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Book Reviews 119 Book Reviews Oliver Zunz. Making America Corporate, 1870-1920. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990. Pp. x + 267 and illustrations. Professor Zunz has a facility not only for choosing important, seminal, topics for investigation, but also for presenting them in a provocative and compelling manner. This was true of his first book, The Changing Face of Inequali'ty, and even more so of his most recent effort. Zunz takes a subject-the creation of a corporate mindset, and of a new middle class who embody it-and immediately draws the reader into his fold. Whereas some might be inclined to view the topic as boring, as lacking in fire or drama, this is dispelled in the first few pages of his introduction. There we meet Arthur Miller and C. Wright Mills, with their gloomy, pessimistic and negative views of these "Willie Lomans." Immediately , however, that view is countered in Zunz's quoting from a letter from Richard Hofstadter to Mills, accusing the latter of being excessively negative, saying: "You detest white-collar people too much, altogether too much, perhaps because in some intense way you identify with them" (3). That's enough to hook most readers, and the balance of the book does little to disappoint. Zunz takes this thematic cue from Hofstadter: this new middle class are not simply pawns of the robber barons and giant corporations in the industrializing of America. Rather, "members of this new employee class interpreted the job of industrializing the land as their mission, and, to a large extent, succeeded in shaping the workplace in their own image" (4). The principal question Zunz asks in his book is "how did corporate capitalism succeed in creating a new work culture and an altogether new outlook on life?" (8). He devotes seven well-written and engaging chapters to answering this question. The first of these chapters illustrates dramatically the challenge of new large corporate units to the older forms of decentralized nineteenth-century capitalism by focusing on a series of agents of the E. I. Du de Nemours Powder Company in Pennsylvania. Through use of company records and community histories , Zunz sensitively evokes the role of these men in their towns and in the powder company, and how this relationship began to change in the 1870s and 1880s. In chapter 2, Zunz examines this new corporate bureaucratic group by 120 Canadian Review of American Studies looking at the managerial middle class in the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad. The chapter is too dense to be easily summarized, but suffice to say that Zunz shows why young, ambitious men were eager to accept middlemanagement jobs in these corporations-there they found power, intellectual challenge, the possibility for empire building, and for influencing the nature of society at large. Chapter 3 presents the contrasting business strategics and managerial styles and theories of DuPont, General Motors, Ford, and Equitable Insurance. The great complexity and heterogeneity of the supposedly monolithic big business segment is made abundantly clear. Chapter 4, titled "Inside the Skyscraper," does just that; it takes the reader inside the large skyscrapers vaulting up on America's skyline and demonstrates jut what went on there. Here we meet the lowly clerks, absorbed in detail; men and women who would never experience the excitement and power of the managers. Chapter 5 extends this analysis of white-collar work, stressing its middle-class orientation, and the extent to which, despite a similar pattern of routinization and standardization, these occupations remained distinct from, and preferable to, blue-collar work. Chapter 6 demonstrates the way in which corporate America, through the reaper, the automobile , the sewing machine, and other corporate ventures transformed the countryside, so that at the very time (the 1920s) when politicians and writers were either celebrating or cursing the differences between rural and urban life, business was rapidly eradicating that distinction. Chapter 7 discusses salesmen, those advance agents of corporate America. Although salesmen and drummers had been around for a long time, Zunz shows how they became professionalised in the twentieth century, and how these salesmen were drawn more closely into the system of corporate power. Zunz's work might strike some as an analog to...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1710-114X
Print ISSN
0007-7720
Pages
pp. 119-121
Launched on MUSE
2019-01-02
Open Access
No
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