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This essay examines key trends in war and posthumanism, from the early rise and recent revitalization of the idea of autonomous war machines, and the way the cyborg body acted metonymically for the unwilling soldier sent to Vietnam. The majority of military science fiction has backed away from the prospect of transhuman war, and even popular war franchises like Iron Man (comics and film) maintain that humans must and will be at the center of combat. The insistence on human agency in war flies directly in the face of US military policy, driven by the Revolution in Military Affairs. Just as war is being fought at ever greater removes by drones and autonomous weapons, popular military science fiction has retreated to representing wars whose technologies and strategies date from the mid-twentieth rather than mid-twenty-first century. Using fiction, film, and comic texts, this essay argues that maintaining human agency is crucial to the United States’s ongoing concept of itself as a frontier country advanced by determined pilgrims.
Comparing the industrializing systems of Britain and North America sets the stage for understanding the contingencies that shaped the eventual solidification of English manufacturing processes. Contrasting organizations of labor, power sources, and business organization demonstrates the particularity of the British case, as well as the larger trends in which it participated. In nineteenth-century Britain, in several instances, worker unrest led manufacturers to adopt steam power, which then began to demonstrate the advantages usually ascribed to its adoption. A series of conflicts between labor and capital - including the 1819 Peterloo Massacre in Manchester, the 1811–1817 Luddite rebellion in Yorkshire’s woolen districts, and a series of strikes in the 1820s leading to the adoption of the Iron Man self-acting mule, demonstrate the complicated, back-and-forth relationship between technical and social change.
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