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Made in the USA: The Rise and Retreat of American Manufacturing Hardcover – August 23, 2013


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press; 1 edition (August 23, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262019388
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262019385
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #290,124 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"There's no author whose books I look forward to more than Vaclav Smil. With his vast knowledge of science and energy, history and business, he brings new insights to every topic he examines." -- Bill Gates



"Another irreplaceable entry in Smil's chronicling of the modern world. If anyone needs help understanding why making 'things' still matters in a digital world, start here. The US position as the world's reserve currency probably rests on the outcome." -- Michael Cembalest, Chief Investment Officer, JP Morgan Asset Management



"Vaclav Smil is one of our time's most insightful, thorough, and prolific analysts on the history and state of technology, humanity, and industry. Every book Smil has written has made an important contribution, but none may be more important, more timely than Made in the USA. Smil's fascinating and lucid exploration of the history and state of manufacturing in America comes at a critical time and should be the starting point for any discussion about the future for the USA." -- Mark P. Mills, Senior Fellow, Manhattan Institute

About the Author

Vaclav Smil is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Manitoba. He is the author of more than thirty books, including Harvesting the Biosphere: What We Have Taken from Nature and, most recently, Made in the USA: The Rise and Retreat of American Manufacturing, both published by the MIT Press. In 2010 he was named by Foreign Policy as one of the Top 100 Global Thinkers. In 2013 Bill Gates wrote on his website that "there is no author whose books I look forward to more than Vaclav Smil."

More About the Author


Vaclav Smil is currently a Distinguished Professor in the Faculty of Environment at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada. He completed his graduate studies at the Faculty of Natural Sciences of Carolinum University in Prague and at the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences of the Pennsylvania State University. His interdisciplinary research interests encompass a broad area of energy, environmental, food, population, economic, historical and public policy studies, and he had also applied these approaches to energy, food and environmental affairs of China.

He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (Science Academy) and the first non-American to receive the American Association for the Advancement of Science Award for Public Understanding of Science and Technology. He has been an invited speaker in more than 250 conferences and workshops in the USA, Canada, Europe, Asia and Africa, has lectured at many universities in North America, Europe and East Asia and has worked as a consultant for many US, EU and international institutions. His wife Eva is a physician and his son David is an organic synthetic chemist.

Official Website: www.vaslavsmil.com

Customer Reviews

The book is very well written and has many interesting facts and history.
Kent Price
Real value is created in manufacturing and the folks doing the work spend their earnings in our economy and they derive a certain dignity from making something.
Charles H. Caban
Smil's book is packed with remarkable facts about the rise of various consumer and producer technologies and America's competitive place in the global economy.
Busy Boxer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Todd Medema on March 27, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Sure, there are some really interesting insights. Sure, Bill Gates recommends it.

But, you know what? I had to slog through it, and I'm normally fascinated with economics.

Here's why: Smil draws some really interesting insights from economic data, but decided to include all of that economic data in pretty much raw text. There's narry a graph or chart in the entire book, but rather entire pages full of "In 1980, the United States' GDP was $3.7 trillion. In 1981, it was $3.9 trillion. In 1982, it was $4 trillion. This represents a 9% growth over 3 years."

There's a reason graphs were invented: to show numerical data in a way that's easier to understand at a glance. If Smil re-wrote the book with this one fix, it would be a quarter the length and actually enjoyable to read.

Until then, don't bother.
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I was pretty sure I would appreciate this book even before I bought it, since Prof. Smil's track-record for books is impeccable. Since the future of U.S. manufacturing and its essential role for U.S. energy security is of interest to me, I decided to look at the broad picture that Prof. Smil provides here. In particular, I am interested in how a combination of solar thermal infrastructure and advanced nuclear power stations -- all U.S. built -- will improve U.S. security, prosperity, and climate stability. To understand where we need to go, and how to get there, an expertly written and comprehensive history needs to be understood.

After reading the book I grasped the high growth years and the key role of electricity generation in the late 1800s, the U.S. leadership in many fields in the 1950s and 60s (truly impressive in light of today's competition with China and Western Europe), and the gradual (and sometimes steep) decline in the 70s and 80s.

Just as in his other books, Prof. Smil has a way of presenting insights that few realize, just a few here are: the overall increase resource intensity in spite of the common idea that an information economy and computers reduce resource consumption; the narrative showing US federal government and semiconductor chip company R&D alliances (a partial model for U.S. energy infrastructure alliances in the future?). Finally, there is Prof. Smil's partly inspiring and partly foreboding last chapter of the book.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Busy Boxer on October 13, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you are interested in a broad historical overview of American manufacturing, this is a good place to start. Smil's book is packed with remarkable facts about the rise of various consumer and producer technologies and America's competitive place in the global economy. (I love it when he compares the U.S., China, Japan and Germany at various points throughout the book.)

At times the book it recursive, and Smil also makes a number of arguments that are not adequately supported by the evidence presented. However, Smil's book is nonetheless enormously valuable. His opinions do not seem to be driven by ideology, but by his analysis of macro-trends in the global economy.

Five stars!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By robrrt thoburn on December 31, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Provides well documented review and historical significance of manufacturing in the development of the US economy and compares it with other nations. Has a well-reasoned argument for building our economic base as an important corner-stone of the economy. Automation will prevent huge increases in employment, but will likely help provide jobs for properly trained workers. The Walmart's of the country have little loyalty to the country seeking only to maximize profit by seeking the lowest cost labor. This being the case we need to find ways to encourage companies to sell products from here and return capital here to bring the trade deficit back into balance.The imbalance in manufacturing and service and consumption appear to be creating areas of economic illness.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Jack Littley on February 17, 2014
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Smil demonstrates our rise and retreat and paints a bleak picture of our future. The real question that went unanswered is what now? Are we doomed to watch government, health care and entitlements eat our GDP?

I'm not optimistic
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Kent Price on October 19, 2014
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The material is organized in six main sections plus an Introduction, References, and Indexes:
(1) Why manufacturing matters
(2) The ascent, 1865 - 1940
(3) Dominance, 1941 - 1973
(4) The retreat, 1974 -
(5) The past and the future
(6) Chances of success

The book explains how manufacturing became such a fundamental force in creating and advancing the United States' economic might. It is a story about past achievements and recent failures. The book is very well written and has many interesting facts and history.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Adán Salgado on February 18, 2014
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The books is a clear and very documented analysis about the industrial declining of the US. Professor Smil explains that because of the absurd idea of outsourcing vital industrial branches like management and important things like software designing, the US is losing weigh as an international manufacturer, even that it was the leader in the early 20th century. So, he concludes that if the US doesn't recover its industrial dynamism and innovative capabilities, it's going to be very soon a country based solely upon service sector and it's going to depend on the technology and the science of other countries, like China, for example
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