CLOCKWORK: Inside an American Factory by Richard Balzer

CLOCKWORK: Inside an American Factory

Email this review


For five months in 1973 Balzer worked in Western Electric's Merrimack Valley plant in North Andover, Mass., and this is his wide-eyed study of the factory, his co-workers, on-the-job conditions, management, and the unfortunate ""adversary relationship"" which, much to Balzer's chagrin, persists between ""us"" and ""them."" Among his more stupefying observations were the facts that workers tend to sneak a smoke in the john (""the inviolability of this area is generally recognized"") and that, contrary to his preconceptions of blue-collar workers, several women wore ""pants suits or well-tailored dresses."" W.E.'s paternalism ranged from ""company-sponsored afternoon activities"" to a credit union and a quasi-official company counselor. On the other hand, Balzer worked for three months and had no idea who his shop steward was. Some of the men and women do speak frankly, though Balzer's agreement to a stipulation that ""the company had the right to review material prior to publication"" must have enhanced discretion. One grouch who said ""they run the place just like Hitler's Germany"" was subsequently ""bumped"" (demoted). There have been innovations: ""the kids won't cut their hair for the company any more."" The workers come across a lot tougher and shrewder than Balzer.

Pub Date: May 7th, 1976
Publisher: Doubleday