[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] Indexes: Main | Date | Thread | Author

Re: [ba-unrev-talk] Lewis Mumford

No longer the best.   Try
for a bit more information.   GER qeds    (01)

Gerald Pierce
Q. E. D. Services    (02)

Graham Stalker-Wilde wrote:
> for those in a Mumford state of mind, his predecessor & teacher, Patrick
> Geddis, is worth a look.
> As part of the traditional Scottish obliteration-of-our-past project,
> Edinburgh University has removed all the Geddes articles from their site,
> but there is a somewhat bizarre cached version at
> ev.htm++patrick+geddes+mumford&hl=en&ie=UTF8
> Mumford was a huge Geddes fan. For what it's worth, Geddes coined the word
> "Synergy". Back when it was cool.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: owner-ba-unrev-talk@bootstrap.org
> [mailto:owner-ba-unrev-talk@bootstrap.org]On Behalf Of Peter Jones
> Sent: Tuesday, June 18, 2002 4:56 PM
> To: ba-unrev-talk@bootstrap.org
> Subject: [ba-unrev-talk] Lewis Mumford
> Hi,
> Bumbling around a bookshop I discovered a battered copy of Vol. II of
> Lewis
> Mumford's
> "The Myth of the Machine". Vol I was published in 1967, Vol II in 1974.
> (Medium-sized tomes - possibly not for the faint-hearted or
> time-deprived
> individual.)
> Mumford was a philosopher, writer, architectural critic and urban
> planner.
> He died in 1990 at the age of 94. However,...
> For those looking for a sustained argument about the relationship
> between
> people, technology, and environment, and the need to head off the
> possibility of the impending self-destruction of humanity through the
> abuse
> of technology, this might be a useful text to reference.
> A revealing synopsis of the book can be found here:
> http://bh.kyungpook.ac.kr/~jdkim/stu/lec/mumford.html
> (Cancel the Korean Text Support download if it hits and you are able to
> read
> English -  it isn't necessary to read the text if you read the English
> translation.)
> Excerpts:
> [...]
> "Although most of the components of the megamachine were in existence by
> the
> early twentieth century, two things, he argues, were lacking: a
> "symbolic
> figure of absolute power, incarnated in an living ruler, a corporate
> group,
> or a super-machine; and a crisis sufficiently portentous and pressing to
> bring about an implosion of all the necessary components." Before this
> fusion took place older, cruder models of the megamachine appeared, the
> most
> menacing in Nazi Germany. it was in response to Hitler's brutal military
> machine that the United States and Russia produced modern megamachines,
> with
> their inefficient human parts replaced by mechanical and electronic
> subgstitutes, and with their well-drilled armies backed, as Henry Adams
> had
> predicted, by "bombs of cosmic violence." The invention of the atomic
> bomb
> gave science and scientists a sacred niche in the new power complex.
> They
> became permanently allied with the military elite, who "fortified
> themselves
> in an inner citadel [a Pentagon]...cut off from inspection or control by
> the
> rest of the community." In these command centers, sealed off from
> democratic
> give-and-take, the Organization Man becomes a menace to global survival;
> surely, Mumford notes elsewhere, there are Eichmanns in every missile
> center, ready to obey orders, no matter how horrific.
> "By manufacturing new emergencies and enemies, by instituting a state of
> permanent war, naively called a cold war, the megamachines of the
> superpowers became permanent institutions, headed by a new class of
> decision-makers who wielded world destructive powers. This, then, was
> the
> latest megamachine, or what Mumford calls, alternatively, the Pentagon
> of
> Power, since it was based on five P's: Power, that is energy;
> Productivity
> for the sake of Profit: Political control; and Publicity. But Mumford
> anticipates something even more frightening than the expansion of this
> war-oriented technocracy in the not-too-distant future. Given present
> trends, it is not unlikely, he predicts, that the technocentric elites
> will
> soon be replaced by a supreme ruler without human parts or attributes,
> the
> ultimate decision-maker - the central computer, the true earthly
> representative of the sun god.
> "In his earliest writing Mumford had seen electricity as a potential
> force
> for social improvement, opening the way for a decentralization of
> industry
> and population, and the revival of small industries. In the Pentagon of
> Power, however, he emphasizes the electronic computer's insidious impact
> on
> personal privacy and autonomy. To him the computer is merely another
> overated tool, vastly inferior to the human brain; in the wrong hands,
> however, an extraordinarily dangerous one. The computer, he argues, is
> the
> eyes of the reborn sun god Re; it serves as a private eye for the
> megamachine elite, who expect complete conformity to their commands
> because
> nothing can be hidden from them. In the future no action, no thought,
> perhaps even no drem will escape this all-scrutinizing eye. And perhaps
> this
> will eventually lead to the elimination of autonomy itself: "indeed the
> dissolution of the human soul."
> [...]
> "Yet, for all his premonitions of chaos and catastrophe, Mumford ends
> The
> Pentagon of Power with the reminder that the megamachine, at least in
> the
> U.S., is based on little more than an enticing "bribe"-if the individual
> gives the system his unquestioning allegiance he will have a chance to
> enjoy
> the privileges and pleasures of "megatechnic" affluence-and that this
> bribe,
> in turn, is based upon the myth that power and economic growth are the
> main
> aims of life. Once we reject this bribe and cast off this myth, the
> modern
> megamachine will, like its historic predecessor, crumble and collapse,
> the
> ironic victim of those it claimed to serve. "For those of us who have
> thrown
> off the myth of the machine, the next move is ours: for the gates of the
> technocratic prison will open automatically, despite their rusty,
> ancient
> hinges, as soon as we choose to walk out." "
> [...]
> "It is not, then as a prophet of doom but as a rising voice of renewal,
> as
> Isaiah for his age, that Mumford hopes to be remembered. The optimism of
> The
> Pentagon of Power, however, is not altogether convincing, coming as it
> dose
> after a grimly gray portrayal of the "megatechnical wasteland"; it is
> like
> something Mumford layered on at the end, almost as an afterthought. He
> might
> have been an optimist about possibilities, but he was most certainly a
> pessimist about probabilities, hence his often repeated assertion that
> human-kind can be save-but only by a miracle. While Mumford might have
> believed in miracles he knew enough history to realize that they do not
> occur very often. "
> (You have to read the earlier bits to understand the reference to a sun
> god.)
> Possibly very interesting stuff, whether or not you agree with the
> conclusions.
> Incidentally,...
> >From http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~rxv/books/mumford.htm#mumford67
> "He was a disciple of Sir Patrick Geddes, and corresponded with many
> important contemporaries, including Fred Osborne and Vannevar Bush. "
> Cheers,
> Peter    (03)