From Alienation to Addiction: Modern American Work in Global Historical Perspective, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

From Alienation to Addiction

Modern American Work in Global Historical Perspective, 1st Edition

By Peter N. Stearns


192 pages

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Over the past two hundred years, work experiences have changed greatly, causing new issues such as heightened boredom and alienation, but also new levels of obsession with work. This book looks at the modern changes in work, examining global patterns but also special features of the work culture in the United States. For the world, the United States, and also key groups such as women and children, understanding the modern history of work goes a long way toward explaining key issues in the U.S. work culture today.


“Are Americans workaholics or industrious? Is work fulfilling or does it drive us crazy? When does a ‘right to work’ become a ‘need to work’? It takes a master historian like Peter Stearns to successfully take us across two centuries and three continents for answers. Every student—and a lot of us who are already in the work force and wonder why we don't have us much vacation time as Europeans—needs to read and think about this nuanced and often surprising account of changing work patterns and attitudes.”

—Daniel Walkowitz, New York University, author of Working with Class: Social Workers and the Politics of Middle-Class Identity

“The book has all the features one anticipates from a work by Peter Stearns—lucid synthesis, acute judgments, and an exceptionally broad coverage of space and time.”

—Daniel T. Rodgers, Princeton University, author of The Work Ethic in Industrial America, 1850-1920

“With crystalline prose and a touch of wry humor, Stearns dispatches with a monumental task; he is the first to look back on the history of industrial work from its pre-modern beginnings through the lens of present-day concerns with overwork, immigration, technological redundancy, as well as the peculiarities of American workplace complaints.”

—Leon Fink, University of Illinois–Chicago, author of In Search of the Working Class: Essays in American Labor History and Political Culture

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments Series Preface Chapter 1: Introduction: Analyzing Work as an Experience Chapter 2: Work in Premodern Societies Chapter 3: Work and the American Tradition Chapter 4: The Impact of Industrialization Chapter 5: Modern Work the American Way Chapter 6: Rearranging Modern Work: The Young, the Old, and the Female Chapter 7: Global Trends in the Past Half Century: The Industrialization of the World Chapter 8: A Workaholic Nation? The Past Half Century Chapter 9: Conclusion: Work Issues in the Present and Future Index About the Author

About the Series

United States in the World

This series focuses on the United States’ interaction with and impact on world societies in key sectors of activity, with an interdisciplinary bent, in the globalizing 21st century. With relatively short books written at the college level and popular for the general public, as well, United States in the World places key topics in US history in international perspective, seeking to address the questions: What special contributions or limitations have resulted from US activities during a period when it has maintained a preeminent power position in world affairs? Has there been an "American flavor," for better or worse, to US efforts? Has there been a gap between apparent US intentions and actual results and reception in various parts of the world? How have international efforts in the sector affected internal developments in the US during the period?

These books do not assume US superiority or unchallenged dominance. They do identify areas where American people, ideas, and institutions have deliberately sought a global role in recent decades, assessing the nature and quality of their results and their interplay with other regional and global actors. Considering appropriate, variable historical focuses, books include a final section on the relevant current situation in the topic area. Historians with an interest in the contemporary period will be crucial contributors, but the series also recruits historically-minded scholars in Communication Studies and the various social sciences, especially Politics and International Studies. College courses from all those areas and beyond will be the natural home for these books.

A variety of topics are explored

Race, Gender, Religion

Human & Civil Rights

Trade & the Global Economy

Migration & Immigration

The Military, Diplomacy, Foreign Policy

Engineering, Technology, Public Health

Energy & the Environment

Media & Social Media

Management & Business


Learn more…

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