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Technics and Civilization Paperback – October 30, 2010
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Technics and Civilization first presented its compelling history of the machine and critical study of its effects on civilization in 1934âbefore 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 yearsâand to predict the pull the technological still holds over us today.
Â âThe questions posed in the first paragraph of Technics and Civilization still deserve our attention, nearly three quarters of a century after they were written.ââJournal of Technology and Culture
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...however, the condition this book was in was nothing short of dog ass. Had to tape up the cover of the book just so it wouldnt flake off into pieces. Had to tape the spine up a bit just so it wouldnt unravel. If the book was any worse I would have returned it, although it is a first edition and this edition is hard to come by and I couldnt bother myself with the new edition.
I am, to say the least, disappointed by this decision. 1) Given that most of these images are out of copyright and are readily available (if nothing else, one could simply scan them from an earlier edition of the book) what are the practical obstacles to reproduction? 2) The ability to interrupt one's reading to search for and possibly find a particular image on the Internet is hardly a viable substitute for having images embedded in the text.
I suggest that readers find an earlier, complete edition of this work, if possible.
One can only assume Chicago, which regularly ruins manuscripts that should have more or better images in them than they do, just refused to pay the 500 bucks it would have taken to prep the b&w images in photoshop and print them in the book. The Chicago explanation makes it sound like it's harder to process images now than it was in 1934! Totally ridiculous.
What a tragedy! I'd been so long waiting for this book to come back in print. Still, I think I'll keep my copy as a cautionary tale for authors considering Chicago. Ugh.
The 2010 Chicago Press edition is weak. There are typos (e.g. "along with a much needed a willingness" in the foreword), and the note from the publisher "It is not practical to reproduce those images here--nor is it necessary, in an age when readers can find the same, or similar images on the Internet" is insultingly clueless. When people pay you money for hard copy books, you're supposed to provide something not easily available on the Internet, if only the assemblage of text and relevant images into a coherent whole. It's called editing. I'm guessing that reproducing the images in the book was not in their budget; they could have provided a web page with links to these image "or similar images" instead of telling the readers who paid for this book to run off and do the publisher's work for them.
In a discussion of the motivation behind invention, Mumford notes that "a good part of the mechanical elements in the day are attempts to counteract the effects of lengthening time and space distance. The refrigeration of eggs, for example, is an effort to space their distribution more uniformly than the hen herself is capable of doing...The accompanying pieces of mechanical apparatus do nothing to improve the product itself: refrigeration merely halts the process of decomposition." Is this progress? Although he originally wrote this book back in the 1930s, well before our present energy crises, Mumford was adamant that renewable energy sources must supply the power of the future. He is an advocate for wind and water energy, and he dreams of a day when the power of the sun can be used to generate electricity. Mumford is also disturbed by rampant consumerism. He quotes a Hoover Committee report on a survey of Recent Economics that states "The survey has proved conclusively, what has long been held theoretically to be true, that wants are almost insatiable; that one want makes way for another. The conclusion is that economically we have a boundless field before us; that there are new wants which will make way endlessly for newer wants, as fast as they are satisfied." Interesting points such as these, which sound remarkably fresh today, can be found scattered amongst the text. Unfortunately, however, such gems are overshadowed by the sheer volume of text. This book would benefit greatly from an abridgment that would bring out the best, most important ideas by eliminating the wordy asides and statements of personal opinion.