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Myth of the Machine, Vol. 1 : Technics and…

Myth of the Machine, Vol. 1 : Technics and Human Development

by Lewis Mumford

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After one false start three or four years ago, I picked this up again early last year. I'll admit, it was pretty rough going for me, but that's largely because the first half of the book doesn't concern the "megamachine"--my main interest in Mumford's thought. His roundabout phrasing structure also makes for reading that sometimes feels something like a maze and can be difficult to settle into. There were still enough significant insights to justify reading it. Some standouts below.

Mumford on the historical origin of the problem of death: "The desire for life without limits was part of the general lifting of limits which the first great assemblage of power by means of the megamachine brought about. Human weaknesses, above all the weakness of mortality, were both contested and defied.
"But if the biological inevitability of death and disintegration mock (sic) the infantile fantasy of absolute power, which the human machine promised to actualize, life mocks it even more. The notion of 'eternal life,' with neither conception, growth, fruition, nor decay--an existence as fixed, as sterilized, as loveless, as purposeless, as unchanging as that of a royal mummy--is only death in another form....(T)his assertion of absolute power was a confession of psychological immaturity--a radical failure to understand the natural processes of birth and growth, of maturation and death." (203) Deny that, Ernest Becker!

On the workers of the megamachine: "Each standardized component, below the top level of command, was only part of a man (sic), condemned to work at only part of a job and live only part of a life. Adam Smith's belated analysis of the division of labor, explaining changes that were taking place in the eighteenth century toward a more inflexible and dehumanized system, with greater productive efficiency, illuminates equally the earliest 'industrial revolution.'" (212)

On the burgeoning scientific/capitalist mind and its eventual costs: "These technical premises seemed so simple, their aim so rational, their methods so open to general imitation, that Leonardo never saw the need to put the question we must now ask: Is the intelligence alone, however purified and decontaminated, an adequate agent for doing justice to the needs and purposes of life?" (288) ( )
  dmac7 | Jun 14, 2013 |
An analysis well ahead of its time. Chapters 9 and 10 are particularly important. ( )
  owen1218 | Jun 15, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0156623412, Paperback)

Mumford explains the forces that have shaped technology since prehistoric times and shaped the modern world. He shows how tools developed because of significant parallel inventions in ritual, language, and social organization. “It is a stimulating volume, informed both with an enormous range of knowledge and empathetic spirit” (Eliot Fremont-Smith, New York Times). Index; photographs.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:47 -0400)

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