For me, the biggest appeal to steampunk is that it exalts the machine and disparages the factory (this is the motto of the excellent and free *Steampunk* magazine: "Love the Machine, Hate the Factory"). It celebrates the elaborate inventions of the scientifically managed enterprise, but imagines those machines coming from individuals who are their own masters. Steampunk doesn't rail against efficiency -- but it never puts efficiency ahead of self-determination. If you're going to raise your workbench to spare your back, that's *your* decision, not something imposed on you from the top down.
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Article by Cory Doctorow.