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Publisher's Summary

A sweeping, global history of the rise of the factory and its effects on society 

We live in a factory-made world: modern life is built on three centuries of advances in factory production, efficiency, and technology. But giant factories have also fueled our fears about the future since their beginnings, when William Blake called them "dark Satanic mills". Many factories that operated over the last two centuries - such as Homestead, River Rouge, and Foxconn - were known for the labor exploitation and class warfare they engendered, not to mention the environmental devastation caused by factory production from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution up to today. 

In a major work of scholarship that is also wonderfully accessible, celebrated historian Joshua B. Freeman tells the story of the factory and examines how it has reflected both our dreams and our nightmares of industrialization and social change. He whisks listeners from the textile mills in England that powered the Industrial Revolution and the factory towns of New England to the colossal steel and car plants of 20th-century America, Eastern Europe, and the Soviet Union and on to today's behemoths making sneakers, toys, and cellphones in China and Vietnam. 

The giant factory, Freeman shows, led a revolution that transformed human life and the environment. He traces arguments about factories and social progress through such critics and champions as Marx and Engels, Charles Dickens, Alexander Hamilton, Henry Ford, and Joseph Stalin. He chronicles protests against standard industry practices from unions and workers' rights groups that led to shortened workdays, child labor laws, protection for organized labor, and much more. 

In Behemoth, Freeman also explores how factories became objects of great wonder that both inspired and horrified artists and writers in their time. He examines representations of factories in the work of Charles Sheeler, Margaret Bourke-White, Charlie Chaplin, Diego Rivera, and Edward Burtynsky. 

Behemoth tells the grand story of global industry from the Industrial Revolution to the present. It is a magisterial work on factories and the people whose labor made them run. And it offers a piercing perspective on how factories have shaped our societies and the challenges we face now. 

©2018 Joshua B. Freeman (P)2018 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

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History made real

Starting from the 1700s, this book takes you on a journey through the modern world. Interesting and entertaining. I highly recommend this book.

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Profile Image for Alec Drumm
  • Alec Drumm
  • 01-05-2018

Megafactories in past and present

The title of this book is somewhat misleading, because the text focuses on the largest factories in history - those with many thousands of employees. I was expecting a discussion of the evolution of the factory from its early manufacturing days to its present smaller, delocalized state. However, the book centers on the very large factories.

The early chapters on the factories that were first built in England during the industrial revolution to the assembly lines of Henry Ford are quite interesting. The book is very strong in describing working conditions in such places which are often terrible but sometimes good.

However, my attention flagged when the text shifted to steel manufacturing in Soviet Russia and later to electronics manufacturing at the enormous factory cities of Foxconn. The writer seems to be more interested in the sociological and cultural aspects of giant factories, rather than the technology and management methods required to operate them. This makes the book quite boring. The discussion of Soviet factories in particular seems to go on forever.

The narration is OK, but it annoyed me that all the foreign sources are done in accented English as if the authors were immigrants. It makes such sources appear less impactful. For example, Karl Marx is done with a heavy Russian accent, even though he was born in Germany and lived most of his life in London. The narrator seemed to lose interest himself at times and became quite monotonous.

8 people found this helpful

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  • J. R. Valery
  • 13-03-2018

Get rid of the fake accents

An otherwise excellent work. The fake accents are phony and downright insulting to the listener

11 people found this helpful

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Profile Image for Jeff Jarvis
  • Jeff Jarvis
  • 16-03-2018

Terrible reading: overdone and wrong!

What disappointed you about Behemoth?

From the very first line, I was shouting at my speakers. The book begins with a quote from Karl Marx and the performer decides to read this with an accent -- for no good reason whatsover--and then make it worse by giving Karl Marx a Russian accent! He's German, for God's sake. The audio is sloppy with overlapping inserts left in. The performance is unbearable. God bless Audible for allowing returns.

How could the performance have been better?

Different performer!

9 people found this helpful

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  • bruce
  • 20-11-2020

Very informative and interesting history

This book explains the authors view on the transition from the production of goods by individual "craftsman" to large manufacturing in singular plants staffed by hundreds to many thousands of workers, each performing a singular, and often repetitive, function. He presents evidence of the social, economic and political drivers that fueled the rise through the last several centuries as it begins in Europe, spreads to the Americas, gets adopted/adapted by the Soviets and then is magnified in current day China. As is wont to happen, a neutral system that can achieve so much good for society, is taken over by the greedy and power hungry. Large manufacturing has enabled societies to advance from the uncertainties of hand-to-mouth existence. It also, in its perversion by many (unfortunately), has wrought environmental destruction and brought the subjugation of whole classes of people. This is nothing new in human history. This subjugation has typically landed on the poor and helpless of all races, both sexes and tragically, children (still in Asia, even as i write this review). Now, to paint another picture, I believe that manufacturing is a critical infrastructure and a necessary tool for bringing societies out of poverty and squalor. It is a hope for the bottom billion (another great book!), the middle and the upper crust. It is a neutral "technology" and can be performed in a manner that provides a material positive impact on society and the environment. I would understand the author to hold this same view, and this audiobook was very instructive to me. Kudos.

I will close with a note about the narrator and his accents. I am typically distracted by purposeful accents and so i selected this audiobook with trepidation based upon the many reviews castigating the narrator for his interpretation of Marx's accent (for example). In my opinion, the value of this book's content was worth the mild distraction. Yet, i actually want to commend the narrator because the author uses many actual quotes of historical actors to support his hypothesis. The accents serve to delineate the firsthand "testimony" from the author's thoughts. They are akin to audio footnotes. I value that practice because it gives me the opportunity to think critically and develop my own conclusions. I learned much and thank the author AND narrator.

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  • Merritt McKinney
  • 07-12-2018

Horrible accents!

The reader was fine but I almost asked for a refund because of the horrible accents. Please, please, please don't attempt accents in a nonfiction book.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Rosemary
  • 05-04-2018

A Good book badly performed

This is a fascinating subject and well written too but the narrator goes off the deep end with British, French and German accents that he doesn’t imitate well at all. Drove me crazy. Have to get the hardcover instead!

4 people found this helpful

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Profile Image for Andrew George
  • Andrew George
  • 28-10-2020

If Marx had a German accent, it would be 5

Marx comes up multiple times in the book and the performer uses a Slavic accent in place of a German accent. I feel the proper portrayal of Marx would be through a napkin or while eating something. It is my belif that he and Engels met at an apothecary while searching for beard waxes and conditioners. It's just something to bring the character to life.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 30-12-2019

4/5

The narrator is pretty good, but he does accents and seems to think Karl Marx was Russian

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Profile Image for Jason S Miller
  • Jason S Miller
  • 11-10-2019

A Behemoth book on modernity

I fell like this book was brought to you by the word "modernity" which was used in every chapter multiple times, enough that it became annoying to hear.

This was a behemoth - I was interested in the impact factories had on people, the communities around them and society - but it didn't really talk much about that or it got lost in the quotes visitors to these factories made. Quotes that the narrator did in various accents - not sure if that was helpful or not.

I did like hearing about the birth of factories in the birth of the soviet union and the massive Fox-Conn factories with 300,000 people - but felt the history could have been presented better.

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  • WowZowNowCow
  • 09-07-2019

Addendum

I stopped everything I was doing and ran up here to add this to my other review, but I don't think it was published yet. But this can't wait.

The single STUPIDEST and WORST audio book in the HISTORY of audio books. Aside from execrable accent like a Canadian three-year-old trying to imitate the queen (self-consciously dropping the letter R, rather than using an English R) no matter what the class or background of the English person being quoted - he just did Karl Marx in....drum roll, please....a RUSSIAN accent. hahahahahahahahahaha

I cannot conceive how the publisher allowed this narration to be used. The book is great. The audio version is so excruciatingly horrific that it's almost comical. It would be, if I didn't really want to hear the content. But...Karl Marx with a Russian accent? My God!

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