The Myth of the Machine
|Publisher||Harcourt Brace Jovanovich|
|Media type||2 Vols. Print|
The Myth of the Machine is a two volume series of books taking an in-depth look at the forces that have shaped modern technology since prehistoric times. The first volume, Technics and Human Development was published in 1967, followed by the second volume, The Pentagon of Power in 1970. The author, Lewis Mumford, shows the parallel developments between human tools and social organization mainly through language and rituals. It is considered a synthesis of many theories Mumford developed throughout his prolific writing career.
"In The Myth of the Machine, Mumford insisted upon the reality of the megamachine: the convergence of science, technics and political power as a unified community of interpretation rendering useless and eccentric life-enhancing values. Subversion of this authoritarian kingdom begins with that area of human contact with the world that cannot be successfully repressed - one's feelings about one's self."
He dates the emergence of the "Machine" from the pyramid age (primarily with reference to Egypt, but also acknowledging other ancient cultures in that era which produced massive and precisely engineered structures). He uses of the term to describe the social and bureaucratic structure that enabled a ruler to coordinate a huge workforce to undertake vast and complex projects. Where the projects were public works such as irrigation systems and canals or the construction of cities, he referred to the "labour machine", and where they involved conquest he used the expression "military machine". The term "Megamachine" connoted the social structure in its entirety.
Volume I, Technics and Human Development
In this volume Mumford discusses the progress of terrestrial exploration, and scientific discovery; and traces the interplay of ideological interests, inventions and subjective drives in the evolution of human society.
Volume II, The Pentagon of Power
The "pentagon" refers to:
- Power (in the sense of physical energy)
There was clearly also an oblique reference to the Pentagon, regarding which he commented: "...the concrete form of the Pentagon in Washington serves even better than its Soviet counterpart, the Kremlin, as a symbol of totalitarian absolutism."
Although much of the volume explores the negative influence of centralised power and exploitative behaviour on the human condition, it finishes on a positive and optimistic note in the closing chapters.
- Mumford (1970, 12).
- Lewis Freid, Makers of the City, Univ Massachusetts Press, 1990. p. 115
- Mumford, Lewis, 1970. The Pentagon of Power: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. ISBN 0-15-163974-4.
- Lewis Mumford, Reflections, "REFLECTIONS I-THE MEGAMACHINE," The New Yorker, October 10, 1970, p. 50 abstract
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