Retirement on the Line: Age, Work, and Value in an American Factory
Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2012.
Address for correspondence: Wydział Historyczny, Uniwersytet Warszawski,
ul. Krakowskie Przedmieście 26/28, 00-927 Warsaw, Poland
Caitrin Lynch’s book Retirement on the Line: Age, Work, and Value in an American Factory explores the meanings of work for employees of Vita Needle, a family-owned stainless steel needle factory on the outskirts of Boston, Massachusetts. The book is based on intensive ethnographic research undertaken by the author during 2006– 2011. Working on Vita’s shop floor, side by side with factory employees, enabled the author to produce a rich, nuanced, and insightful piece of anthropological writing that not only explores “what work means for people … of conventional retirement age” (3), but also touches upon broader social issues such as aging, productivity, and work ethic in the contemporary United States. The book also includes a discussion of the place of anthropologists in the field that is extensively covered by the media — Vita Needle has been of interest to multiple journalists—and their role in producing and reproducing knowledge. The book is divided into two parts. The first section, “Up the Stairs,” consists of three chapters and gives an account of social relations on the Vita Needle shop floor. These chapters consistently discuss the ways in which “eldersourcing”—employing people of retirement age on flexible contracts, without social benefits, and at low wages—is interpreted and managed by the Vita community. The second part of the book, “In the Press,” focuses on the image of Vita’s factory as it is (re)produced by various media outlets, as well as on workers’ agency in influencing media accounts.