In his sustained treatment of the Czech author Karel Čapek's masterwork, R.U.R., Toby Higbie suggests the ways that the playwright's imagery (repeated in subsequent science fiction) of “robots” drew on contemporary fears and foreboding about industrial work. For one, the image of machine-made men bore a close resemblance to the bureaucratic transformation of factory floors under the regime of Taylorism. However, Higbie asks, “Could democracy survive with robot-like citizens? What kind of politics would come from people so dominated by the machine process?” After tracking the robot image from the 1920s through the dystopias of the Great Depression, Higbie discusses the similarities and discontinuities of imaginative robotic forms within the cyber-fiction of the twenty-first century.

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