From The Decline of the Auto-Industrial Age to The Theory of Moral Sentiments



View of cars on the 280 Freeway.
Morning traffic hundreds of trips to all sorts of jobs from San Francisco to San Jose
     I read Emma Rothschild's Paradise Lost The Decline of the Auto Industrial Age with a mixed feeling of respect and disappointment.

     Her assertion that the institutions of the Auto Industrial age are in decline, that it is a problematic kind of work, that the cars manufactured have altered and degraded our natural world and human society is quality social criticisim.


    But I am disappointed that the social criticism has not engaged with the deeper layer of the auto industrial enterprise as a successor to the preceding coal, iron and steam dominated industrial era. 

    General Motors and all of the people who bought a 1972 Vega are riding a wave of natural resources and chemical energy that was released by the commercial production of oil and the development of cheap standardized steel alloys.


   I mean to emphasize the idea that the auto-industrial era itself was driven by the vast release of energy that is associated with operating a car. A 1972 Vega might weigh 2,700 lbs. but during a 100,000 mile product lifetime it burns 58,000 lbs of gasoline. 

   The car burns more than 20 times it's weight in gasoline.



[ Using, Vega mileage 19 mi/gallon and gasoline 11 lb/gallon. ]



   From this viewpoint, the manufacturers of cars have a relatively small role. In the hands of the owner, the automobile provides years and years of mastery of time and distance on  the suburban scale of things.



   The auto-industrial age was preceded by the age of steam power and coal extraction began accelerating due to the development of the relatively efficient external condenser steam engine by James Watt. This development began entering industrial use  around 1776. .

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     From the description of Emma Rothschild's teaching activities from the biographic URL above I note that she teaches a course that uses The Theory of Moral Sentiments by Adam Smith.

   The Theory of Moral Sentiments was first published in 1759. As described by E.G. West, this book became a best seller of the time. It was reprinted several times and it established Adam Smith's reputation as a teacher and intellectual 20 years before the publication of The Wealth of Nations

    I checked out The Theory of Moral Sentiments to see how Adam Smith may have influenced the ideas developed in Paradise Lost.

   I remember a professor in an American Popular Culture course I took at Cal State LA in 1971 saying there was a very strong academic bias against scholarly writing getting too close to car culture or the technical side of car culture. 


    



  








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