Blood, Sweat, and Fear
Violence at Work in the North American Auto Industry, 1960-1980
University of Illinois Press 2017
New Books in American StudiesNew Books in Critical TheoryNew Books in EconomicsNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in SociologyNew Books Network November 20, 2017 Stephen Hausmann
In the twenty first century, violence at work is often described in the context of a lone employee “snapping” and harming coworkers or management. In his new book, Blood, Sweat, and Fear: Violence at Work in the North American Auto Industry, 1960-1980 (University of Illinois Press/UBC Press, 2017), Jeremy Milloy argues that violence in the workplace has a much deeper and more complicated history, and that the stereotype of the quiet loner suddenly deciding to commit violence against their peers conceals much more than it reveals. In short, violence on the job has a history. The shift from violence committed by management against striking workers to individualized violence in the form of shootings and assaults among workers occurred as labor unions lost power and splintered into radical and more mainstream factions. By examining the often hyper-masculine heyday of the mid-twentieth-century auto industry, Milloy makes a strong case for a broader definition of what constitutes violence at work under capitalism. In the words of one attorney reflecting on a workplace shooting in a Detroit Chrysler factory, “Chrysler pulled the trigger.” The structure of auto manufacturing work itself bred a culture of violence on the factory floor. In both Detroit, Michigan and Windsor, Ontario, race, gender, and labor dynamics mediated the relationships between employees in the sprawling auto factories that straddled the Canadian-American border. Blood, Sweat, and Fear tells the stark story of life and death within those plants as the nature of work and labor changed in the late twentieth century.
Jeremy Milloy earned his PhD at Simon Fraser University and is a SSHRC postdoctoral fellow at Trent University.
Stephen Hausmann is a doctoral candidate at Temple University and Visiting Instructor of history at the University of Pittsburgh. He is currently writing his dissertation, a history of race and the environment in the Black Hills and surrounding northern plains region of South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana.