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The Human Motor: Energy, Fatigue, and the Origins of Modernity Paperback – January 8, 1992


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (January 8, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520078276
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520078277
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.1 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #390,327 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"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

"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

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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Pundit on July 17, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Provides a detailed historical perspective with documentation, of western Europe's fixation with the study of fatigue, productivity. For work physiologists, this is a must read as it provides the foundational basis for present day laboratory procedures and research directions.
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0 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Libb Thims on November 17, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The book is similar in theme and content to Mirowski's 1989 More Heat than Light (albeit less technically rigorous), containing interesting trivia tidbits, e.g. that German mathematician Carl Neumann, the first to introduce the d-hat derivative symbol for inexact differentials (1875), had views on how economic life related to energetic components of energy exchanges between people. Here's a short bio on Rabinbach:

[...]

He states that the book originated from a 1993 paper he wrote.
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