From Publishers Weekly
Drawing analogies from the 19th-century discovery of the laws of thermodynamics, European social scientists envisioned the toiling worker's body as a "human motor," a living machine; maximizing work-force efficiency and eradicating the "disease" of fatigue seemed within reach. Psychologists and physiologists subjected the body's rhythms and movements to laboratory study. The psychiatric complaint of neurasthenia, or nervous exhaustion, was epidemic, and German scientists in the early 1900s sought a vaccine to cure fatigue. In a dense, rewarding study, Rabinbach ( The Crisis of Austrian Socialism ) shows how the "science of work," spreading beyond such areas as industrial management, physical education and accident prevention, pervaded the language of technocrats, Marxists and fascists who viewed the worker as a machine. He pinpoints a source of modern spiritual malaise: the transformation from a strictly work-centered society to one in which work has been abandoned as a source of self-fulfillment.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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"A fine example of what might be called the new cultural history of science. Tracing in great detail how one metaphor from science and technology has shaped contemporary political and social thought, The Human Motor is an intriguing study." -- Robert Howard, New York Times Book Review
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"Rabinbach has performed a major feat of historical reconstruction. The Human Motor is a skillful and theoretically informed synthesis of social and intellectual history." -- Jackson Lears, The New Republic