Reviewing Paradise Lost The Decline of the Auto-Industrial Age by Emma Rothschild



Sixties vintage Chrysler Valiant seen on the back of a wrecking truck being towed up Highway 92.
It appears the car was parked in a field in the salty rain of the San Mateo coastside.

     Paradise Lost The Decline of the Auto-Industrial Age was published 36 years ago. 

     I am pretty sure I read it when I was writing my Busbook I essay in 1979 but the book did not make it in to my footnotes. 

   Paradise Lost is a description of the social problems raised by the operation of the American automobile manufacturing industry.


   Paradise Lost draws many specific observations from the General Motors Chevrolet Vega plant in Lordstown, Ohio. The Vega was General Motors' second major effort at making a small car to match the imported cars beginning to arrive in America. 


   The Vega production line introduced welding robots and a 36 second per car production rate. Ms. Rothschild characterizes this manufacturing scheme as the ultimate expression of what she calls "Fordism". 

    "Fordism" is a term to describe the process of optimizing a production line at the expense of the quality of the work of the workers on the production line. The Lordstown production line was structured with an extreme production pace, that was called "fastest in the world".


     In the Lordstown plant, some welding robots had signs saying "Take care of me and I will do good work". The workers occupied a subordinate status as part handlers.


     Henry Ford  pioneered the automobile production line. In the Lordstown plant the conditions of human labor became extremely difficult, emotionally degrading, menial and repetitive. 


    One of the meanings of the book title Paradise Lost... is the automotive industry produces huge numbers of unskilled, repetitive, boring jobs. The kind of work involved in making cars is the opposite of paradise.



   Another very interesting word (possibly coined by Ms. Rothschild) is "Sloanism". The word describes the selling strategy devised under the leadership of Alfred P. Sloan, the President of General Motors starting in 1923 and ending in 1956 when he retired from the position of Chairman.


   The process of "Sloanism" is the proliferation of makes, models, accessories, annual styling changes,  annual technical changes, and finance and trade-in arangements that facilitate huge volumes of automobile sales.


     So a second process that the book title "Paradise Lost" points to is the deterioration of cities and expansion of suburbs that accompanies 80 years of mass production of automibiles.


   A web link to Emma Rothschild's current writings and academic positions is here:


http://www-histecon.kings.cam.ac.uk/emma_rothschild.htm
 



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