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Technics & Civilization [Paperback]

Lewis Mumford
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Paperback, Oct. 18 1963 --  
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Book Description

Oct. 18 1963
This is a history of the machine and a critical study of its effects on civilization. Mumford has drawn on every aspect of life to explain the machine and to trace its social results. "An extraordinarily wide-ranging, sensitive, and provocative book about a subject upon which philosophers have so far shed but little light" (Journal of Philosophy). Index; illustrations.

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“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.”
(The New York Times)

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
(Journal of Technology and Culture) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Lewis Mumford (1895-1979) was the author of numerous important books on American culture, technology, architecture, and urban life, including Technics and Civilization (1934); The Culture of Cities (1938); The City in History (1961); Myth of the Machine I: Technics and Human Development (1967); and Myth of the Machine II: Pentagon of Power (1970).

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Customer Reviews

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The First Critique of the Myth of Technology Nov. 23 2000
Lewis Mumford is widely regarded as a critic of architecture, but his true importance in intellectual history is as a critic of technology and the myth of progress that accompanies technology, making it seem as if every technological advance is a step forward in civilization. That the events from 1945 onward dispute this claim would seem evident, but themselves are brushed over in favor of the prevailing paradigm.
Mumford was the first to take a critical look at technology and its accompanying mythos, and even though this book was later surpassed by his masterpiece, The Myth of the Machine, it is still worth reading for its approach to the tenor of its time (written during the Depression).
You can safely ignore the last chapters when Mumford attempts to offer an alternative to the technological society. Like most critics, he is mercifully short on alternatives. (Considering what alternatives were given humanity over the centuries, you can understand why I said that.) Until we truly understand technology and the role it has taken in our lives, we will be no closer to a solution than Mumford was in the Thirties.
For anyone who wishes to study the intellectual history of the West, this is an indispensible volume.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars On the Good Life, or What Could Have Been May 7 1997
By A Customer
Too bad Mumford wasn't a better thinker. He published everywhere and wrote on everything during a fifty-plus year career; urban planners know him best these days, but he was the New Yorker architecture critic for years and wrote on literature, culture, and politics for all the big magazines: MacCalls, Harper's, The New Republic, Seven Arts. Technics and Civilization (1934) wasn't his last book on technology; he returned to the subject again in The Pentagon of Power, two volumes, published around 1969. Technics and Civilization asks readers to consider intelligently how to better use technology to shape lives worth living, rather than to allow technology, or our use of it, to shape life unexaminedly. Mumford contributed so much to letters and to public life that we owe it to ourselves to read him, even if the limitations of his sometimes utopian ideas become too often apparent (remember, the Unabomber is a fan), because his ideas on social organizations are crack
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Mumford is widely considered the first modern person to write critically about the intricate relationship between human technology and human civilization. This book is arguably the cornerstone of the rapidly growing field of the history of technology. It is valuable because of its extensive attention to the past and its demonstration of complex links between technology, economics, society and culture. Mumford's musings about the future at the end of the book are its least important part.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth the time spent reading! Sept. 3 2003
Mumford has got to be one of the most over-looked (by main-stream) social critics of our time. He covers and unravels our confusing society so well, even though this book was written some time ago. Mumford's points ring quite true even in the 21st century.
Lengthy read but, for those who are serious about making sense of "why" things are they way they are here in the "civilized" world, Mumford is worth it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Complete May 13 2002
From the beginning of time, technology has affected our lives. Learn how every invention (from the greatest milestone of them all: the clock) through history influences society and the way we live and think.
Excellent source for everyone wanting to reflect deeply on technology.
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