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Made in the USA: The Rise and Retreat of American Manufacturing

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  271 ratings  ·  32 reviews
In "Made in the USA," Vaclav Smil powerfully rebuts the notion that manufacturing is a relic of predigital history and that the loss of American manufacturing is a desirable evolutionary step toward a pure service economy. Smil argues that no advanced economy can prosper without a strong, innovative manufacturing sector and the jobs it creates.

Smil explains how
Hardcover, 263 pages
Published August 23rd 2013 by MIT Press (MA) (first published August 16th 2013)
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Jan 30, 2015 rated it liked it
Frustrating, poorly written book. Most of the first half of the book consists of a dry recitation of statistics. One could get away with only reading the fifth chapter, which seems to summarize the rest of the book. I accept Smil's argument that deindustrialization has not been a good thing for the United States, and believe that it was not inevitable, but Smil's critique of US policy problems is unimaginative, hysterical, and driven more by media sensationalism than cool analysis. And ...more
Callum Lamb
Mar 04, 2014 rated it liked it
Vaclav Smil needs to learn about graphs.
Jan 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
Bill Gates recommended this book and I just finished Making in America: From Innovation to Market, so I decided to read this to follow-up. I recommend reading Making in America before this book. That book offers much more original content, using recent studies and surveys, and provides a greater focus on the current status of American manufacturing.

Smil's book, in contrast, examines the history of American manufacturing with a variety of statistics. He looks backward to the nineteenth century,
Sivakumar Thangavelu
Aug 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I thoroughly enjoyed this book! Specially the last 30%.

For an Industrial Designer like me working in China, I could see a lot of sense in what Smil is trying to tell in this book. I would say this as a very comprehensive and neutral outlook towards American manufacturing since it rise in the 19th century till now.

After reading his book, I went to YouTube to watch a few lectures / interviews by Vaclav Smil (on other topics as well) and I was amazed by how smart this guy is and how funny he puts
Feb 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
On top of all of the other pending dooms (climate change, partisan politics, Putin), Smil places the lack of manufacturing/loss of income parity/erosion of american supremacy prominently among my concerns. Highly detailed sociologic/economic history of manufacturing's role in the emergence of the US as a THE superpower, and frighteningly vivid portrayal of the crumbling of our power through dissection current trends.
Joey Bredesen
Dec 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The book is full of facts and figures to bolster Smil's overall assessments of the background, evolution and current state of manufacturing in the USA. Unfortunately, the book was written and researched well before Donald Trump became president and Boeing's 737 MAX crisis, so the book's "now" is no longer the present. Things have changed, and do change ever faster in the 21st century. I would love an updated version.
Nevertheless, Smil covers all the bases. He explains why manufacturing as an
Feb 20, 2018 rated it liked it
American manufacturing is retreating and it's not just because of high US salaries from a 'strong' dollar. Our infrastructure (D rating overall), workforce training (80% of high schools students are not prepared for college), health care/taxes, labor unions that have hidden costs (pensions), and regulations. There is a half-a-trillion dollar trade deficit and we only have two sectors of manufacturing where we still dominate, but are beginning to slip; chip fabrication and aerospace. This isn't ...more
Jan 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Must-read book about ups and downs of American manufacturing might.

Excellent and detailed historical developments of American manufacturing growth and decline. Detailed and sumptuous statistics make the arguments trustworthy. Threat of China’s economic expansion may be highlighted more since China has no intention to accept the American social regime, let alone democracy.
Jun 07, 2019 added it
Dense, rational, and worth every minute it takes to read it. If you want to see behind the hype to the real nuts and bolts of the state of american manufacturing and how it got there then read this book. Is it a breezy easy summer read - oh heck no! is it worth it, if you have an interest in the subject than yes.
Roger A
Sep 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent work yet again by Vacaville Smil

Smil covers a huge amount of ground in a very thorough but also very readable fashion. A highly recommended text for those wanting understand what happened to US manufacturing and why it is so important.
Mikayla Maki
Sep 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic book that attempts to explain the productivity paradox in terms of production. There’s some populist rhetoric with poor economic knowledge but generally incredibly well researched and with many interesting points.
Παναγιώτης Κυρμπάτσος
Good intent .Dry implementation
Eissa Allam
Didn't like it. Book is boring and getting into deep financial details that I personally couldn't understand.
Daniel Barker
Feb 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Dense, and lacking visualizations of data (per usual from Smil), but brilliantly insightful, nuanced, and relevant. Intensely researched, as is always the case from Smil.
terence mulhall
Feb 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Interesting topics but a very dry read. The book could benefit from the use of graphics to display information.
Nov 21, 2013 rated it it was ok
By Kevin Allison

Those who believe that making physical things is a superior vocation will find themselves nodding through much of Vaclav Smil’s “Made in the USA.” Smil, a prolific Canadian academic, challenges the widespread view that in mature economies a shrinking factory footprint is inevitable - or even desirable. He blames short-termism and bad policy choices, not just changing economic tides, for the retreat of U.S. manufacturing. The book’s call for smarter industrial policy is appealing,
daniel olson
Dec 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dry, but informative

Vaclav smil provides a detailed look at American manufacturing with lots of research and the occasional "grumpy uncle" aside. More TV pundits and economists youshould read this.
Bojana Duke
May 12, 2014 rated it liked it
I had to try it - I mean, Bill Gates says this guy is awesome. The book is certainly well researched and I'm sure the conclusions drawn by the author are sound, but it's a rather tedious slog. After struggling through the first 40 pages or so, I skipped the rest of the historical overview in favor of the conclusions, which were very informative, but also rather full of figures.

A typical paragraph:
Electricity output rose nearly tenfold between 1900 and 1920, then more than doubled during the
Carl Schroedl
Jul 18, 2015 rated it it was ok
It is disappointing that Smil's immense knowledgeable about this important topic is hampered by a disastrous writing style. This rambling book is a dry litany of cherry-picked statistics that are infrequently connected to a higher-level narrative. Crushingly long sections of the book are dedicated to hazy attempts to describe time series graphs using prose. Notice that the Bill Gates recommendation on the book jacket is for Smil's work in general, not this book in particular.
Brad Dunn
Jun 17, 2015 rated it it was ok
This is a tough book to get through. The first chapters are just so dense with facts its quite a dull read. Overall I was pretty disappointed with it - I was expecting more from the sample I got. Its a shame too as I was interested in the subject matter.
Feb 07, 2014 rated it liked it
An academic and data rich review of the rise and fall of manufacturing in the USA. Has some interesting insights into why the US auto industry lost it's world dominance and why so much manufacturing has been off-shored.
Feb 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A quietly angry book. Critics will disagree over whether Smil is Cassandra or Jeremiah, but Smil's relentlessly bloodless logical analysis (a style I particularly admire) works an incantatorily persuasive power upon the reader. As with all Smil's oeuvre, "Made in the USA" is highly recommended.
Sep 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
Oh my this book is a little frightening! I know the shift has impacts, but seeing it against the historical numbers makes it very apparent that there is a negative correlation and we are not doing much about it.
Billy Biggs
Sep 01, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: books-read-2013
Compelling, convincing and depressing.
Jul 02, 2014 rated it liked it
Five word review: Good concept. Drawn out book.
Steve McBride
Dec 02, 2013 rated it liked it
A little dry, Lots of interesting stats, hope the author is wrong.
Jan 11, 2014 rated it liked it
Some good info, but I just don't like this guy's writing style. This is the second book of his I've read.
David Brown
Mar 31, 2017 rated it liked it
Statistic heavy. Lacks depth in issues causing the decline.
It would be useful to see more details from the other in terms of how to solve the author.
Alan   Mauldin
Mar 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely mind-bottling!
Even as a total anti-mathite I appreciate the steady and rapid advance in efficiency and technology; and in the author's opinion these rapid leaps occurred much earlier than I ever imagined.
For example, all the technological advancements that helped World War II -- from the Liberty Ship to the P-51 -- were developed BEFORE the U.S. entered the war.
All of the technology that allowed us to arm and feed the world, keeping Great Britain and Stalin in the war, was sitting on
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Vaclav Smil does interdisciplinary research in the fields of energy, environmental and population change, food production and nutrition, technical innovation, risk assessment, and public policy.

He has published 35 books and more than 400 papers on these topics. He is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Manitoba, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (Science Academy), and the
“The last time such a loss occurred was during the 1930s, and what makes it such a concern this time is that the dismal job creation statistic has been accompanied by huge and rising budget deficits, large and persistent trade deficits, enormous indebtedness, a low saving rate, a worsening state of indispensable modern infrastructure, poor achievements in education for the masses, worrisome public health (marked by a historically unprecedented incidence of obesity)—and a grossly dysfunctional government to run it all. When seen from this perspective, the state of US manufacturing is a clear cause for concern.” 5 likes
“China’s ruling party, as firmly in control of the government as ever, attracts foreign companies and enormous direct investment by guaranteeing the stability of a police state and by supplying a docile workforce that labors with minimum rights, commonly for extended hours under severe discipline, and is housed in substandard conditions.” 1 likes
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