Department of American and Canadian Studies


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Daniel Watson

PhD in American Studies,


Research Summary

Current Status

PhD (full-time) - currently registered

Research Topic

American Dream, Automated Nightmare: American Organized Labor's Clash with Industrial Automation and Modernization

Research Summary

My thesis examines how American organized labor intervened in the debate over the course of domestic modernization through their responses to the growing implementation of automation technology into the workplace. I argue that trade unions promoted their own visions of consumer capitalist modernity that addressed their concerns with automation - rising levels of unemployment and loss of worker dignity due to obsolescence of artisanal skills - often advocating limited automation with plentiful safeguards. Their contentions with automation were in dialogue with the state- and corporate-led program of social theory, propaganda, and public diplomacy aiming to claim victory over the Soviet Union in the Cold War battle for the world's hearts and minds. The state and corporate vision promoted automation as the symbol of an ideal modern consumer capitalist future without physical toil and abundant with consumer goods. By analyzing worker contributions to this debate I seek to illustrate the effects of public diplomacy and understandings of patriotism and international competition on worker responses to technological development and to demonstrate how managerial-labor conflict at workplace-level served as a springboard for trade unions to critique the course of modernization on the national stage.

Research Interests

Twentieth Century American History

History of Science and Technology

Labor History

American Foreign Policy

Cultural History

Research Supervisors

Dr Christopher Phelps

Dr Bevan Sewell

Research Institutes, Centres and Research Clusters Memberships

Historians of the Twentieth-Century United States

British Association for American Studies


Daniel Watson (2018): Fordism: a review essay, Labor History, DOI:10.1080/0023656X.2019.1537031 (published online 14 November 2018)

Department of American and Canadian Studies

University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

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