership. He briefly discuss is dispersion of the factories to “right to work states” i.e. southern states. Now, because I went to college and I had a very influential teacher, I looked up how the transition from Jimmy Carter to the Reagan administration really help propel mega companies like GE, GM, Ford, Walmart and (to a certain extent) tech companies today to find more cost efficient ways to manufacture their product. He doesn’t mention Roger Smith and the re-organization of GM in the 1980s. In sum, the book is a good overview of factories, yes if you’re looking for statistical data to the decline of American manufacturing and the political legislation that enabled companies to lead to its demise; this is not the book for you.

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