Menace in the West: The Rise of French Anti-Americanism in Modern Times

By David Strauss | Go to book overview

chapter 11
The Second Industrial Revolution: The Assembly Line and Mass Society

I am horrified by her [ America's] jazz, her shattering advertisements, her brutality, her cult of Mammon, the falsest of false gods, and I defend the grace, the order and the taste of Latin culture, within me and without, against these horrors.

-- Camille Mauclair, 1931

After American entry into World War I, the widespread use of the moving assembly line in American factories was frequently reported and praised in France. In the early twenties, the advocates of mass production persisted in their campaign and encountered little opposition within France. Suddenly in 1927, hostility to the assembly line became the central feature of the literature on the United States and the principal subject of other books and articles. This change in attitude was produced by several developments which were more or less directly related to the assembly line. Frenchmen who had ignored or tolerated this device now reconsidered their view at least in part in response to the deterioration of Franco-American relations. The end of the war and the consequent decline in the demand for armaments as well as the completion of reconstruction in the devastated areas made productivity somewhat less critical and less attractive. Even more important was the changing connotation of the assembly line. In the early twenties, it was regarded primarily as an efficient means of producing goods. Little attention was paid to its broader implications for society. After 1927, the assembly line ceased

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