a brilliant and undervalued work. the concepts of cost and efficiency are so well illustrated. this book's thesis: a modest structural change=a vast change in output. it would have been nice if babbage had identified the converse these, that a slight diminution in output=serious structural defect. which aptly describes this nosediving farce of a country, what with its wonderful lib-scum great society ('get votes, to hell with tomorrow') politics. this country is doomed. another corollary of babbage's thesis (or rather, a corollary of the converse): the police state, the endless wars--these are concomitants of left wing scum spending. hipsters should read this. but they won't, 'cuz they're hipsters not that right wingers in this country are much better. (but they're not really right wingers. but i digest.)
Written in 1832, this book is a contemporary observer's account of how machinery and manufacturing helped create unprecedented prosperity during the Industrial Revolution in England. The book is basically a text on economics as applied to manufacturing. It was intended for a lay audience, particularly ambitious factory workers. Much of the information that's cited in the book came from the author's direct observations in factories in Britain and on the Continent.
The first third of the book examines in detail the machines themselves, as examples of how machines increased productivity in various ways: by quickly making many copies of some object, by applying super-human forces to materials, by working faster than humans can, etc. This section will interest mainly historians of technology, although there are some curious tidbits; e.g., caterpillars that can be tricked into making lace (p. 94).
The author then considers factory management, which includes the importance of the division of labor, of minimizing waste, of good labor relations, etc.
The book closes with a discussion of the role of government in the economy; e.g., the effects of taxes, protectionist legislation, patents, setting standards, etc.
The author, Charles Babbage (1792-1871), designed the world's first true programable computer. His ideas were a century ahead of his time; e.g., he speculates about hydrofoils (p. 41), seismographs (p. 75), the use of computers in generating tables of mathematical data (p. 162), the centralized distribution of motive power (p. 228), and the possibility of extraterrestrial life (p. 301).
He repeatedly argues that labor's and management's interests are not inherently opposed. Thus, he argues against both unions and cartels (Ch. 30, 31). In Ch. 26 - citing the example of some mines in Cornwall - he urges profit-sharing in order to motivate workers to help raise the productivity of their companys.
The book has some shortcomings: The prose is dull, pedantic. There's no table of contents nor index. The editing is sloppy: there are too many typos, and in several places, spaces between words are missing; e.g., "...beclearlyperceived, byimagingasociety, inwhichoccupation[s]..." (p. 260). Chapter 32 is titled "23".
However, the book will interest historians who seek a contemporary's account of the Industrial Revolution as it surged around him.