American Abyss: Savagery And Civilization In The Age Of Industry by Daniel E. BenderAmerican Abyss: Savagery And Civilization In The Age Of Industry by Daniel E. Bender

American Abyss: Savagery And Civilization In The Age Of Industry

byDaniel E. Bender

Paperback | January 8, 2013

Pricing and Purchase Info

$40.00 online 
$44.95 list price save 11%
Earn 200 plum® points

Prices and offers may vary in store


In stock online

Ships free on orders over $25

Not available in stores


At the beginning of the twentieth century, industrialization both dramatically altered everyday experiences and shaped debates about the effects of immigration, empire, and urbanization. In American Abyss, Daniel E. Bender examines an array of sources—eugenics theories, scientific studies of climate, socialist theory, and even popular novels about cavemen—to show how intellectuals and activists came to understand industrialization in racial and gendered terms as the product of evolution and as the highest expression of civilization.

Their discussions, he notes, are echoed today by the use of such terms as the "developed" and "developing" worlds. American industry was contrasted with the supposed savagery and primitivism discovered in tropical colonies, but observers who made those claims worried that industrialization, by encouraging immigration, child and women's labor, and large families, was reversing natural selection. Factories appeared to favor the most unfit. There was a disturbing tendency for such expressions of fear to favor eugenicist "remedies."

Bender delves deeply into the culture and politics of the age of industry. Linking urban slum tourism and imperial science with immigrant better-baby contests and hoboes, American Abyss uncovers the complex interactions of turn-of-the-century ideas about race, class, gender, and ethnicity. Moreover, at a time when immigration again lies at the center of American economy and society, this book offers an alarming and pointed historical perspective on contemporary fears of immigrant laborers.

Daniel E. Bender is Associate Professor of History and Canada Research Chair in Urban History, University of Toronto. He is the author of Sweated Work, Weak Bodies: Anti-Sweatshop Campaigns and Languages of Labor and coeditor of Sweatshop USA: The American Sweatshop in Historical and Global Perspective.
Title:American Abyss: Savagery And Civilization In The Age Of IndustryFormat:PaperbackDimensions:344 pages, 9.38 × 6.63 × 0.27 inPublished:January 8, 2013Publisher:Cornell University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0801478367

ISBN - 13:9780801478369

Look for similar items by category:


Editorial Reviews

"American Abyss is a brave, stimulating exploration of the intersections of evolution, industry, empire, race, and work in modern American culture and politics. With the raw energy of Jack London, Daniel E. Bender plunges into the abyss of fears about degeneration in industrial America and emerges with an astute mapping of Progressive-era thought."—Michael Edward McGerr, Indiana University, author of A Fierce Discontent: The Rise and Fall of the Progressive Movement in America, 1870–1920