Technology and Society: The Influence of Machines in the United States

By S. Mckee Rosen ; Laura Rosen | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VIII
LABOR

Unemployment as a Chief Problem of the Age

The Machine and the Worker.Before the days when politics and war aroused so great an interest, discussions relative to the detrimental effects of machines upon workers were common enough to become almost hackneyed. The dire results of strain, of monotonous routines, and of poor working conditions were repeatedly stressed. The sweat shop was a matter of deep concern. Long hours were condemned. Child labor was viewed with anxiety. While drawing room and trade union discourse upon these subjects was slow in actuating change, it nevertheless pointed the way to reforms which took place after the turn of the twentieth century.

Today, particularly in northern sections of the country, child labor has been virtually abolished and the old-time sweat shop is a rarity. The physical aspects of working conditions have on the whole been vastly improved. New Deal legislation such as the defunct N. R. A. and the current federal Wages and Hours Act, although far from fulfilling the fundamental spirit with which it was endowed, has greatly encouraged shortening of the work week. Still, the predicament of the worker raises a host of social problems. Questions of wages continue to be controversial as they no doubt always will. Controversies over unionization loom large. Industrial accident and disease take a yearly toll. But above all, the problem of unemployment is paramount.

The technical aspects of modern manufacture have already been dealt with in Chapter II. Industrial technology is founded, among other things, upon the principle that machines can do the work of man. It has long been assumed

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