Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The gilded cage: Manufacturers' associations and the formation of capitalist class -consciousness in the United States, 1820–1900
by Wycoff, Joseph H., Ph.D., University of Washington, 2009, 498; 3370604
Abstract (Summary)

My dissertation examines the meetings, bulletins, and journals of manufacturers' associations as sites of discursive production for manufacturers' class-consciousness from the Jacksonian era to the first years of the Progressive era. My argument is twofold. First, artisans of the city and state craft associations professed a new spirit of republicanism as a means to solidify their class power in the antebellum United States. Communicated through mechanic institutes and journals, the artisans articulated a new political economy of manufacturing to challenge the primacy of agricultural and commercial interests in the antebellum period. The craftsmen gave up their long-held practice of transmitting craft "mysteries" from generation-to-generation primarily through contractual apprenticeships—a break with the closed-lip, highly regulated transmission of craft knowledge. In this era, artisans turned to print media and public spectacles to promote technical and political subjects that celebrated the progress of civilization as the outcome of mechanics genius and inventiveness. The second part of my argument is that the ascendancy of print media and discourses of political economy radically transformed American manufacturers' class-consciousness and ultimately shaped the direction of industrialization during the nineteenth century. In the 1840s and 1850s, sectional journals that appealed to commercial and mercantile classes imitated the styles of mechanic journals. In opposition to artisans' republicanism and focused increasingly on domestic trade, the commercial journals popularized the "Lowell system" as a system of manufacturing with the potential to replace the craft manufacturing system. While both discourses persisted into the late antebellum period, American manufacturers constituted national industrial associations after the Civil War that melded elements of the artisanal and commercial systems of manufacturing into an entirely new form. In constitutions, annual meetings, and monthly bulletins, the national industrial associations solidified the class-identity of industrialists who shared common interest in the management of national industrial resources and "the home market." By the 1890s, manufacturers' differences attenuated within and across industries, creating the conditions for the organization of the National Association of Manufacturers of the United States of America: a single, umbrella association putatively for all American industrial capitalists.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Gregory, James N.
School: University of Washington
School Location: United States -- Washington
Source: DAI-A 70/08, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: American history, Labor relations
Keywords: Capitalist, Class consciousness, Industrialization, Manufacturing, Mirror of production, Social classes, Trade associations
Publication Number: 3370604
ISBN: 978-1-109-31672-8
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