Labor's End traces the discourse around automation from its origins in the factory to its wide-ranging implications in political and social life. As Jason Resnikoff shows, the term automation expressed the conviction that industrial progress meant the inevitable abolition of manual labor from industry. But the real substance of the term reflected industry's desire to hide an intensification of human work--and labor's loss of power and protection--behind magnificent machinery and a starry-eyed faith in technological revolution. The rhetorical power of the automation ideology revealed and perpetuated a belief that the idea of freedom was incompatible with the activity of work. From there, political actors ruled out the workplace as a site of politics while some of labor's staunchest allies dismissed sped-up tasks, expanded workloads, and incipient deindustrialization in the name of technological progress.
A forceful intellectual history, Labor's End challenges entrenched assumptions about automation's transformation of the American workplace.
About the Author
Jason Resnikoff is a lecturer in the Department of History at Columbia University.
"Resnikoff's forceful and coherent argument reveals that automation was not a technological process but an ideology which equated freedom with freedom from work and downplayed the workplace as a site of politics. As he convincingly shows, automation largely did not lead to a reduction in labor but rather to speedup, work intensification, and the degradation of labor, creating a huge chasm between the grandiose claims made about an automated future and the lived reality of workers."--Joshua Freeman, author of Behemoth: A History of the Factory and the Making of the Modern World