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

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

CHAPTER XIII
THE FAMILY

The Family and Social Change

The family confronts the machine in America. Here are the Joads so vividly portrayed in John Steinbeck The Grapes of Wrath. The mechanized tractor has driven them from their land. An old dilapidated car has taken them to California in a hopeless search for work. Death and disintegration sever their last haven of defense—the family. Are the Joads unusual? Are they far different from the host of automobile trailer dwellers who have fled the big city to spend their lives by roadsides and in camps? Do not both portend something fundamental which is uprooting a large number of American families?

The Early American Family.Man through the ages has built a structure of living in which family, religion, economy, and government are the cornerstones. Emphasis has rested unevenly upon one or another of these institutions as civilization has developed. There was a time when the home was the center of interest—of work and trade, of education and recreation. Up until the nineteenth century the United States exemplified a domestic economy of this sort. Ninety‐ five per cent of the population lived on farms. The home was the place of processes of production as well as of domesticity. Each of the items which went into its making was constructed by hand. To a large extent the family group wove its own cloth, kneaded its own bread, and furnished its own light and fuel. Such small shops and manufacturing establishments as existed were operated on a corresponding scale. Master craftsmen and apprentices earned a livelihood through the development of individual skills. Workshops were largely residential. This social order was essentially pre-industrial in nature.

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