Technics and Civilization

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Technics and Civilization first presented its compelling history of the machine and critical study of its effects on civilization in 1934-before television, the personal computer, or the Internet even appeared on our periphery.

Drawing upon art, science, philosophy, and the history of culture, Lewis Mumford explained the origin of the machine age and traced its social results, asserting that the development of modern technology had its roots in the Middle Ages rather than the Industrial Revolution. Mumford sagely argued that it was the moral, economic, and political choices we made, not the machines that we used, that determined our then industrially driven economy. Equal parts powerful history and polemic criticism, Technics and Civilization was the first comprehensive attempt in English to portray the development of the machine age over the last thousand years-and to predict the pull the technological still holds over us today.

A history of the machine and its effects on civilization, with a plan for a fresh social, political, and ideological adjustment of the modern world.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
“A brilliant historical and critical account of the effect of the artificial environment on man and of man on the environment, a necessary account, one for which we have waited too long in English.”
Journal of Technology and Culture
The questions posed in the first paragraph of Technics and Civilization still deserve our attention, nearly three quarters of a century after they were written.”—Journal of Technology and Culture
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226550275
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 10/30/2010
  • Pages: 528
  • Sales rank: 449,452
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Lewis Mumford (1895–1990) was a writer whose scope encompassed literary criticism, architecture, history, urban sociology, and philosophy. The author of over thirty books, he was also the architectural critic for The New Yorker for over thirty years. He was eventually honored with the United States Medal of Freedom and Knight of the Order of the British Empire.

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Table of Contents

Foreword Langdon Winner ix

Introduction to the 1963 Edition xv

Captions to Images from the 1934 Edition xxi

Objectives 3

Chapter I Cultural Preparation 9

1 Machines, Utilities, and "The Machine" 9

2 The Monastery and the Clock 12

3 Space, Distance, Movement 18

4 The Influence of Capitalism 23

5 From Fable to Fact 28

6 The Obstacle of Animism 31

7 The Road Through Magic 36

8 Social Regimentation 41

9 The Mechanical Universe 45

10 The Duty to Invent 52

11 Practical Anticipations 55

Chapter II Agents of Mechanization 60

1 The Profile of Technics 60

2 De Re Metallica 65

3 Mining and Modern Capitalism 74

4 The Primitive Engineer 77

5 From Game-Hunt to Man-Hunt 81

6 Warfare and Invention 85

7 Military Mass-Production 89

8 Drill and Deterioration 94

9 Mars and Venus 96

10 Consumptive Pull and Productive Drive 102

Chapter III The Eotechnic Phase 107

1 Technical Syncretism 107

2 The Technological Complex 109

3 New Sources of Power 112

4 Trunk, Plank, and Spar 119

5 Through a Glass, Brightly 124

6 Glass and the Ego 128

7 The Primary Inventions 131

8 Weakness and Strength 142

Chapter IV The Paleotechnic Phase 151

1 England's Belated Leadership 151

2 The New Barbarism 153

3 Carboniferous Capitalism 156

4 The Steam Engine 158

5 Blood and Iron 163

6 The Destruction of Environment 167

7 The Degradation of the Worker 172

8 The Starvation of Life 178

9 The Doctrine of Progress 182

10 The Struggle for Existence 185

11 Class and Nation 187

12 The Empire of Muddle 191

13 Power and Time 196

14 The Esthetic Compensation 199

15 Mechanical Triumphs 205

16 The Paleotechnic Passage 210

Chapter V The Neotechnic Phase 212

1 The Beginnings of Neotechnics 212

2 The Importance of Science 215

3 New Sources of Energy 221

4 The Displacement of the Proletariat 224

5 Neotechnic Materials 229

6 Power and Mobility 235

7 The Paradox of Communication 239

8 The New Permanent Record 242

9 Light and Life 245

10 The Influence of Biology 250

11 From Destruction to Conservation 255

12 The Planning of Population 260

13 The Present Pseudomorph 263

Chapter VI Compensations and Reversions 268

1 Summary of Social Reactions 268

2 The Mechanical Routine 269

3 Purposeless Materialism: Superfluous Power 273

4 Co-operation versus Slavery 278

5 Direct Attack on the Machine 284

6 Romantic and Utilitarian 285

7 The Cult of the Past 288

8 The Return to Nature 295

9 Organic and Mechanical Polarities 299

10 Sport and the "Bitch-goddess" 303

11 The Cult of Death 307

12 The Minor Shock-Absorbers 311

13 Resistance and Adjustment 316

Chapter VII Assimilation of the Machine 321

1 New Cultural Values 321

2 The Neutrality of Order 326

3 The Esthetic Experience of the Machine 333

4 Photography as Means and Symbol 337

5 The Growth of Functionalism 344

6 The Simplification of the Environment 357

7 The Objective Personality 359

Chapter VIII Orientation 364

1 The Dissolution of "The Machine" 364

2 Toward an Organic Ideology 368

3 The Elements of Social Energetics 373

4 Increase Conversion! 380

5 Economize Production! 383

6 Normalize Consumption! 390

7 Basic Communism 400

8 Socialize Creation! 406

9 Work for Automaton and Amateur 410

10 Political Control 417

11 The Diminution of the Machine 423

12 Toward a Dynamic Equilibrium 429

13 Summary and Prospect 433

Prefatory Note v

Inventions 437

Bibliography 447

Acknowledgments 475

Index 477

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