Drawing Capital: Depiction, Machine Tools, and the Political Economy of Industrial Knowledge, 1824-1914
Spiro, Liat Natanel
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CitationSpiro, Liat Natanel. 2019. Drawing Capital: Depiction, Machine Tools, and the Political Economy of Industrial Knowledge, 1824-1914. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThis dissertation treats transformations in the work processes and trade practices of the engineering industries in Britain, the United States, and German-speaking Europe over the long nineteenth century. Using technical print culture and firm archives (William Fairbairn, James Nasmyth, Cockerill, Baldwin Locomotive Works, Pratt & Whitney, William Sellers & Co., Borsig, Gutehoffnungshütte, Ludwig Loewe & Co. Mannesmann, Maschinenfabrik Augsburg- Nürnberg, J.E. Reinecker), the work demonstrates how the shifting locus of control within firms recast the interests and institutions of international trade in capital goods. Whereas British authorities had attempted to police flows of machinery and crafts knowledge embodied in artisans at the beginning of the nineteenth century, German and American capital goods firms would compete to export machine tools globally by its end. Critical to this shift, drafting techniques developed by French Revolutionary mathematician Gaspard Monge spread transnationally via mechanics institutes and military academies, polytechnics and print culture.
Before the advent of Taylorism, engineering employers used design techniques to displace control over work processes from the shop-floor to the drafting room starting in the U.S. Civil War. Philadelphia economist Henry Carey and self-styled “industrial publisher” Henry Carey Baird advocated not only tariffs salutary to the engineering industries but also Greenbacks, free banking, and cheap credit to facilitate the expansion of the capital goods manufacturers and enable trade with debtor states in the South and West. In the deflationary crisis of the 1870s to 1890s, engineering works employed techniques of depiction to redefine industrial labor and industrial property toward a “second enclosure” of knowledge. The things in between, drawings and models were valuated in insurance logs and eventually depreciated on firm balance sheets. Looking forward in another sense, firms amortized increasingly multi-national patent accounts in the wake of the 1883 Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property. In Imperial Germany, white-collar technical workers unionized to seek individual patent rights against the claims of engineering employers to firm-based intellectual property based on arguments about the organicism of the modern corporation—eventually extending to all activities within a firm, beyond those amenable to drawing.
The dissertation concludes with a case study of capital goods exports to late Qing and Republican China, focused on the German “model colony” of Qingdao and railroad projects such as the Tianjin-Pukou Railway. Engineering interests established technical schools and engaged in debates over currency reform, central banking, and the standardization of measures and technical components. The transition from six imperial powers seeking commercial-territorial “spheres of influence” in China to cooperative financial imperialism in the Consortium Loans helps explain the making of modern forms of development politics and dependency.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:42029460
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