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RSF Bulletin

New Book: Wrecked: How the American Automobile Industry Destroyed Its Capacity to Compete

At its peak in the 1950s and 1960s, automobile manufacturing was the largest, most profitable industry in the United States and residents of industry hubs like Detroit and Flint, Michigan had some of the highest incomes in the country. Over the last half-century, the industry has declined, and American automakers now struggle to stay profitable. How did the most prosperous industry in the richest country in the world crash and burn? In Wrecked, sociologists Joshua Murray and Michael Schwartz offer an unprecedented analysis of the downfall of the auto industry. Through an in-depth examination of labor relations and the production processes of automakers in the U.S. and Japan both before and after World War II, they demonstrate that the decline of the American manufacturers was the unintended consequence of their attempts to weaken the bargaining power of their unions.

Today Japanese and many European automakers produce higher quality cars at lower cost than their American counterparts thanks to a flexible form of production characterized by long-term sole suppliers, assembly and supply plants located near each other, and just-in-time delivery of raw materials. While this style of production was, in fact, pioneered in the U.S. prior to World War II, in the years after the war, American automakers deliberately dismantled this system. As Murray and Schwartz show, flexible production accelerated innovation but also facilitated workers’ efforts to unionize plants and carry out work stoppages. To reduce the efficacy of strikes and combat the labor militancy that flourished between the Depression and the 1970s, the industry dispersed production across the nation, maintained large stockpiles of inventory, and eliminated single sourcing. While this restructuring reduced workers’ leverage, it also decreased production efficiency and innovation. The U.S. auto industry has struggled ever since to compete with foreign automakers, and formerly thriving motor cities have suffered the consequences of mass deindustrialization.

Murray and Schwartz argue that new business models that reinstate flexible production and prioritize innovation rather than cheap labor could stem the outsourcing of jobs and help revive the auto industry. By clarifying the historical and sociological relationships between production processes, organized labor, and industrial innovation, Wrecked provides new insights into the inner workings and decline of the U.S. auto industry.

Read more or purchase a copy of the book.

New Research Grants Approved

At the Foundation’s June 2019 meeting of the Board of Trustees, six new research projects were approved in its programs on Future of Work and Social, Political, and Economic Inequality—along with eight new grants in the foundation’s special initiatives on Computational Social ScienceImmigration and Immigrant IntegrationIntegrating Biology and Social Science Knowledge, and Non-Standard Work.

Read more about the new research grants.

Funding Opportunities in RSF Programs and Special Initiatives

The next letter of inquiry deadline is August 21, 2019, at 2 p.m. Eastern Time, for these programs and special initiatives: Future of WorkBehavioral Economics; Decision Making and Human Behavior in Context; Computational Social Science; and Immigration and Immigrant Integration.

View all funding deadlines and application guidelines.

How to Apply for Funding at RSF: Grant Writing Webinar Recording

The foundation hosted a webinar on Tuesday, July 16, focused on how to write and submit a proposal for our programs. To view the recorded webinar and for more information on RSF’s grant making process, please visit our website to review our grant writing guidelines. You may also view a 5-minute video on how to use our new grants management system.

RSF Authors Win Notable Book Awards

RSF authors Bruce Western (Harvard University), Monica Prasad (Northwestern University), Janelle Wong (University of Maryland), and Suzanne Mettler (Cornell University) have received awards for their recent books.

Western’s RSF book Homeward: Life in the Year After Prison (2018) has won the Outstanding Book Award from the Inequality, Poverty, and Mobility Section of the American Sociological Association.

Prasad won the Viviana Zelizer Best Book Award from the Economic Sociology Section of the American Sociological Association for her RSF book, Starving the Beast: Ronald Reagan and the Tax Cut Revolution (2018).

The Western Political Science Association’s Committee on the Status of Asian Pacific Americans selected Wong’s Immigrants, Evangelicals, and Politics in an Era of Demographic Change (2018) for the 2019 Don T. Nakanishi Award for Distinguished Scholarship and Service.  

Mettler received the Alexander L. George Book Award from the International Society of Political Psychology for her RSF book, The Government-Citizen Disconnect (2018).

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