Lot Less, But MORE Industry

Posted: October 6, 2020 in Uncategorized

As I suggested in my video, it might strike some students as very odd – in these era of unregulated pollution and massive extinction – the Greenberg would argue for increasing industry, rather than shutting it down. The point I tried to make – and I believe it is what Greenberg had in mind – is that industry is not intrinsically dirty and destructive. Rather, industry as we have thus far practiced it is dirty and destructive. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Those Greenberg does not use this exact language, I would suggest he would agree that we – because of or laziness, greed, and lack of imagination – have largely remains in a paleotechnic mode of production, heavily dependent on clumsy, inefficient, non-renewable resources whose extraction causes massive harm to both humans and the environment. However, it remains within our reach, and is indeed essential for our survival, to move forward to a neotechnic mode of production.

This lengthy and imposing book was first published in 1934. While aspects of it now seem somewhat quaint, its overall outlook and argument strike as remarkably advanced for its time. If it did not retain relevant for our day, the Anthropocene, I doubt the University of Chicago Press would continue to publish it and endorse it as a statement of more than mere historical interest.

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, and 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.

Lewis Mumford
(1895 -1990)
American architectural critic, urban planner, and historian who analyzed the effects of technology and urbanization on human societies throughout history.

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