Anxiety Comes to the Auto Capital

Anxiety Comes to the Auto Capital

Auto manufacturers in Detroit were far off the beam last December when they predicted prosperity would return with Spring and the robins.

In the Spring number of DISSENT Lewis Coser wrote:

Granted that we are not soon likely to repeat the catastrophe of the 1930’s. Yet what matters for an understanding of the mood of the nation is the fact that hundreds of thousands of people, perhaps millions, cannot be sure that they will be working next month; that many more can be sure they will not be working full weeks; that slowly the prospect of pink slips and grey faces seems real again. No one wants it; everyone dreads it; but … there is a strong feeling in the air that once again we are being shaped by those mysterious forces of capitalist society which can bring misery or sometimes plenty, but never a sense of human autonomy and decision.

I quote this passage because it is so appropriate to what is taking place in Detroit today. By now it is widely known that this motor city is listed by the Labor Department as a “distressed labor area”; that 140,000 workers are unemployed here; that unemployment compensation checks are terminating at the rate of about 2,500 a week; that, to cite but one example, the Dodge plant now employs only about 10,000 workers as compared to 30,000 last year; that many other plants are not working full weeks; that, finally, the auto manufacturers were far off the beam last December when they predicted prosperity would return with Spring and the robins.

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