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14 Mar 3:30am

Behemoth by Joshua B Freeman review – how factories changed the world

The Guardian
Ranging from 18th-century Derbyshire to 21st-century China, this study has a memorable fact or an intriguing thought on every page The demise of the factory in the western world ranks high among the explanations for Brexit and Donald Trump. With it came the geographic isolation of the old factory lands from national prosperity, and the alienation of the former factory classes from the mainstream of British and American life. Furnaces lost their fires and smokestacks crashed to the ground. Industrial towns and cities grew ruinous – far too grand for the little business they now contained. People were poorer and felt that governments didn’t care. The US lost roughly 5m manufacturing jobs between 2000 and 2016, while the UK lost 619,000 from 2006 to 2016 – adding in each country to the millions that had vanished in the previous three or four decades. An idea of the future also disappeared. These were regarded as “good jobs”: well paid (when they were skilled), secure, with regular hours, subsidised canteens and paid holidays. “The unionised giant factory helped create what many Americans look back at as a golden era of shared prosperity,” writes Joshua B Freeman of a recent time “when children did better than their parents and expected their children to do better than themselves.”
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