Jesse Adams Stein
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The continuity of craft masculinities
From letterpress to offset-lithography
in Hot metal
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This chapter considers the effect that an autonomous technical artefact – the printing press – had on the workers in charge of them, the press-machinists. It establishes how the printing press possesses material and social agency in the continuity and transformation of craft masculinity. This issue is examined in the context of the technological shift from letterpress printing to high-speed offset-lithography, which took place chiefly in the 1970s. While the compositors’ experience of technological change has received some attention in labour history and sociology, the trade of press-machining has been almost entirely ignored. Charting the printing industry’s transition from letterpress to offset-lithography opens a new window of understanding into the relevance and influence of large-scale technical machinery on the shop floor. This is related back to the reinforcement of craft masculinities in declining industrial contexts. This allows us to see how particular practices and identities are sometimes maintained and reinvigorated when a conservative institution is threatened with change.

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Hot metal

Material culture and tangible labour


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