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The God of the Machine (Library of Conservative Thought) Paperback

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Product Details

  • Series: Library of Conservative Thought
  • Paperback: 308 pages
  • Publisher: Transaction Publishers (January 1, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1560006668
  • ISBN-13: 978-1560006664
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 5.9 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #448,202 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“[T]his is a brilliant and extraordinary book. . . . It is brilliant in the perceptiveness, the incisiveness, the power, the scope of its analysis that presents—in carefully chosen, dramatically illuminating essentials the history of man’s long quest for freedom, from ancient Greece to World War II. It offers an unforgettable experience: a panorama of the centuries, as seen from the elevation of a truly grand intellectual scale.”

Ayn Rand, The Objectivist Newsletter

The God of the Machine remains a classic of individualist thought. But it is not a pale historical artifact, locked in its time of origin. It is focused on the great continuing issues of civilization, which it confronts with the authority of Paterson's special character and experience. . . . [Paterson] was not merely a theorist; she had the creative imagination that brings theory to life and challenges the imaginations of others. There was nobody quite like Isabel Paterson, and there is nothing quite like The God of the Machine.”

—Stephen Cox, Reason

“Published by Putnam’s in May 1943, The God of the Machine displayed profound insights about the development of human freedom since ancient times and about the workings of a successful social order, all expressed in a lively style. . . . Paterson develops a consistent, comprehensive, courageous world view. She denounces conscription… paper money… hypocritical businessmen who covet government subsidies… and the New Deal Wagner Act which helped establish labor union monopolies. Reflecting on the Prohibition debacle, Paterson ridicules the notion that government can set moral standards for anyone. She joyfully celebrates private property, free markets, enterprising immigrants and gold money. What fun you’re going to have discovered, or rediscovering, this sensational book.”

—Jim Powell

About the Author

Isabel Paterson (1886-1961) was a distinguished novelist, critic, and columnist for the New York Herald Tribune. Her novels include The Road of the Gods, Never Ask the End, and The Golden Vanity.

Stephen Cox is professor of literature and director of the humanities program at the University of California, San Diego. He is the author of The Stranger Within Thee, Love and Logic: The Evolution of Blake's Thought, and The Titanic Story. His articles, essays, reviews, and poems have appeared in many journals. He prepared the Transaction edition of Isabel Paterson's The God of the Machine.

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Customer Reviews

Of course that's assuming those people can read.
Daniel G. Jennings
Isabel Paterson was a major influence in Ayn Rands life and in this book you can see some of the roots of Rands philosophy.
For anyone interested in history of political thought this is a must read.
Dean R. Jones

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Mike Bayer, CFP on July 20, 2010
Format: Paperback
"Most of the harm in the world is done by good people, and not by accident, lapse, or omission. It is the result of their deliberate actions, long persevered in, which they hold to be motivated by high ideals toward virtuous ends... ...when millions are slaughtered, when torture is practiced, starvation enforced, oppression made a policy, as at present over a large part of the world, and as it has often been in the past, it must be at the behest of very many good people, and even by their direct action, for what they consider a worthy object." (The God of the Machine)

"The hand-mill," wrote Karl Marx, summarizing his theory of historical materialism, "gives you society with the feudal lord; the steam-mill, society with the industrial capitalist." On his view, the cultural and political forms that appeared in any given society were mere "superstructure," determined by the society's material and technological "base."

This highly reductionist view of history has been enormously influential, but in her classic The God of the Machine, Isabel Paterson asks a devastating question: what gives you the steam-mill? Why have some societies had enormous scientific and material development while others stagnated? Or, as education scholar Andrew Coulson has wryly put it, why did Athens give us philosophy, mathematics, literature, and the natural sciences, while neighboring Sparta gave us little more than the names of a few high school football teams?

Paterson's search for an answer, articulated via a sustained metaphor of the "engineering principles" of political economy needed to sustain the "flows" of productive human energy, takes her from ancient Greece and Rome to Medieval Europe to the American Founding.
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72 of 78 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 23, 1999
Format: Paperback
God of the Machine was my first clue that history could be more than a boring recitation of names and dates.
Paterson looks at the whole sweep of history, from ancient to contemporary, and relates it to the ideas and principles of freedom. Her central concern is to discover the political forms which freedom and civilization require. Her central unifying concept of "the long circuit of energy that makes civilization work" is both exhilarating and true: if economic thinking has not yet caught up to Isabel Paterson, so much the worse for it!
Written by a friend of Ayn Rand, and a lover of freedom, God of the Machine is a gem!
God of the Machine is well up in the top 10 of Random House's poll of most important non-fiction of the 20th Century.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Michael Cotter on May 22, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It is a serious look at human energy and how it manifests itself most efficiently. If you are serious about understanding how the U.S. arrived to where it is today then you must get this book. I read this beginning to end. With that in mind, I think the book could be best digested as stand alone chapters as each lesson is timeless. It should be read and placed in a position of importance on every bookshelf. You will find yourself referring to it for the rest of your life.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By John on January 19, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"The God of the Machine" is an important and enjoyable work for people interested in capitalist economics.

The book covers a series of historical periods from the Classical World up through the United States with a purpose of showing that capitalism (contract society) moves society forward and socialism does not.

While the writing style flowed smoothly and is not at all like a textbook, this is partly because Isabel Paterson believes in an "energy circuit" that causes human progress. This is where she diverges from Ayn Rand. Both ladies considered capitalism to be the correct way forward for mankind. However, Paterson uses religion to back up this belief while Rand builds solid arguments using only reason to back up this belief.

The introduction by Stephen Cox provided useful biographical information about Paterson.

John Christmas, author of "Democracy Society"
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Steven H. Propp TOP 100 REVIEWER on February 24, 2012
Format: Paperback
Isabel Paterson (1886-1961) was a Canadian-American journalist, novelist, political philosopher, and literary critic; Rose Wilder Lane (author of The Discovery of Freedom: Man's Struggle Against Authority) and Ayn Rand both acknowledged her influence on them.

She states, "Empires are made by private enterprise." (Pg. 61) Government, by contrast, is a "marginal requirement, necessary only in so far as the individual inhibitory faculty is not exercised according to agreement and natural right." She further argues that "There is no collective good." (Pg. 89)

Interestingly (particularly in light of her influence on the staunch atheist Ayn Rand), she rejects the scientific materialist viewpoint, suggesting, "The religious hypothesis of the nature of the universe is actually much more rational." (Pg. 151-152) She concludes, "A machine economy cannot run on a mechanistic philosophy." (Pg. 156)

She strongly defends individualism, as "the collective society is static" (Pg. 198), and "No group is as intelligent as an indivdiual... all intelligence is in individuals." (Pg. 217) She asserts that men enslave themselves, "usually by demanding protection as a group." (Pg. 234) She also advises (remember that this was being written in the midst of WW II) that a free economy invariably wins against a closed economy or a totalitarian state: "But it must fight as a free economy." (Pg. 275)

She concludes on the note, "Whoever is fortunate enough to be an American citizen came into the greatest inheritance man has ever enjoyed." (Pg. 292)

Paterson's book will be of ongoing interest to students of individualism, libertarianism, or Ayn Rand/Objectivism.
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