October 13 through October 22
The Factory

Read Roediger, The Wages of Whiteness

Tuesday, Feb 27 Making a Working Class
Tursday, Feb. 22Discuss Roediger, Wages of Whiteness

Tuesday, Feb 13: Midterm Exam
Thursday, Mar. 15: The Proslavery Argument

Factory production drastically changed America, effecting not just how people worked, but how they thought of themselves as citizens. American political theorists had traditionally regarded factory production with mixed feelings. On the one hand, it seemed like a logical outgrowth of progress and rationality. Jefferson, for example, was fascinated by machines and mechanical perfection. Many of his generation regarded the Constitution itself as a political machine, a well-oiled machine in which all the parts balanced each other. The orderly motions of machines, carefully planned by educated experts, seemed like a good model for government.

But democracy also depended on an educated, independent electorate, men who thought freely and without undue influence from the powerful--men who were their own masters. Traditional production involved a master workman and various journeymen and apprentices. It assumed that after a term of training and labor under an undependent master artisan, each apprentice would eventually strike out on his own. The factory system worked against that, creating instead a large class of wage laborers who received little or no training and could expect no chance of gaining independence.

Laborers, especially male laborers, were deeply suspicious of factory labor, which they rightly saw as something which would lower their wages, reduce their autonomy, and make them dependent on a boss. They also saw that fatory labor made their skills irrelevant--it replaced their brain and brawn with machine power.

Not surprisingly, the first really large scale attempts at factry production employed women. Women typically did textile work already int he home. Women were easier to control, as they had fewer expectatios of independence, and they accepted lower wages. Employing women only increased anxiety about the morality of factory labor, however. The first large scale emploryers tried to "domesticate" factory labor, to make it seem less threatening. The most famous case was the Lowell, Massachusetts textile mills.


Click for more Information