America Design by David F. Noble

ISBN: 9780394499833

Published: May 12th 1977


384 pages


America  by  Design by David F. Noble

America by Design by David F. Noble
May 12th 1977 | Hardcover | PDF, EPUB, FB2, DjVu, audiobook, mp3, ZIP | 384 pages | ISBN: 9780394499833 | 5.77 Mb

There was a lot of great history written in the 1970s. In the academic world at least, much of it involved detailed examinations of the social and institutional background of our modern economy, and the writers who conducted it, like David Noble here, were often rapacious researchers who compiled many fascinating facts and anecdotes.

The problem was they were often also orthodox Marxists, like Noble again, who clung to increasingly unrealistic beliefs about the revolutionary potentials inherent in capitalist development.Noble states that his book was written to understand why the revolutionary tendencies of science, as identified by Marx, did not lead inexorably to a great proletarian revolution.

Now, most of us, confronted with overwhelming evidence that history was not progressing as Marx planned, would have given up the ghost of the old German philosopher and found some sort of new theory, but Noble, like so many others of his time, tried to fit the tale of fin-de-siecle development into the threadbare Marxist suit. In his case, it is engineers across America who unconsciously carried out their capitalist marching orders by standardizing production and education and thus suppressing revolution.There are too many contradictions here to warrant extended discussion, but one problem with his thesis is that many engineers, from Henry Gantt to Charles Steinmetz to their resident theorist Thorstein Veblen, were staunch socialists themselves, whose mathematical minds often lurched for clear, crisp governmental solutions to complex social problems.

Another is that many non-socialist engineers differed on exactly how they should reform corporations, government, etc. There was no strict capitalist or corporatist position.Still, theres some good stuff in this book. The discussions of patent reform are great(WWI caused the government to create numerous patent pools, like for all airplanes or radio technology- the experience led to a taste for more stability in the patent system, and so the Lampert Patent Office Bill of 1922 created a separate patent court and raised Patent Office requirements), as are those on the creation of uniform industrial standards (Congressmen Southard tried unsuccessfully to have all government contracts in the metric system way back in the 1890s, and, despite support from Carnegie, Ford and others, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers denounced him as a socialist and helped defeat his bill- in 1902 Southard introduced a more acceptable version which created a Bureau of Standards in the Department of the Interior and received near universal support).

Unfortunately the majority of the book, despite the authors claim at comprehensiveness, is taken up with a byzantine discussion of the history of engineers in higher education, a story with so many characters and organizations and colleges it seems impossible for even the author to understand how it all develops.So this book relates some interesting facts and stories on the rise of the engineering profession and of engineers importance in shapng the modern economy.

Nobles use of those facts, however, leaves much to be desired.

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