Technology in World Civilization

Overview

Most general histories of technology are Eurocentrist, focusing on a main line of western technology that stretches from the Greeks through the computer. In this very different book Arnold Pacey takes a global view, placing the development of technology squarely in a "world civilization." He portrays the process as a complex dialectic by which inventions borrowed from one culture are adopted to suit another. Pacey's argument is both original and compelling. He demonstrates that western technology is an amalgam of...
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UK 1990 Paper Back Very Good pp. 238. Product Description Printing, gunpowder, clockwork and powered textile machines were invented in China a thousand years ago, and it is ... often assumed that this was a one-way influence on European technology. In the 20th century, by contrast, it is assumed that most inventions originate in the West and are then "transferred" to other nations. In this book, Arnold Pacey argues that the spread of technology is not part of a monologue directed from one country to another; techniques are rarely simply transferred without some modification. Gunpowder, for instance, and basic guns were invented in China, but provoked the invention of the far more powerful and deadly cannon in Europe. Equally, failure to appreciate that transfer of technology should not mean "imposition" on to Third World countries can lead to policy failure; transformations occur today as western inventions-such as the transistor-are redeveloped in Asian industries. Arnold Pacey portrays the process by which Read more Show Less

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Overview

Most general histories of technology are Eurocentrist, focusing on a main line of western technology that stretches from the Greeks through the computer. In this very different book Arnold Pacey takes a global view, placing the development of technology squarely in a "world civilization." He portrays the process as a complex dialectic by which inventions borrowed from one culture are adopted to suit another. Pacey's argument is both original and compelling. He demonstrates that western technology is an amalgam of cross-fertilizations from the great civilizations of China, India, and Islam and from the apparently primitive cultures of peasant farmers in Africa or Inuit hunters in the Arctic. In a lively and readable style, Pacey explains exactly how technologies (which he broadly defines to include such critical practices as agriculture and health care) were diffused across Asia to Africa and Europe, and then back again. A failure to appreciate the importance of this type of dialogue, Pacey observes, has often led to misguided programs that have sought to impose technologies on less developed nations without allowing for responsive innovation.

Covering the period from 700 to 1970, Pacey contrasts innovations based on critical survival needs with high technologies symbolizing the values of major civilizations. Examples include the Chinese gunpowder that provoked a more formida ble cannon in Europe, Indian textile techniques that spurred the Industrial Revolution in Britain, and transistors from the U.S. that stimulated new kinds of consumer products in Japan. In m any cases, Pacey notes, technology is less the result of a direct transfer than of the diffusion of stimuli. Even "amere rumor of an unfamiliar technique" could produce new ways to achieve similar results.

Arnold Pacey is a physicist turned historian whose publications have contributed to the British appropriate technology movement. He has written widely on science, technology, and agriculture. His previous books include The Maze of Ingenuity and The Culture of Technology.

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Editorial Reviews

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Departing from the usual eurocentrist approach, Pacey takes a global view, and demonstrates that western technology is an amalgam of cross- fertilizations from the great civilizations of China, India, and Islam and from the apparently primitive cultures of peasant farmers in Africa or Inuit hunters in the Arctic. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780631177555
  • Publisher: Wiley, John & Sons, Incorporated
  • Pages: 238

Meet the Author

Arnold Pacey is an Associate Lecturer at the Open University,Britain. He is the author ofThe Culture of Technology (MITPress, 1983), Technology and World Civilization (MIT Press,1991), and The Maze of Ingenuity, second edition (MIT Press,1992).

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