PARADISE LOST by Emma Rothschild
Kirkus Star


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A book about the auto industry. You expect either a dreary progress report or standard muckrake about pollution, unsafety, superprofits. But this extraordinarily sound and accessible investigation explains that the U.S. giants are not simply flagging but collapsing. Rothschild gets beyond the point of view of consumers, executives, or workers on the line in pursuing this development, actually making the production process lucid, aided by comparisons with the extinction of British steel and textiles which are very much to the point. The ""Fordist"" assembly-line mass production structure has continued to depend on human labor which is cheaper than tree automation; the industry introduces new machines only when they serve the purpose of speeding up this labor. In short, early technology still prevails, and by Rothschild's account the true scandal is the industry's refusal to make serious capital investment to replace old equipment. Unlike such writers as Stanley Aronowitz (see above), Rothschild sees that an advanced stratum of management has already begun pushing ""workers' participation"" in an effort to gloss over dismal jobs. She believes that the parts-assembly hellholes could be eliminated and suggests that we could ""preserve the benefits of auto freedom without. . .excesses of auto waste."" (She also goes some distance in blasting the idea of foreign competition as the cause of the U.S. auto industry's decay.) From ""Modern Times"" to modern times -- a splendid study of labor-management underinvestment and backwardness.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1973
Publisher: Random House