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Name: Daniel Watson

PhD: American and Canadian Studies

Thesis Title: Pondering Progress: American Organized Labor's Clash with Industrial Automation and Modernization


Thesis Description:

My thesis examines how American organized labor intervened in the debate over the course of domestic modernization through their responses to the growing implementation of automation technology into the workplace. I argue that trade unions promoted their own visions of consumer capitalist modernity that addressed their concerns with automation - rising levels of unemployment and loss of worker dignity due to obsolescence of artisanal skills - often advocating limited automation with plentiful safeguards. Their contentions with automation were in dialogue with the state- and corporate-led program of social theory, propaganda, and public diplomacy aiming to claim victory over the Soviet Union in the Cold War battle for the world's hearts and minds. The state and corporate vision promoted automation as the symbol of an ideal modern consumer capitalist future without physical toil and abundant with consumer goods. By analyzing worker contributions to this debate I seek to illustrate the effects of public diplomacy and understandings of patriotism and international competition on worker responses to technological development and to demonstrate how managerial-labor conflict at workplace-level served as a springboard for trade unions to critique the course of modernization on the national stage.


Supervisors and Institution(s):

Dr. Christopher Phelps (University of Nottingham)

Dr. Bevan Sewell (University of Nottingham)

Publications (please include full details with page nos. or web links):

  • 'Fordism: A Review Essay', Labor History (accepted for publication)

Other Research Interests:

  • Twentieth Century American History

  • History of Science and Technology

  • Labor History

  • American Foreign Policy

  • Cultural History


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