A selection from Lewis Mumford's Technics and Civilization, 1934.
During the last thousand years the material basis and the cultural forms of Western Civilization have been profoundly modified by the development of the machine.
While people often call our period the "Machine Age," very few have... any clear notion as to its origins. Popular historians usually date the great transformation in modern industry from Watt's supposed invention of the steam engine; and in the conventional economics textbook the application of automatic machinery to spinning and weaving is often treated as an equally critical turning point. But the fact is that in Western Europe the machine had been developing steadily for at least seven centuries before the dramatic changes that accompanied the "industrial revolution" took place. Men had become mechanical before they perfected complicated machines to express their new bent and interest; and the will-to-order had appeared once more in the monastery and the army and the counting-house before it finally manifested itself in the factory.
To understand the dominating role played by technics in modern civilization, one must explore in detail the preliminary period of... preparation. ...mechanization and regimentation are not new phenomena in history: what is new is the fact that these functions have been projected and embodied in organized forms which dominate every aspect of our existence.
Chapter I. Cultural Preparation
2. The Monastery and the Clock.
Where did the machine first take form in modern civilization? There was plainly more than one point of origin. Our mechanical civilization represents the convergence of numerous habits, ideas, and modes of living, as well as technical instruments... . [...] The application of quantitative methods of thought to the study of nature had its first manifestation in the regular measurement of time; and the new mechanical conception of time arose in part out of the routine of the monastery. Alfred Whitehead has emphasized the importance of the scholastic belief in a universe ordered by God as one of the foundations of modern physics: but behind that belief was the presence of order in the institutions of the Church itself.
It was... in the monasteries of the West that the desire for order... first manifested itself after the long uncertainty and bloody confusion that attended the breakdown of the Roman Empire. Within the walls of the monastary was sanctuary: under the rule of the order surprise and doubt and caprice and irregularity were put at bay. Opposed to the erratic fluctuations and pulsations of the worldly life was the iron discipline of the rule.
According to a now discredited legend, the first modern mechanical clock, worked by falling weights, was invented by the monk named Gerbert who afterwards became Pope Sylvester II near the close of the tenth century. [...] But the legend, as so often happens, is accurate in its implications if not in its fact. The monastery was the seat of a regular life, and an instrument for striking the hours at intervals or for reminding the bell-ringer that it was time to strike the bells, was an almost inevitable product of this life. If the mechanical clock did not appear until the cities of the thirteenth century demanded an orderly routine, the habit of order itself and the earnest regulation of time-sequences had become almost second nature in the monastery. Coulton agrees with Sombart in looking upon the Benedictines, the great working order, as perhaps the original founders of modern capitalism.... . ...one is not straining the facts when one suggests that the monasteries-- at one time there were 40,000 under the Benedictine rule-- helped to give human enterprize the regular collective beat and rhythm of the machine... .
...by the thirteenth century there are definite records of mechanical clocks, and by 1370 a well-designed "modern" clock had been built by Heinrich von Wyck at Paris. Meanwhile, bell towers had come into existence, and the new clocks, if they did not have, till the fourteenth century, a dial and a hand that translated the movement of time into a movement through space, at all events struck the hours. [...] The bells of the clock tower almost defined urban existence... [Editors note: i.e., see Huizinga's The Autumn of the Middle Ages].
The clock, not the steam-engine, is the key-machine of the modern industrial age. For every phase of its development the clock is both the outstanding fact and the typical symbol of the machine: even today no other machine is so ubiquitous [Editors note: see Spengler on the clock as the 'prime symbol' of Faustian technics in his Decline of the West].
In its relationship to determinable quantities... , to standardization, to automatic action, and finally to its own special product, accurate timing, the clock has been the foremost machine in modern technics:... it marks a perfection toward which other machines aspire. The clock... served as a model for many other kinds of mechanical works... . [Editors note: Pascal built the first calculator, and thus the first computer, out of gothic clockwork mechanisms]
The clock... is a piece of power-machinary whose "product" is seconds and minutes: by its essential nature it dissociated time from human events and helped create the belief in an independent world of mathematically measurable sequences: the special world of science. [...] In terms of the human organism itself, mechanical time is... foreign: while human life has regularities of its own, the beat of the pulse, the breathing of the lungs, these change from hour to hour with mood and action, and in the longer span of days, time is measured not by the calendar but by the events that occupy it. The shepherd measures from the time the ewes lambed; the farmer measures back to the day of sowing or forward to the harvest: if growth has its own duration and regularities, behind it are not simply matter and motion but the facts of development: in short, history. And while mechanical time is strung out in a succession of mathematically isolated instants, organic time-- what Bergson calls duration [Editors note: and others have called 'lived-time']--is cumulative in its effects.
Around 1345, according to Thorndike, the division of hours into sixty minutes and of minutes into sixty seconds became common: it was this abstract framework of divided time that became more and more the point of reference... , and in the effort to arrive at accuracy in this department, the astronomical exploration of the sky focused attention further upon the regular, implacable movements of the heavenly bodies through space. Early in the sixteenth century a young Nuremberg mechanic, Peter Henlein, is supposed to have created "many-wheeled watches out of small bits of iron" and by the end of the century the small domestic clock had been introduced in England and Holland. [...] To become "as regular as clock-work" was the bourgeois ideal, and to own a watch was for long a definite symbol of success.
Now, the orderly punctual life that first took shape in the monasteries is not native to mankind, although by now Western peoples are so thoroughly regimented by the clock that it is "second nature" and they look upon its observance as a fact of nature. Many Eastern civilizations have flourished on a loose basis in time: the Hindus have in fact been so indifferent to time that they lack even an authentic chronology of the years. Only yesterday, in the midst of the industrializations of Soviet Russia, did a society come into existence to further the carrying of watches there and to propagandize the benefits of punctuality. The popularization of time-keeping, which followed the production of the cheap standardized watch, first in Geneva, then in America around the middle of the last century, was essential to a well-articulated system of transportation and production.
To keep time was once a peculiar attribute of music... . But the effect of the mechanical clock is pervasive and strict: it presides over the day from the hour of rising to the hour of rest. [...] When one thinks of time, not as a sequence of experiences, but as a collection of hours, minutes, and seconds, the habits of adding time and saving time come into existence. Time took on the character of an enclosed space: it could be divided, it could be filled up, it could even be expanded by the invention of labor-saving instruments.
Abstract time became the new medium of existence. Organic functions themselves were regulated by it: one ate, not upon feeling hungry, but when prompted by the clock: one slept, not when one was tired, but when the clock sanctioned it. A generalized time-consciousness accompanied the wider use of clocks: dissociating time from organic sequences... . [...] In the seventeenth century journalism and periodic literature made their appearance: even in dress, following the lead of Venice as fashion-center, people altered styles every year rather than every generation.
The gain in mechanical effeciency through co-ordination and through the closer articulation of the day's events cannot be over-estimated: while this increase cannot be measured in mere horse-power, one has only to imagine its absence today to foresee the speedy disruption and eventual collapse of our entire society.
3. Space, Distance, Movement
Dagobert Frey... has made a penetrating study of the difference in spatial conceptions between the early Middle Ages and the Renascence: he has re-enforced by a wealth of specific detail, the generalization that no two cultures live conceptually in the same kind of time and space. [...] Long before Kant announced that time and space were categories of the mind, long before the mathematicians discovered that there were conceivable and rational forms of space other than the form described by Euclid, mankind at large had acted on this premise. Like the Englishman in France who thought that bread was the right name for Ie pain each culture believes that every other kind of space and time is an approximation to or a perversion of the real space and time in which it lives.
During the Middle Ages spatial relations tended to be organized as symbols and values. [...] Without constant symbolic reference to the fables and myths of Christianity the rationale of medieval space would collapse.
In medieval cartography the water and the land masses of the earth,
even when approximately known, may be represented in an arbitrary figure like a tree, with no regard for the actual relations as experienced by a traveller, and with no interest in anything except the allegorical correspondence.
One further characteristic of medieval space must be noted: space and time form two relatively independent systems. First: the medieval artist introduced other times within his own spatial world, as when he projected the events of Christ's life within a contemporary Italian city, without the slightest feeling that the passage of time has made a difference, just as in Chaucer the classical legend of Troilus and Cressida is related as if it were a contemporary story. When a medieval chronicler mentions the King, as the author of The Wandering Scholars remarks, it is sometimes a little difficult to find out whether he is talking about Caesar or Alexander the Great or his own monarch: each is equally near to him. Indeed, the word anachronism is meaningless when applied to medieval art: it is only when one related events to a co-ordinated frame of time and space that being out of time or being untrue to time became disconcerting. Similarly, in Botticelli's The Three Miracles of St. Zenobius, three different times are presented upon a single stage [Editors note: see Modernity and the Planes of Historicity by Reinhart Koselleck (1981). A selection can be found here ].
Between the fourteenth and the seventeenth century a revolutionary change in the conception of space took place in Western Europe.
The new interest in perspective brought depth into the picture and distance into the mind. In the older pictures, one's eye jumped from one part to another, picking up symbolic crumbs... : in the new pictures, one's eye followed the lines of linear perspective along streets, buildings, tessellated pavements.... .
Within this new ideal network of space and time all events now took place... .
What the painters demonstrated in their application of perspective, the cartographers established in the same century in their new maps. The Hereford Map of 1314 might have been done by a child: it was practically worthless for navigation. that of Ucello's contemporary, Andrea Banco, 1436, was conceived on rational lines and represented a gain in conception as well as in practical accuracy. By laying down the invisible lines of latitude and longitude, the cartographers paved the way for later explorers, like Columbus... . [...] Both Eden and Heaven were outside the new space... .
Presently, on the basis laid down by the painter and the cartographer, an interest in space as such, in movement as such, in locomotion as such, arose.
The categories of time and space, once practically dissociated, had become united: and the abstractions of measured time and measured space undermined the earlier conceptions of infinity and eternity, since measurement must begin with an arbitrary here and now even if space and time be empty. ...the conquest of space and time had begun.
The signs of this conquest are many: they cam forth in rapid succession. In military arts the cross-bow and the ballista were revived and extended, and on their heels cam more powerful weapons for annihilating distance-- the cannon and later the musket. Leonardo conceived n airplane and built one. Fantastic projects for flight were canvassed.
The new attitude toward time and space infected the workshop and the counting house, the army and the city. The tempo became faster: the magnitudes became greater: conceptually, modern culture launched itself into space and gave itself over to movement. What Max Weber called the "romanticism of numbers" grew naturally out of this interest. In time-keeping, in trading, in fighting men counted numbers; and finally, as the habit grew, only numbers counted.
4.The Influence of Capitalism
The romanticism of numbers had still another aspect... . This was the rise of capitalism, and the change from a barter economy... to a money economy with an international credit structure and a constant reference to the abstract symbols of wealth: gold, drafts, bills of exchange, eventually merely numbers.
From the standpoint of technique, this structure had its origin in the towns of Northern Italy, particularly Florence and Venice, in the fourteenth century; two hundred years later there was in existence in Antwerp an international bourse [stock market], devoted to aiding speculation in shipments from foreign ports and in money itself. By the middle of the sixteenth century book-keeping by double entry, bills of exchange, letters of credit, and speculation in "futures" were all developed in essentially their modern form [Editors note: 'commodity futures contract'].
The development of capitalism brought the new habits of abstraction and calculation into the lives of city people: only the country folk, still existing on their more primitive local basis, were partly immune. Capitalism turned people from tangibles to intangibles: its symbol, as Sombart observes, is the account book: "its life-value lies in its profit and loss account." The "economy of acquisition," which had hitherto been practiced by rare and fabulous creatures like Midas and Croesus, became once more the everyday mode: it tended to replace the direct "economy of needs" and to substitute money-values for life-values.
...to make quantity not alone an indication of value but the criterion of value-- that was the contribution of capitalism to the mechanical world-picture. So the abstractions of capitalism prceded by the abstractions of modern science and re-enforced at every point its typical lessons and its typical methods of procedure.
But it was not merely in the promotion of abstract habits of thought and pragmatic interests and quantitative estimations that capitalism prepared the way for modern technics. From the beginning machines and factory production... made direct demands for capital far above the small advances necessary to provide the old-style handicraft worker with tools or keep him alive. [...] While the feudal families, with their command over the land, often had a monopoly over such natural resources as were found in the earth, and often retained an interest in glass-making, coalmining, and iron-works right down to modern times, the new mechanical inventions lent themselves to exploitation by the merchant classes. The incentive to mechanization lay in the greater profits that could be extracted through the multiplied power and efficiency of the machine.
Thus, although capitalism and technics must be clearlyl distinguished at every stage, one conditioned the other and reacted upon it.
Whether machines would have been invented so rapidly and pushed so zealously without the extra incentive of commercial profit is extremely doubtful. [...] Capitalism utilized the machine... to increase private profit: mechanical instruments were used for the aggrandizement of the ruling classes. It was because of capitalism that the handicraft industries in both Europe and other parts of the world were recklessly destroyed by machine products, even when the latter were inferior to the thing they replaced: for the prestige of improvement and success and power was with the machine.
By supporting the machine, capitalism quickened its pace, and gave a special incentive to preoccupation with mechanical improvements... . [...] ...the style of the machine has up to the present been powerfully influenced by capitalism.
see p. 23
5. From Fable to Fact
Meanwhile, with the transformation of the concepts of time and space went a change in the direction of interest from the heavenly world to the natural one. Around the twelfth century the supernatural world, in which the European mind had been enveloped as in a cloud from the decay of the classical schools of thought onward, began to lift... .
Every culture lives within its dream. That of Christianity was one in which a fabulous heavenly world, filled with gods, saints, devils, demons, angels, archangels, cherubim and seraphim and dominions and powers, shot its fantastically magnified shapes and images across the actual life of earthborn man. This dream pervades the life of a culture as the fantasies of night dominate the mind of a sleeper: it is reality--while the sleep lasts. But, like the sleeper, a culture lives within an objective world that goes on through its sleeping or waking, and sometimes breaks into the dream, like a noise, to modify it or to make further sleep impossible.
By a slow natural process, the world of nature broke in upon the medieval dream of hell and paradise and eternity... .
"In the Middle Ages," as Emile Male said, "the idea of a thing which a man formed for himself was always more real than the actual thing itself, and we see why these mystical centuries had no conception of what men now call science. The study of things for their own sake held no meaning for the thoughtful man... . The task for the student of nature was to discern the eternal truth that God would have each thing express."
During the Middle Ages the external world had had no conceptual hold upon the mind. Natural facts were insignificant compared with the divine order and intention which Christ and his Church had revealed.... . ...whatever significance the items of daily life had was as stage accessories and costumes and rehearsals for the drama of Man's pilgrimage through eternity.
The herbals and treatises on natural history that came out during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, though they still mingled fable and conjecture with fact, were resolute steps toward the delineation of nature.... .
The discovery of nature as a whole was the most important part of that era of discovery which began for the Western World with the Crusades and the travels of Marco Polo and the southward ventures of the Portuguese. Nature existed to be explored, to be invaded, to be conquered, and finally, to be understood. Dissolving, the medieval dream disclosed the world of nature, as a lifting mist opens to view the rocks and trees and herds on a hillside, whose existence had been heralded only by the occasional tinkling of bells or the lowing of a cow.
6. The Obstacle of Animism
The great series of technical improvements that began to crystallize around the sixteenth century rested on a dissociation of the animate and the mechanical.
The original advances in modern technics became possible only when a mechanical system could be isolated from the entire tissue of relations.
For thousands of years animism had stood in the way of this development... .
It was by reason of the Church's belief in an orderly independent world, as Whitehead has shown in [the introduction to] Science and the Modern World, that the work of science could go on so confidently. [...] ...it is perhaps no accident that the serious scientists of the seventeenth century, like Galileo, Descartes, Leibniz, Newton, Pascal, were so uniformly devout men. The next step in development, partly made by Descartes himself, was the transfer of order from God to the Machine. For God became in the eighteenth century the Eternal Clockmaker who, having conceived and created and wound up the clock of the universe, had no further responsibility until the machine ultimately broke up-- or, as the nineteenth century thought, until the works ran down.
The method of science and technology, in their developed forms, implies a sterilization of the self, an elimination, as far as possible, of the human bias and preference, including the... pleasure in man's own image and the instinctive belief in the immediate presentations of his fantasies. What better preparation could a whole culture have for such an effort than the spread of the monastic system and the multiplication of a host of separate communities, dedicated to the living of a humble and self-abnegating life, under a strict rule? Here, in the monastery, was a relatively non-animistic, non-organic world: the temptations of the body were minimized... more often.. than in secular life. The effort to exalt the individual self was suspended in the collective routine.
[The monastery] Like the army... sharpened and disciplined and focussed the masculine will-to-power... . One of the first experimental scientists, Roger Bacon, was a monk; so, again, was Michael Stifel, who in 1544 widened the use of symbols in algebraic equations; the monks stood high in the roll of mechanics and inventors. The spiritual routine of the monastary, if it did not positively favor the machine, at least nullified many of the influences that worked against it.
In still another way did the institutions of the Church perhaps prepare the way for the machine: in their contempt for the body. Now respect for the body and its organs is deep in all the classic cultures of the past. [....] The whole ritual of life in the old cultures tended to emphasize respect for the body and to dwell on its beauties and delights... . [...] The enthronement of the human form in sculpture, and the care of the body in the palestra of the Greeks or the baths of the Romans, re-enforced this inner feeling for the organic.
This affirmative sense of the body surely never disappeared, even during the severest triumphs of Christianity: every new pair of lovers recovers it through their physical delight in each other. [...] But the systematic teachings of the Church were directed against the body and its culture: if on one hand it was a Temple of the Holy Ghost, it was also vile and sinful by nature: the flesh tended to corruption, and to achieve the pious ends of life one must mortify it and subdue it, lessening its appetites by fasting and abstention.
Hating the body, the orthodox minds of the Middle Ages were prepared to do it violence. Instead of resenting the machines that could counterfeit this or that action of the body, they could welcome it. [...] The writer in the Nurnberg Chronicle in 1398 might say that "wheeled engines performing strange tasks and shows and follies come directly from the devil"-- but in spite of itself, the Church was creating devil's disciples.
7. The Road Through Magic
Something more important than gold came out of the researches of the alchemists: the retort and the furnace and the alembic: the habit of manipulation by crushing, grinding, firing, distilling, dissolving-- valuable apparatus for real experiments, valuable methods for real science.
In sum, magic turned men's minds to the external world: it suggested the need of manipulating it: it helped create the tools for successfully achieving this, and it sharpened observation as to the results. The philosopher's stone was not found, but the science of chemistry emerged... . The herbalist, zealous in his quest for simples and cure-alls, led the way for the intensive explorations of the botanist and the physician.... . [...] As children's play anticipates crudely adult life, so did magic anticipate modern science and technology... .
8. Social Regimentation
If mechanical thinking... produced the machine, regimentation gave it a soil to grow in. [...] Long before the peoples of the Western World turned to the machine, mechanism as an element in social life had come into existence. Before inventors created engines to take the place of men, the leaders of men had drilled and regimented multitudes of human beings: they had discovered how to reduce men to machines.
...compulsively drawing society into a regimented mould [was] the methodical routine of the drillmaster and the book-keeper, the soldier and the bureaucrat. These masters of regimentation gained full ascendency in the seventeenth century. The new bourgeoisie, in the counting house and shop, reduced life to a careful, uninterrupted routine... . [...] Timed payments: timed contracts: timed work: timed meals: from this period on nothing was quite free from the stamp of the calendar or the clock. Waste of time became for protestant religious preachers, like Richard Baxter, one of the most heinous sins [editors note: Huizinga describes how in the late medieval period we see a shift in the cardinal sin, from Pride to Laziness].
The ideal man of the new order was Robinson Crusoe. No wonder he indoctrinated children with his virtues for two centuries, and served as the model for a score of sage discourses on the Economic Man. [...] In the new economic system every man was for himself. The dominant virtues were thrift, foresight, skillful adaptation of mens.
True: the main devices of finance were a product of Catholic Europe, and Protestantism has received undeserved praise as a liberating force from medieval routine and undeserved censure as the original source and spiritual justification of modern capitalism. But the peculiar office of Protestantism was to unite finance to the concept of a godly life and to turn the asceticism countenanced by religion into a device for concentration upon worldly goods and worldy advancement.
Each element in life forms part of a cultural mesh: one part implicates, restrains, helps to express the other. During this period the mesh was broken, and a fragment escaped and launched itself on a separate career-- the will to dominate the environment.
At all events, the old synthesis had broken down... . In no little degree, it had broken down because it was an inadequate one: a closed, perhaps fundamentally neurotic conception of human life and destiny, which originally had sprung out of the misery and terror that had attended both the brutality of imperialistic Rome and its ultimate putrefaction and decay. [...] ...human life had a destiny outside that shell.
From the fifteenth century to the seventeenth men lived in... a world that was daily growing emptier. [...] They threw themselves back into the medieval dream with a new intensity of feeling, if not conviction... . [...] But beneath the surface... was a dead world, an empty world... . ...it is just at the moment of cultural and social dissolution that the mind often works with a freedom and intensity that is not possible when the social pattern is stable and life as a whole is more satisfactory... .
Men no longer believed, without practical reservations, in heaven and hell and the communion of the saints: still less did they believe in the smooth gods and goddesses and sylphs and muses whom they used, with elegant but meaningless gestures, to adorn their thoughts and embellish their environment... . [...] Mechanics became the new religion, and it gave to the world a new Messiah: the machine.
9. The Mechanical Universe
At the beginning of the seventeenth century there were only scattered efforts of thought... . At the end... there existed a fully articulated philosophy of the universe, on purely mechanical lines, which served as a starting point for all the physical sciences and for further technical improvements: the mechanical Weltbild had come into existence.
...the first effect of this advance in clarity and in sobriety of thought was to devaluate every department of experience except that which lent itself to mathematical investigation.
In general, the practice of the physical sciences meant an intensification of the senses... . [...] But with this gain in accuracy, went a deformation of experience as a whole. The instruments of science were helpless in the realm of qualities. The qualitative was reduced to the subjective: the subjective was dismissed as unreal, and the unseen and unmeasurable non-existent. [...] As the outer world of perception grew in importance, the inner world... became more and more impotent.
The division of labor and the specialization in single parts of an operation, which already had begun to characterize the economic life of the seventeenth century, prevailed in the world of thought: They were expressions of the same desire for mechanical accuracy and for quick results.
Unfortunately, isolation and abstraction, while important to orderly research and refined symbolic representation, are likewise conditions under which real organisms die, or at least cease to function effectively. [...] Individually, one side of the personality was paralyzed; collectively, one side of experience was ignored. To substitute... the dissected corpse for the living body... the mechanically measurable or reproducible for the inaccessible and the complicated and the organically whole, is to achieve a limited practical mastery at the expense of truth and of the larger efficiency that depends on truth.
By his consistent metaphysical principles and his factual method of research, the physical scientist denuded the world of natural and organic objects and turned his back upon real experience: he substituted for the body and blood of reality a skeleton of effective abstractions which he could manipulate with appropriate wires and pulleys.
What was left was the bare, depopulated world of matter and motion: a wasteland. [...] Machines-- and machines alone-- completely met the requirements of the new scientific method and point of view: they fulfilled the definition of "reality" far more perfectly than living organisms. And once the mechanical world-picture was established, machines could thrive and multiply and dominate existence... . [...] By renouncing a large part of his humanity, a man could achieve godhood: he dawned on this second chaos and created the machine in his own image: the image of power, but power ripped loose from his flesh and isolated from his humanity.
10. The Duty to Invent
The displacement of the living and the organic took place rapidly with the early development of the machine.
Faith had at last found a new object.... engines and machines. Power: the application of power to motion, and the application of motion to production, and of production to money-making, and so the further increase of power-- this was the worthiest object that a mechanical habit of mind and a mechanical mode of action put before men. [...] ...from the seventeenth century on the machine served as a substitute religion... .
In the eighteenth century, Mechanical Societies sprang into existence, to propagate the creed with greater zeal: they preached the gospel of work... and salvation by the machine.
11. Practical Anticipations
The leading utopias of the time, Christianopolis [1619, Johannes Valentinus Andreae], the City of the Sun [1602, Tommaso Campanella], to say nothing of Bacon's fragment or Cyrano de Bergerac's minor works, all brood upon the possibility of utilizing the machine to make the world more perfect: the machine was the substitute for Plato's justice, temperance, and courage, even as it was likewise for the Christian ideal of grace and redemption. The machine came forth as the new demiurge that was to create a new heaven and a new earth: ...a new Moses that was to lead a barbarous humanity into the promised land.
Clock-making: time-keeping: space-exploration: monastic regularity: bourgeois order: technical devices: protestant inhibitions: magical explorations... -- all these separate activities, inconsiderable perhaps in themselves, had at last formed a complex social and ideological network, capable of supporting the vast weight of the machine and extending its operations still further.
Chapter II. Agents of Mechanization
2. De Re Metallica
Until the fifteenth century A.D., mining had perhaps made less technical progress than any other art... .
...the art is pursued within the bowels of the earth.
Metals... exist as compounds in ores; and the ores themselves are often inaccessible, hard to find, and difficult to bring to the surface... . The extraction of metals,... requires high temperatures over considerable periods. Even after the metals are extracted they are hard to work: the easiest is one of the most precious, gold, while the hardest is the most useful, iron. [...] In short: the ores and metals are recalcitrant materials: they evade discovery and they resist treatment. only by being softened do the metals respond: where there is metal there must be fire.
Mining and refining and smithing invoke... the ruthlessness of modern warfare: they place a premium on brute force.
The mine... is the first completely inorganic environment to be created and lived in by man: far more inorganic than the giant city that Spengler has used as a symbol of the last stages of mechanical desiccation. [...] Within the subterranean rock, there is no life... . The face of nature above the ground is good to look upon, and the warmth of the sun stirs the blood of the hunter on the track of game or the peasant in the field. Except for the crystalline formations, the face of the mine is shapeless... . In hacking and digging the contents of the earth, the miner has no eye for the forms of things: what he sees is sheer matter, and until he gets to his vein it is only an obstacle which he breaks through stubbornly and sends up to the surface. If the miner sees shapes on the walls of his cavern, as the candle flickers, they are only the monstrous distortions of his pick or his arm... . Day has been abolished and the rhythm of nature broken: continuous day and night production first came into existence here. The miner must work by artificial light even though the sun be shining outside; still further down in the seams, he must work by artificial ventilation, too: a triumph of the "manufactured environment."
The mine is nothing less in fact than the concrete model of the conceptual world which was built up by the physicist of the seventeenth century.
There is a passage in Francis Bacon that makes one believe that the alchemists had perhaps a glimpse of this fact. He says: "If then it be true that Democritus said, That the truth of nature lieth hid in certain deep mines and caves, and if it be true likewise that the alchemists do so much inculcate, that Vulcan is a second nature, and imitateth that dexterously and compendiously, which nature worketh by ambages and length of time, it were good to divide natural philosophy into the mine and the furnace: and to make two professions or occupations of natural philosophers, some to be pioneers and some smiths; some to dig, and some to refine and hammer."
The practices of the mine do not remain below the ground: they affect the miner himself, and they alter the surface of the earth.
Whatever could be said in defense of the art was said with great pith and good sense by Dr. Georg Bauer (Agricola), the German physician and scientist who wrote various compendious treatises on
geology and mining at the beginning of the sixteenth century. ...his book De Re Metallica remains to this day a classic text, like Vitruvius on Architecture.
First as to the miner himself: "The critics," says Dr. Bauer, "say further that mining is a perilous occupation to pursue because the miners are sometimes killed by the pestilential air which they breathe; sometimes their lungs rot away; sometimes the men perish by being crushed in masses of rock; sometimes falling from ladders into the shafts, they break their arms, legs, or necks... ."
Let Dr. Bauer again be our witness. "Besides this the strongest argument of the detractors is that the fields are devastated by mining operations, for which reason formerly Italians were warned by law that on one should dig the earth for metals and so injure their very fertile fields, their vineyards, and their olive groves. Also they argue that the woods and groves are cut down, for there is need of endless amount of wood for timbers, machines, and the smelting of metals. And when the wood and groves are felled, there are exterminate the beasts and birds, very many of which furnish pleasant and agreeable food for man. Further, when the ores are washed, the water which has been used poisons the brooks and streams, and either destroys the fish or drives them away. Therefore the inhabitants of these regions, on account of the devastation of their fields, woods, groves, brooks, and rivers, find great difficulty in procuring the necessaries of life, and by reason of the destruction of the timber they are forced to a greater expense in erecting buildings."
There is no reason to go into Dr. Bauer's lame reply: it happens that the indictment still holds, and is an unanswerable one. [...] "A typical example of deforestation," says a modern writer on the subject, "is to be seen on the esatern slopes of the Sierra Nevada, overlooking the Truckee Valley, where the cutting of trees to provide timber for the deep mines of the Comstock left the hillside exposed to erosion, so that today they are bleak, barren and hideous. Most of the old mining regions tell the same tale, from Lenares to Leadville, from Potosi to Porcupine." The history of the last four hundred years has underlined the truths of this indictment; for what was only an incidental and local damage in Dr. Bauer's time became a widespread characteristic of Western Civilization just as soon as it started in the eighteenth century to rest directly upon the mine and its products... .
Cont. p. 72
Chapter III. The Eotechnic Phase
2. The Technological Complex
Looking back over the last thousand years, one can divide the development of the machine and the machine civilization into three successive but over-lapping and interpenetrating phases: eotechnic, paleotechnic, neotechnic. The demonstration that industrial civilization was not a single whole, but showed two marked, contrasting phases, was first made by Professor Patrick Geddes and published a generation ago. IN defining the paleotechnic and neotechnic phases, he however neglected the important period of preparation, when all the key inventions were either invented or foreshadowed. So, following the archeological parallel he called attention to, I shall call the first period the eotechnic phase: the dawn age of modern technics.
...each of these phases... forms a technological complex. Each phase... has its origin in certain definite regions and tends to employ certain special resources and raw materials. Each phase has its specific means of utilizing and generating energy, and its special forms of production.
Almost any part of a technical complex will point to and symbolize a whole series of relationships within that complex.
Speaking in terms of power and characteristic materials, the eotechnic phase is a water-and-wood complex: the paleotechnic phase is a coal-and-iron complex, and the neotechnic phase is an electricity-and-alloy complex.
The dawn-age of our modern technics stretches roughly from the year 1000 to 1750. [...] This complex reached its climax, technologically speaking, in the seventeenth century, with the foundation of experimental science, laid on a basis of mathematics, fine manipulation, accurate timing, and exact measurement.
...it came to a delayed fruition in the America of 1850.
With respect to human culture as a whole, the eotechnic period, though politically a chequered one,... was one of the most brilliant periods in history. For alongside its great mechanical achievements it built cities, cultivated landscapes, constructed buildings... .
Noting the underlying unity of eotechnic civilization, through all its superficial changes in costume and creed, one must look upon its successive portions as expressions of a single culture.
3. New Sources of Power
The eotechnic period was marked first of all by a steady increase in actual horsepower. This came directly from two pieces of apparatus: first, the introduction of the iron horseshoe, probably in the ninth century... . Second: by the tenth century the modern form of harness, in which the pull is met at the shoulder instead of at the neck, was re-invented in Western-Europe-- it had existed in China as early as 200 B.C.-- and by the twelfth century, it had supplanted the inefficient harness the Romans had known.
...the greatest technical progress came about in regions that had abundant supplies of wind and water. It was along the fast flowing streams, the Rhone and the Danube and the small rapid rivers of Italy, and in the North Sea and Baltic areas, with their strong winds, that this new civilization had its firmest foundations and some of its most splendid cultural expressions.
Water-wheels for raising water in a chain of pots and for working automatic figures were described by Philo of Byzantium in the third century B.C.; and water-mills were definitely recorded in Rome in the first century B.C.
Unlike the elaborate sanitary facilities of Rome, the water-mill never fell into complete disuse. There are allusions to such mills, as Usher points out, in a collection of Irish laws in the fifth century... . Though first used to grind corn, the water-mill was used to saw wood as early as the fourth century... : by the time the Domesday Book survey was made there were five thousand water-mills in England alone-- about one to every four hundred people-- and England was then a backward country on the fringe of European civilization.
Grinding grain and pumping water were not the only operations for which the water-mill was used: it furnished power for pulping rags for paper (Ravensburg: 1290): it ran the hammering and cutting machines of an ironworks (near Dobrilugk, Lausitz, 1320): it sawed wood (Augsburg: 1322): it beat hides in the tannery, it furnished power for spinning silk, it was used in fulling-mills to work up the felts, and it turned the grinding machines of the armorers. The wire-pulling machine invented by Rudulph of Nurnberg in 1400 was worked by water-power. [...] As early as the fifteenth century, water-mills were used for crushing ore. The importance of water-power in relation to the iron industries cannot be over-estimated: for by utilizing this power it was possible to make more powerful bellows, attain higher heats, use larger furnaces, and therfore increase the production of iron.
Only second to waterpower in importance was windpower. Whatever the route it entered, the windmill spread rapidly in Europe, and it was widely diffused by the end of the twelfth century. The first definite knowledge of the windmill comes from a charter in 1105 authorizing the Abbot of Savigny to establish windmills in the diocese of Evreux, Bayeux, and Coutances; in England, the first date is 1143, and in Venice 1332... .
The mill reached its greatest size and its most efficient form in the hands of the Dutch engineers toward the end of the sixteenth century, although the Italian engineers, including Leonardo himself, who is usually given credit for the turret windmill [or tower windmill], contributed their share to the machine.
This development of wind and water power did not reach its height in most parts of Europe until the seventeenth century: in England, not till the eighteenth century. [...] In the seventeenth century the most powerful prime mover in existence was the waterworks for Versailles [to feed the many waterfalls around the palace]... .
When the textile industries attained an unheard of volume of production in the eighteenth century it was by means of water-power, not the steam engine, that this was first achieved... . By the middle of the nineteenth century water turbines of 500 H.P. had been built. Plainly, the modern industrial revolution would have come into existence and gone on steadily had not a ton of coal been dug in England, and had not a new iron mine been opened.
4. Trunk, Plank, and Spar
The mystic identification with the life of the old forest, which one feels in the ballads and folk-tales of the period, expressed a fact about the civilization which was emerging: wood was the universal material of the eotechnic economy.
All the elaborate masonry forms were dependent upon the work of the carpenter: it was not merely that the piers themselves, in the later gothic construction, resembled tree trunks laced together or that the filtered light within the church had the dimness of the forest, while the effect of the bright glass was like that of the blue sky or a sunset seen through the tracery of branches [editors note: see Decline of the West and The Gothic Image for the comparison between the interior of the gothic cathedral and the forest at twilight]: the fact is that none of this construction was possible without an elaborate falsework of wood: nor without wooden cranes and windlasses could the stones have been conveniently raised the necessary heights.
In all the operations of industry, wood played a part out of all proportion to that played by metals... : it was not merely the direct use of wood, but its part in mining and smelting and forging, that was responsible, as I pointed out before, for the destruction of the forests.
As raw material, as tool, as machine-tool, as machine, as utensil and utility, as fuel, and as final product wood was the dominant industrial resource of the eotechnic phase.
If the twelfth century witnessed the introduction of the mariner's compass, the thirteenth brought the installation of the permanent rudder, used instead of the oar for steering, and the sixteenth introduced the use of the clock to determine longitude and the use of the quadrant to determine latitude... [editors note: the Sextant didn't appear until the 18th century]. Out of the needs of navigation came that enormous labor-saving device, the logarithmic table, worked out by Briggs on Napier's foundation, and a little more than a century later the ship's chronometer was finally perfected by Harrison.
At the beginning of this period sails, which had hitherto been used chiefly with oars, began to supplant them and wind took the place of human muscle for working ships. In the fifteenth century the two-masted ship had come into existence: but it was dependent upon a fair wind. By 1500 the three-masted ship had appeared, and it was so far improved that it could beat against the wind: long ocean voyages were at last possible... . [...] With growing confidence in his ability to steer, to make headway, to find his position, and to reach port, the sailor replaced the slow land routes with his water routes.
The fastest type of sailing ship, the clipper, was not designed until the eighteen forties, and it was not until the twentieth century that the triangular type of mainsail replaced the topheavy polygon on the smaller craft and improved their speed. [...] To speak of power as a recent acquisition of industry is to forget the kinetic energy of falling water and moving air... .
5. Through a Glass, Brightly
Far more significant for civilization and culture than progress in the metallurgical arts up to the eighteenth century was the great advance in glass-making.
Glass itself was a very ancient discovery... . ...openings for glass windows were found in the excavation of Pompeian houses. In the early Middle Ages, glass furnaces began to come back, first in the wooded districts near the monastaries, then near the cities: glass was used for holding liquids and for making the windows of public buildings. ...by the twelfth century glass of intense color was made, and the use of these glasses in the windows of the new churches, admitting light, modifying it, transforming it, gave them a sombre brilliance that the most ornate carving and gold of the baroque churches only feebly rival.
By the thirteenth century the famous glass works at Marano, near Venice, had been founded... . ...by 1373 there was a guild of glassmakers in Nurnberg... .
The development of glass changed the aspect of indoor life, particularly in regions with long winters and cloudy days. [...] ...high cost restricted glass to public buildings, but step by step it made its way into the private dwelling: Aeneas Sylvius de Piccolomini found in 1448 that half the houses in Wien had glass windows, and toward the end of the sixteenth century glass assumed in the design and construction of the dwelling house a place it had never had in any previous architecture. A parallel development went on in agriculture. [...] Hothouses, which used lapis specularis, a species of mica, instead of glass, were used by the Emperor Tiberius: but the glass hothouse was probably an eotechnic invention. It lengthened the growing period of Northern Europe, increased, so to say, the climatic range of a region... .
To have light in the dwelling house or the hothouse without being subject to cold or rain or snow, was the great contribution to the regularity of domestic living... . This substitution of the window for the wooden shutter... was not fairly complete until the end of the seventeenth century... . As early as 1300 pure colorless glass was made in Maurano... . In losing color and ceasing to serve as picture-- the function it had occupied in medieval church decoration-- and in letting in, instead, the forms and colors of the outside world, glass served also as a symbol of the double process of naturalism and abstraction which had begun to characterize the thought of Europe. More than that: it furthered this process. Glass helped put the world in a frame:... it focussed attention on a sharply defined field-- namely, that which was bounded by the frame.
The medieval symbolism dissolved and the world became a strangely different place as soon as one looked at it through glasses. The first change was effected by the use of convex lens in spectacles: this corrected the flattening of the human lens due to age, and the defect of farsightedness: Singer has suggested that the revival of learning might in part be attributed to the number of additional years of eyesight for reading that the spectacles gave to human life. Spectacles were in wide use by the fifteenth century, when, with the invention of printing, a great need for them declared itself; and at the end of that century the concave lens was introduced to correct near-sightedness.
...it was a Dutch optician, Johann Lippersheim, who in 1605 invented the telescope and thus suggested to Galileo the efficient means he needed for making astronomical observations. In 1590 another Hollander, the optician Zacharias Jansen invented the compound microscope: possibly also the telescope. One invention increased the scope of the macrocosm; the other revealed the microcosm: between them, the naive conceptions of space that the ordinary man carried around were completely upset: one might say that these two inventions, in terms of the new perspective, extended the vanishing point toward infinity and increased almost infinitely the plane of the foreground from which those lines had their point of origin.
In the middle of the seventeenth century Leeuwenhoek... became the world's first bacteriologist. He discovered monsters in the scrapings of his teeth more mysterious and awful than any that had been encountered in the search for the Indies. If the glass did not actually add a new dimension to space, it extended its area, and it filled that space with new bodies, fixed stars at unimaginably vast distances, microcellular organisms whose existence was so incredible that, but for the researches of Spallanzani, they remained outside the sphere of serious investigation for over a century, after which their existence, their partnership, their enmity, almost became the source of a new demonology.
Glasses not merely opened people's eyes but their minds: seeing was believing. [...] Now the eye became the most respected organ. [...] The use of glasses in the following centuries magnified the authority of the eye.
The retort, the distilling flask, the test-tube: the barometer, the thermometer, the lenses and the slide of the microscope, the electric light, the x-ray tube, the audion-- all these are products of glass technics, and where would the sciences be without them?
There is one further property of glass that had its first full effect in the seventeenth century. One sees it perhaps most clearly in the homes of the Dutch, with their enormous windows, for it was in the Netherlands that the use of glass and its manifold applications went furthest. [...] Sharper eyesight: a sharper interest in the external world: a sharper response to the clarified image-- these characteristics went hand in hand with the widespread introduction of glass.
6. Glass and the Ego
For perhaps the first time, except for reflections in the water and in the dull surfaces of metal mirrors, it was possible to find an image that corresponded accurately to what others saw. [...] The most powerful prince of the esventeenth century created a vast hall of mirrors, and the mirror spread from one room to another in the bourgeois household. Self-consciousness, introspection, mirr0r-conversation developed with the new object itself: this preoccupation with one's image comes at the threshold of the mature personality when young Narcissus gazes long and deep into the face of the pool-- and the sense of the separate personality, a perception of the objective attributes of one's identity, grows out of this communion.
The use of the mirror signalled the beginning of introspective biography in the modern style: that is, not as a means of edification but as a picture of the self, its depths, its mysteries, its inner dimensions. The self in the mirror corresponds to the physical world that was brought to life by natural science in the same epoch: it was the self in abstracto, only part of the real self, the part that one can divorce from the background of nature and the influential presence of other men. [...] Indeed, when one is completely whole and at one with the world one does not need the mirror... .
...the isolation of the world from the self-- the method of the physical sciences-- and the isolation of the self from the world-- the method of introspective biography...-- were complementary phases of a single process. Much was learnt through that dissociation: for in the act of disintegrating the wholeness of human experience,the various atomic fragments that composed it were more clearly seen and more readily grasped.
The world as conceived and observed by science, the world as revealed by the painter, were both worlds that were seen through and with the aid of glasses: spectacles, microscopes, telescopes, mirrors, windows. What was the new easel picture, in fact, but a removable window opening upon an imaginary world? [...] Glass was in fact the peep-hole through which one beheld a new world. Through glass some of the mysteries of nature themselves became transparent. Is it any wonder then that perhaps the most comprehensive philosopher of the seventeenth century, at home alike in ethics and politics and science and religion, was Benedict Spinoza: not merely a Hollander, but a polisher of lenses.
7: The Primary Inventions
...the invention of the experimental method... was without doubt the greatest achievement of the eotechnic phase... . ...the relative impersonality of the new instruments and machines, particularly the automata, must have helped to build up the belief in an equally impersonal world of irreducible and brute facts, operating independently as clockwork... : the reorganization of experience in terms of mechanical causality and the development of cooperative, controlled, repeatable, verifiable experiments, utilizing just such segments of reality as lent themselves to this method-- this was a gigantic labor-saving device.
In mechanical invention proper, the chief eotechnic innovation was of course the mechanical clock. [...] The application of the pendulum to the clock, by Galileo and Huyghens, increased the accuracy of the instrument for common use.
But the indirect influence of clock-making was also important: as the first real instrument of precision, it set the pattern in accuracy and finish for all further instruments, all the more because it was regulated by the ultimate precision of the planetary movements themselves. [...] To quote Usher once more: "The primary development of the fundamental principles of applied mechanics was... largely based upon the problems of the clock." Clockmakers, along with blacksmiths and locksmiths, were among the first machinists... . In sum, the clock was the most influential of machines, mechanically as well as socially; and by the middle of the eighteenth century it had become the most perfect: indeed, its inception and its perfection pretty well delimit the eotechnic phase. To this day, it is the pattern of fine automatism.
Second to the clock in order if not perhaps in importance was the printing press.
The printing press and movable type were perfected by Guten berg and his assistant at Mainz in the fourteen-forties. An astronomical calendar done in 1447 is the earliest datable example of Gutenberg's printing... . [...] The decisive improvement came with the invention of a hand-mold to cast uniform metal types.
...the printed sheet, even before the military uniform, was the first completely standardized product, manufactured in series, and the movable types themselves were the first example of completely standardized and interchangeable parts. Truly a revolutionary invention in every department.
Compared with oral communication any sort of writing... frees communication from the restrictions of time and space and makes discourse wait on the convenience of the reader-- who can interrupt the flow of thought or repeat it or concentrate upon isolated parts of it. [...] So print speedily became the new medium of intercourse: abstracted from gesture and physical presence, the printed word furthered that process of analysis and isolation which became the leading achievement of eotechnic thought and which tempted Auguste Comte to dub the whole epoch "metaphysical."
More than any other device, the printed book oreleased people from the domination of the immediate and the local. Doing so, it contributed further to the dissociation of medieval society: print made a greater impression than actual events, and by centering attention on the printed word, people lost that balance between the sensuous and the intellectual, between image and sound, between the concrete and the abstract... . To exist was to exist in print: the rest of the world tended gradually to become more shadowy.
But the printing press by itself did not perform the revolution: paper played a scarcely less important part. ...debts, deeds, contracts, news, were all committed to paper, so that, while feudal society existed by virtue of customs that were rigorously maintained from generation to generation, the last elements of feudal society were abolished in England by the simple device of asking peasants who had always had a customary share in the common lands for some documentary proof that they had ever owned it. Custom and memory noew played second fiddle to the written word: reality meant "established on paper." [...] Capitalism, by committing its transactions to paper, could at last make and preserve a strict accountancy of time and money; and the new education for the merchant classes and their helpers consisted essentially in a mastery of the three R's. A paper world came into existence... .
As a space-saver, a time-saver, a labor-saver... paper had a unique part to play in the development of industrialism. Through the habit of using print and paper thought lost some of its flowing, four-dimensional, organic character, and became abstract, categorical, stereotyped... .
The primary mechanical inventions of the clock and the printing press were accompanied by social inventions that were almost equally important: the university, beginning with Bologna in 1100, Paris in 1150, Cambridge in 1229 and Salamanca in 1243: a co-operative organization of knowledge on an international basis. [...] In the sixteenth century two further social inventions were added: the scientific academy, first founded in the Accademia Secretorum Naturae in Naples in 1560, and the industrial exhibition, the first of which was held at Rathaus in Nurnberg in 1569, the second in Paris in 1683.
By means of the university, the scientific academy and the industrial exhibition the exact arts and sciences were systematically explored... . One further important institution must be added: the laboratory. Here a new type of environment was created, combining the resources of the cell, the study, the library, and the workshop.
More direct in its effect upon technics was the creation of the factory. Down to the nineteenth century factories were always called mills, for what we call the factory grew out of the application of water-power to industrial processes... .
The factory had finally a double role: it was an agent of mechanical regimentation, like the new army, and it was an example of genuine social order, appropriate to the new processes in industry.
The unison and cooperation produced by these various institutions, from the university to the factory, vastly increased the amount of effective energy in society... .
The clock and the printing press and the blast furnace were the giant inventions of the eotechnic phase, comparable to the steam engine in the period that followed, or the dynamo and the radio in the neotechnic phase.
Since invention is almost never the sole work of a single inventor, however great a genius he may be, and since it is the product of the successive labors of innumerable men, working at various times and often toward various purposes, it is merely a figure of speech to attribute an invention to a single person: this is a convenient falsehood fostered by a spurious sense of patriotism and by the device of patent monopolies-- a device that enables one man to claim special financial rewards for being the last link in the complicated social process that produced the invention. Any fully developed machine is a composite collective product: the present weaving machinery, according to Hobson, is a compound of about 800 inventions, while the present carding machinery is a compound of about 60 patents.
8: Weakness and Strength
[maybe fill in this gap a little]
Sombart marks the turning point of capitalism in the transfer of the center of gravity from the organic textile industries to the inorganic mining industries: that likewise marks the transition from the eotechnic to the paleotechnic economy.
Manufacture... organized and partitioned handwork carried on in large establishments with or without power-machines, broke down the process of production into a series of specialized operations. [...] This division was, in fact, a sort of empirical analysis of the working process, analyzing it out into a series of simplified human motions which could then be translated into mechanical operations. Once this analysis was performed, the rebuilding of the entire sequence of operations into a machine became more feasible. The mechanization of human labor was, in effect, the first step toward the humanization of the machine-- humanization in the sense of giving the automaton some of the mechanical equivalents of life-likeness. The immediate effect of this division of process was a monstrous dehumanization... . Marx has summed up the process admirably.
"[...] manufacture... transforms the worker into a cripple, a monster, by forcing him to develop some highly specialized dexterity at the cost of a world of productive impulses and faculties-- much as in Argentina they slaughter a whole beast simply in order to get his hide or tallow. Not merely are the various partial operations allotted to different individuals; but the individual himself is split up, is transformed into the automatic motor of some partial operation... ."
In sum: as industry became more advanced from a mechanical point of view it at first became more backward from a human standpoint. [...] It remained for the nineteenth century to accomplish this final degradation.
Culture and technics, though intimately related to each other through the activities of living men, often lie like non-conformable strata in geology, and, so to say, weather differently. During the greater part of the eotechnic period, however, they were in relative harmony.
Chapter IV. The Paleotechnic Phase
1. England's Belated Leadership
By the middle of the eighteenth century... the external forces of nature were harnessed and the mills and looms and spindles were working busily through Western Europe. The time had come to consolidate and systematize the great advances that had been made.
...after 1750 industry passed into a new phase, with a different source of power, different materials, different social objectives.
2. The New Barbarism
As we have seen, the earlier technical development had not involved a complete breach with the past. On the contrary, it had seized and appropriated and assimilated the technical innovations of other cultures, some very ancient, and the pattern of industry was wrought into the dominant pattern of life itself.
Paleotehnic industry, on the other hand, arose out of the break-down of European society and carried the process of disruption to a finish. [...] A landless, traditionless proletariat, which had been stedily gathering since the sixteenth century, was drawn into these new areas and put to work in these new industries: if peasants were not handy, paupers were supplied by willing municipal authorities... . These new mill villages and milltowns, barren of even the dead memorials of an older humaner culture, knew no other round and suggested no other outlet, than steady unremitting toil. The operations themselves were repetitive and monotonous; the environment was sordid; the life that was lived in these new centers were empty and barbarous to the last degree. Here the break with the past was complete.
Here was something almost without parallel in the history of civilization: not a lapse into barbarism through the enfeeblement of a higher civilization, but an upthrust into barbarism, aided by the very forces and interests which originally had been directed toward the conquest of the environment and the perfection of human culture. Where and under what conditions did this change take place? And how, when it represented in fact the lowest point in social development Europe had known since the Dark Ages did it come to be looked upon as a humane and beneficial advance?
The phase one here defines as paleotechnic reached its highest point, in terms of its own concepts and ends, in England in the middle of the nineteenth century: its cock-crow of triumph was the great industrial exhibition in the new Crystal Palace at Hyde Park in 1851: the first World Exposition, an apparent victory for free trade, free enterprise, free invention, and free access to all the world's markets by the country that boasted already that it was the workshop of the world. [...] In the United States the paleotechnic regime did not get under way until the eighteen fifties, almost a century after England; and it reached its highest point at the beginning of the present century, whereas in Germany it dominated the years between 1870 and 1914, and, being carried to perhaps fuller and completer expression, has collapsed with greater rapidity there than in any other part of the world.
Without accepting any of the implications of Henry Adam's attempt to apply the phase rule of physics to the facts of history, one may grant an increasing rate of change to the processes of invention and technical improvement, at least up to the present; and if eight hundred years almost defines the eotechnic phase, one should expect a much shorter term for the paleotechnic one.
3. Carboniferous Capitalism
The great shift in population and industry that took place in the eighteenth century was due to the introduction of coal as a source of mechanical power, to the use of new means of making that power effective-- the steam engine-- and to new methods of smelting and working up iron. Out of this coal and iron complex, a new civilization developed.
In the economy of the earth, the large-scale opening up of coal seams meant that industry was beginning to live for the first time on an accumulation of potential energy, derived from the ferns of the carboniferous period, instead of upon current income. In the abstract, mankind entered into the possession of a capital inheritance more splendid than all the wealth of the Indies... .
4. The Steam Engine
In all its broader aspects, paleotechnic industry rested on the mine... .
From the mine came the steam pump and presently the steam engine: ultimately the steam locomotive and so, by derivation, the steamboat. From the mine came the escalator, the elevator,... and the subway for urban transportation. The railroad liewise came directly from the mine: roads with wooden rails were laid down in Newcastle, England, in 1602: but they were common in the German mines a hundred years before... . Around 1716 these wooden ways were capped with plates of malleable iron; and in 1767 cast iron bars were substituted. [...] The combination of the railroad, the train of cars, and the locomotive, first used in the mines at the beginning of the nineteenth century, was applied to passenger transportation a generation later. Wherever the iron rails and wooden ties of this new system of locomotion went, the mine and the products of the mine went with it: indeed, the principal product carried by railroads is coal. the nineteenth century town became in effect-- and indeed in appearance-- an extension of the coal mine... . To be cut off from the coal mine was to be cut off from the source of paleotechnic civilization.
The main lines of the invention [of the steam engine] were laid down before Watt came upon the scene. It was his mission, not to invent the steam engine, but to raise considerably its efficiency by creating a separate condensing chamber and by utilizing the expansive pressure of the steam itself. [...] His earlier steam engines were all pumps. Not until 1781 did Watt devote himself to inventing a rotary prime mover; and the answer to this problem was the great double-action fifty horsepower engine that his firm installed in the Albion Flour Mill in 1786, following the ten horsepower engine he first made for use in a brewery in London. In less than twenty years, so great was the demand for power, he installed 84 engines in cotton mills, 9 in wool and worsted mills, 18 in canal-works and 17 in breweries.
Incidently, the Albion Mills, designed by Rennie, were not merely the first to use steam for grinding wheat, but are supposed to have been the first important establishment in which every piece of the plant and equipment, axles, wheels, pinions, and shafts, was made of metal.
In more than one department, then, the 1780's mark the definite crystallization of the paleotechnic complex: Murdock's steam carriage, Cort's reverberatory furnance, Wilkinson's iron boat, Car-wright's power loom, and Jouffroy's and Fitch's steamboats, the latter with a screw propeller, date back to this decade.
The whole technique of wood had now to be perfected in the more difficult, refractory material-- iron.
Twenty-four hour operations, which characterized the mine and the blast furnace, now came into other industries which had heretofore respected the limitations of day and night. Moved by a desire to earn every possible sum on their investments [i.e., the steam engine], the textile manufacturers lengthened the working day: and whereas in England in the fifteenth century it had been fourteen or fifteen hours long in mid-summer with from two and a half to three hours allowed for recreation and meals, in the new milltowns it was frequently sixteen hours long all the year round, with a single hour off for dinner. Operated by the steam engine, lighted by gas, the new mills could work for twenty-four hours. Why not the worker?
The industrial leaders not only accepted concentration and magnitude as a fact of operation, conditioned by the steam engine: they came to believe in it by itself, as a mark of progress.
...with the integration of the railroad system and the growth of international markets, population tended to heap up in the great terminal cities, the junctions, the port towns.
That purely physical massing of population to which Patrick Geddes gave the name conurbation, was a direct product of the coal-and-iron regime.
5. Blood and Iron
Iron and coal dominated the paleotechnic period. [...] ...the paleotechnic milieu... was... reduced, by reason of the soot and cinders that accompanied its activities, to its characteristic tones, grey, dirty, brown, black. The center of the new industrialism in England was appropriately called the Black Country... .
Iron became the universal material... .
In the very midst of celebrating the triumphs of peace and internationalism in 1851, the paleotechnic regime was preparing for a series of more lethal wars in which, as a result of modern methods of production and transport entire nations would finally become involved: the American Civil War, the Franco-Prussian War, most deadly and vicious of all, the World War.
[gap, p. 166, talking about the properties of Iron]
6. The Destruction of Environment
The first mark of paleotechnic industry was the pollution of the air.
In this paleotechnic world the realities were money, prices, capital, shares: the environment itself, like most of human existence, was treated as an abstraction.
So this period was marked throughout the Western World by the widespread perversion and destruction of environment: the tactics of mining and the debris of the mine spread everywhere.
...the reek of coal was the very incense of the new industrialism. A clear sky in an industrial district was the sign of a strike or a lockout or an industrial depression.
If atmospheric sewage was the first mark of paleotechnic industry, stream pollution was the second.
7. The Degradation of the Worker
Human beings were dealt with in the same spirit of brutality as the landscape... .
For a number of centuries the degradation of labor had been going on steadily in Europe; at the end of the eighteenth century, thanks to the shrewdness and near-sighted rapacity of the English industrialists, it reached its nadir in England.
By the middle of the eighteenth century the handicraft worker had been reduced, in the new industries, into a competitor with the machine. But there was one weak spot in the system: the nature of human beings themelves. [...] "By the infirmity of human nature," wrote Ure... , "it happens that the more skillful the workman, the more self-willed and intractable he is apt to become, and of course the less fit and component of the mechanical system in which... he may do great damage to the whole."
The first requirement for the factory system, then, was the castration of skill. The second was the discipline of starvation. The third was the closing up of alternative occupations by means of land-monopoly and dis-education.
...exclusion from craft apprenticeship, together with specialization in subdivided and partitioned mechanical functions, unfitted the machine-worker for the career of pioneer or farmer... . Reduced to the function of a cog, the new worker could not operate without being joined to a machine. ...the only things that kept them bound to the machine were starvation, ignorance, and gear. These three conditions were the foundations of industrial discipline,... even though the poverty of the worker undermined and periodically ruined the system of mass production which the new factory discipline promoted. Therein lay one of the inherent "contradictions" of the capitalist scheme of production.
It remained for Richard Arkwright, at the beginning of the paleotechnic development, to put the finishing touches upon the factory system itself: perhaps the most remarkable piece of regimentation, all things considered, that the last thousand years have seen.
Arkwright's great contribution to... the factory system... was the elaboration of a code of factory discipline: three hundred years after Prince Maurice had transformed the military arts, Arkwright perfected the industrial army.
At the opening of the the period, in 1770, a writer had projected a new scheme for providing for paupers. He called it a House of Terror: it was to be a place where paupers would be confined at work for fourteen hours a day and kept in hand by a starvation diet. Within a generation, this House of Terror had become the typical paleotechnic factory: in fact the ideal, as Marx well says, paled before the reality.
Industrial diseases naturally flourished in this environment.
...in so far as the workers were diseased, crippled, stupefied, and reduced to apathy and dejection by the paleotechnic environment they were only, up to a certain point, so much the better adapted to the new routine of factory and mill. For the highest standards of factory efficiency were achieved with the aid of only partly used human organisms-- in short, of defectives.
With the large scale organization of the factory it became necessary that the operatives should at least be able to read notices, and from 1832 onwards measures for providing education for the child laborers were introduced in England.
...a new type of personality had emerged, a walking abstraction: the Economic Man. Living men imitated this penny-in-the-slot automaton, this creature of bare rationalism. [...] Outside the industrial system, the Economic Man was in a state of neurotic maladjustment. [...] ...jailer and prisoner were both, so to say, inmates of the same House of Terror.
8. The Starvation of Life
The essential pattern set by paleotechnic industry in England, with its great technical lead and its sedate, well-disciplined operatives, was repeated in every new region, as the machine girdled the globe.
Religion ceased in large groups to be the opiate of the poor... : and it would be more nearly true to say that opiates became the religion of the poor.
The rhythm of movement disappeared: within the factory the quick staccato of the machine displaced the organic rhythms... .
Home life was crowded out of existence; the very ability to cook disappeared among the woman workers.
This starvation of the senses, this restriction and depletion of the physical body, created a race of invalids.
In vain did the educators of the period... attempt to combat this desiccation of the mind and this drying up of life at the roots.
At the very height of England's industrial squalor, when the houses for the working classes were frequently built beside open sewers and when rows of them were being built back to back-- at that very moment complacent scholars writing in middle-class libraries could dwell upon the "filth" and "dirt" and "ignorance" of the Middle Ages, as compared with the enlightenment and cleanliness of their own.
9. The Doctrine of Progress
Man, according to the philosophers and rationalists, was climbing steadily out of the mire of superstition, ignorance, savagery, into a world that was to become every more polished, human and rational... . Tools and instruments and laws and institutions had all been improved: instead of being moved by instincts and governed by force, men were capable of being moved and governed by reason.
The laws of progress became self-evident: were not new machines being invented every year? Were they not transformed by successive modifications?
Assuming that progress was a reality, if the cities of the nineteenth century were dirty, the cities of the thirteenth century must have been six centuries dirtier: for had not the world become constantly cleaner? [...] The fact that the cities of the thirteenth century were far brighter and cleaner and better ordered that the new Victorian towns: the fact that medieval hospitals were more spacious and more sanitary than their Victorian successors: the fact that in many parts of Europe the medieval worker had demonstrably a far higher standard of living than the paleotechnic drudge, tied triumphantly to a semi-automatic machine-- these facts did not even occur to the exponent of Progress as possibilities for investigation. They were ruled out automatically by the theory itself.
Plainly, by taking some low point of human development in the past, one might over a limited period of time point to a real advance. [...] But if one compared the amount of destruction caused by a hundred years of the most murderous warfare in the Middle Ages with what took place in four short years during the World War, precisely because of such great instruments of technological progress as modern artillery, steel tanks, poison gas, bombs and flame throwers, picric acid and T.N.T., the result was a step backward.
Unlike the organic patters of movement through space and time, the cycle of growth and decay, the balanced motion of the dancer, the statement and return of the musical composition, progress was motion toward infinity, motion without completion or end, motion for motion's sake.
Life was judged by the extent to which it ministered to progress, progress was not judged by the extent to which it ministered to life. [...] What paleotect dared ask himself whether labor-saving, money-grubbing, power-acquiring, space-annihilating, thing-producing devices were in fact producing an equivalent expansion and enrichment of life? That question would have been the ultimate heresy. The men who asked it, the Ruskins, the Nietzsches, the Melvilles, were in fact treated as heretics and cast out of this society: in more than one case, they were condemned to an exacerbating solitude that reached the limit of madness.
10. The Struggle for Existence
This struggle for the market was finally given a philosophic name: it was called the struggle for existence.
IN his essay on population the Reverend T. R. Malthus shrewdly generalized the actual state of England in the midst of the disorders that attended the new industry. [...] In the course of the struggle for food, the upper classes, with their thrift and foresight and superior mentality emerged from the ruck of mankind. With this image in mind, and with Malthus's Essay on Population as the definite stimulus to their thoughts, two British biologists, Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace, projected the intense struggle for the market upon the world of life in general. Another philosopher of industrialism, just as characteristically a railroad engineer by profession as Spinoza had been a lens grinder, coined a phrase that touched off the whole process: the the struggle for existence and the process of natural selection Spencer appended the results: "the survival of the fittest." The phrase itself was a tautology; for survival was taken as the proof of fitness: but that did not decrease its usefulness.
This new ideology arose out of the new social order, not out of Darwin's able biological work.
The Malthus-Darwin doctrine explained the dominance of the new bourgeoisie, people without taste, imagination, intellect, moral scruples, general culture or even elementary bowels of compassion, who rose to the surface precisely because they fitted an environment that had no place and no use for any of these humane attributes. Only anti-social qualities had survival value.
11. Class and Nation
Just as Darwin had extended the competition of the market to the entire world of life, so did Engels and Marx extend the contemporary class struggle to the entire history of society.
Marx's original prediction that the class struggle would be fought out on strict class lines between an impoverished international proletariat and an equally coherent international bourgeoisie was falsified by two unexpected conditions. One was the growth of the middle classes and the small industries... . [...] The second fact was [nationalism]... .
...the national struggle cut at right angles to the class struggle.
The struggle for political power... became a struggle between states for the command of exploitable areas... .
"The present," exclaimed Ure in 1835, "is distinguished from every preceding age by an universal ardor of enterprise in arts and manufactuers. Nationals, convinced at length that war is always a losing game, have converted their swords and muskets into factory implements, and now contend with each other in the bloodless but still formidable strife of trade. They no longer send troops to fight on distant fields, but fabrics to drive before them those of their old adversaries in arms, to take possession of a foreign market. To impair the resources of a rival at home, by underselling his wares abroad, is the new belligerent system, in pursuance of whcih every nerve and sinew of the people are put upon the strain."
The intensity of these nationalist struggles... somewhat weakened the effect of the class struggles. [...] After 1850 nationalism became the drill master of the restless proletariat, and the latter worked out its sense of inferiority and defeat by identification with the all-powerful State.
12. The Empire of Muddle
The jockeying for profits without any regard for the stable ordering of production had two unfortunate results. For one thing, it undermined argriculture. As long as food supplies and materials could be obtained cheaply from some far part of the earth... no effort was made to keep agriculture and industry in equipoise. THe countryside... was further depressed by the drift of population into the apparently thriving factory towns.
The second effect was even more disastrous. It divided the world into areas of machine production and areas of foods and raw materials: this made the existence of the over-industrialized countries more precarious, the further they were cut off from their rural base of supplies: hence the beginning of strenuous naval competition.
...in the long run neither England nor the "advanced countries" could hold the lead: for the new machine system was a universal one.
The state of paleotechnic society may be described, ideally, as one of wardom.
The school was regimented like an army, and the army camp became the universal school... . [...] The drab prisonlike houses, the palisades of dull streets, the treeless backyards filled with rubbish, the unbroken rooftops, with never a gap for park or playground, underlined this environment of death.
13. Power and Time
With the enormous increase in power a new tempo had entered production: the regimentation of time, which had been sporadic and fitful now began to influence the entire Western World. The symptom of this change was the mass production of cheap watches: first begun in Switzerland, and then undertaken on a large scale in Waterbury, Connecticut, in the eighteen-fifties.
Mechanical periodicity took the place of organic... periodicity in every department of life where the usurpation was possible.
The spread of rapid transportation occasioned a change in the method of time-keeping itself. Sun time, which varies a minute every eight miles as one travels from east to west, could no longer be observed. INstead of a local time based upon the sun, it was necessary to have a conventional time belt, and to change abruptly by a whole hour when one entered the new time belt. Standard time was imposed by the transcontinental railroads themselves in 1875 in the United States, ten years before the regulations for standard time were officially promulgated at a World Congress. This carried to a conclusion that standardization of time that had begun with the foundation of the Greenwich observatory two hundred years before, and had been carried further, first on the sea, by comparing ship's chronometers with Greenwich time. The entire planet was now divided off into a series of time-belts. This orchestrated actions over wider areas than had ever been able to move simultaneously before.
Mechanical time now became second nature... .
During the paleotechnic period, the increase of power and the acceleration of movement became ends in themselves... .
14. The Esthetic Compensation
...with the increase in the number of instruments, the division of labor within the orchestra corresponded to that of the factory: the division of the process itself became noticeable in the newer symphonies. [...] But in the orchestra the collective efficiency, the collective harmony, the functional division of labor, the loyal cooperative interplay between the leaders and the led, produced a collective unison greater than that which was achieved, in all probablity, within any single factory. For one thing, the rhythm was more subtle; and the timing of the successive operations was perfected in the symphony orchestra long before anything like the same efficient routine came about in the factory.
Here, then, in the constitution of the orchestra, was the ideal pattern of the new society. It was achieved in art before it was approached in technics. [...] ...what was lost in the other arts, what had disappeared almost completely in architecture, was recovered in music. Tempo, rhythm, tone, harmony, melody, polyphony, counterpoint, even dissonance and atonality, were all utilized freely to create a new ideal world, where the tragic destiny, the dim longings, the heroic destinies of men could be entertained once more. Cramped by its new pragmatic routines, driven from the market place and the factory, the human spirit rose to a new supremacy in the concert hall. Its greatest structures were built of sound and vanished in the act of being produced. If only a small part of the population listened to these works of art or had any insight into their meaning, they nevertheless had at least a glimpse of another heaven than Coketown's.
Naturally, human life as a whole did not stop short during this period. Many people still lived, if with difficulty, for other ends than profit, power, and comfort... . Perhaps most of the poets and novelists and painters were distressed by the new order and defied it in a hundred ways: above all, by existing as poets and novelists and painters, useless creatures, whose confrontation of life in its many-sided unity was looked upon by the Gradgrinds as a wanton escape from the "realities" of their abstract accountancy. Thackery deliberately cast his works in a pre-industrial environment, in order to evade the new issues. Carlyle, preaching the gospel of work, denounced the actualities of Victorian work. Dickens satirized the stock-promoter, the Manchester individualist, the utilitarian, the blustering self-made man: Balzac and Zola, painting the new financial order with a documentary realism, left no question as to its degradation and nastiness. Other artists turned with Morris and the Pre-Raphaelites back to the Middle Ages, where Overbeck and Hoffmann in Germany, and Chateaubriand and Hugo in France, had preceded them: still others turned with Browning to Renascence Italy, with Doughty to primitive Arabia, with Melville and Gauguin to the South Seas, with Thoreau to the primeval woods, with Tolstoy to the peasants. What did they seek? A few simple things not to be found between the railroad terminal and the factory: plain animal self-respect, color in the outer environment and emotional depth in the inner landscape, a life lived for its own values... . Peasants and savages had retained some of these qualities: and to recover them became one of the main duties of those who sought to supplement the iron fare of industrialism.
15. Mechanical Triumphs
The technical gains made during this phase were tremendous: it was an era of mechanical realization when, at last, the ability of the tool-makers and machine-makers had caught up with the demands of the inventor. During this period the principal machine tools were perfected , including the drill, the planer, and the lathe: power-propelled vehicles were created and their speeds were steadily increased... . [...] Iron production increased from 17,000 tons in 1740 to 2,100,000 tons in 1850.
Perhaps the greatest monument of the period was the Crystal Palace in England... . [...] This period of daring experimentation in iron structures reached its climax in the early skyscrapers of Chicago, and in Eiffel's great bridges and viaducts: the famous Eiffel Tower of 1888 overtopped these in height but not in mastery.
Ship-building and bridge-building... required a degree of inter-relation and co-ordination that few industries, except possibly railroads, approached.[...] William Morris characterized the new steamships, with true insight, as the Cathedrals of the Industrial Age. [...] The steamer and the bridge were the new symphonies in steel.
In the back of all these efforts was a new race of artists: the English toolmakers of the late eighteenth and the early nineteenth century. [...] Up to this time screws had been usually cut by hand: they were difficult to make... : no [standard] system was observed as to pitch or form of the threads. Every bolt and nut, as Smiles remarks, was a sort of speciality in itself. Maudslay's screw-cutting lathe was one of the decisive pieces of standardization that made the modern machine possible. [...] ...out of [Maudslay's] workshop, trained by his exact methods, came an apostolic succession of mechanics: Nasmyth, who invented the steam hammer, Whitworth, who perfected the rifle and the cannon, Roberts, Muirs, and Lewis. Another great mechanics of the time, Clement, also trained by Bramah [like Maudslay], worked on Babbage's calculating machine, between 1823 and 1842-- the most refined and intricate mechanism, according to Roe, that had so far been produced.
16. The Paleotechnic Passage
The ultimate outcome of this over-stressed power ideology... was the World War-- that period of senseless strife which came to a head in 1914 and is still being fought out by the frustrated populations that have come under the machine system. [...] Though for convenience I have talked of the paleotechnic phase in its past tense, it is still with us, and the methods and habits of thought it has produced still rule a great part of mankind.
But the truly significant part of the paleotechnic phase lay not in what it produced but in what it led to: it was a period of transition, a busy, congested, rubbish-strewn avenue between the eotechnic and the neotechnic economies.
Chapter V. The Neotechnic Phase
1. The Beginnings of Neotechnics
Now, while the neotechnic phase is a definite physical and social complex, one cannot define it as a period, partly because it has not yet developed its own form and organization, partly because we are still in the midst of it and cannot see its details in their ultimate relationships, and partly because it has not displaced the older regime with anything like the speed and decisiveness that characterized the transformation of the eotechnic order in the late eighteenth century. [...] Paleotechnic ideals still largely dominate the industry and the politics of the Western World... . [...] ...the paleotechnic remains a barbarizing influence.
To the extent that neotechnic industry has failed to transform the coal-and-iron complex, to the extent that it has failed to secure an adequate foundation for its humaner technology in the community as a whole, to the extent that it has lent its heightened powers to the minder, the financier, the militarist, the possibilities of disruption and chaos have increased.
But the beginnings of the neotechnic phase can nevertheless be approximately fixed.
Coming on top of the important work done by Volta, Galvani, Oerested, Ohm, and Ampere, Faraday's work on electricity, coupled with Joseph Henry's exactly contemporary research on the electro-magnet, erected a new basis for the conversion and distribution of energy and for most of the decisive neotechnic inventions.
By 1850 a good part of the fundamental scientific discoveries and inventions of the new phase had been made: the electric cell, the storage cell, the dynamo, the motor, the electric lamp, the spectroscope, the doctrine of the conservation of energy. Between 1875 and 1900 the detailed application of these inventions to industrial processes was carried out in the electric power station and the telephone and the radio telegraph. Finally, a series of complementary inventions, the phonograph, the moving picture, the gasoline engine, the steam turbine, the airplane, were all sketched in, if not perfected by 1900 [and to those of us living in the 21st century, the computer, internet, communication satellites, and cell-phone stand out clearly at the end of this development as its culminating achievements, along with nuclear power plants, bombs, and guided weapons].
7. The Paradox of Communication
With the invention of the telegraph a series of inventions began to bridge the gap in time between communication and response despite the handicaps of space: first the telegraph, then the telephone, then the wireless telegraph, then the wireless telephone, and finally television. As a result, communication is now on the point of returning, with the aid of mechanical devices, to that instantaneous reaction of person to person with which it began; but the possibilities of this immediate meeting, instead of being limited by space and time, will be limited only by the... mechanical perfection and accessibility of the apparatus. When the radio telephone is supplemented by television communication will differ from direct intercourse only to the extent that immediate physical contact will be impossible.
What will be the outcome? Obviously, a widened range of intercourse: more numerous contacts: more numerous demands on attention and time. But unfortunately, the possibility of this type of immediate intercourse on a worldwide basis does not necessarily mean a less trivial or a less parochial personality.
Nevertheless, instantaneous personal communication over long distances is one of the outstanding marks of the neotechnic phase... . [...] Plato defined the [ideal] limits of the size of a city as the number of people who could hear the voice of a single orator: today those limits do not define a city but a civilization. [...] The possibilities for good and evil here are immense: the secondary personal contact with voice and image may increase the amount of mass regimentation, all the more because the opportunity for individual members reacting directly upon the leader himself, as in a local meeting, becomes farther and farther removed. At the present moment, as with so many other neotechnic benefits, the dangers of the radio and the talking picture seem greater than the benefits. [...] There is... certainly nothing to indicate, as the earlier exponents of instantaneous communication seem pretty uniformly to have thought, that the results will automatically be favorable to the community.
8. The New Permanent Record
...the photograph gives the effect of repetition to what was, perhaps, a unique event, never to be observed again. In the same fashion, the camera gives an almost instantaneous cross-section of history-- arresting images in their flight through time. [...] To divorce an object from its integral time-sequence is to rob it of its complete meaning, although it makes it possible to grasp spatial relations which may otherwise defy observations.
In a world of flux and change, the camera gave a means of combating the ordinary processes of deterioration and decay... . The moving picture, carrying a succession of images through time, widened the scope of the camera and essentially altered its function; for it could telescope the slow movement of growth, or prolong the fast movement of jumping, and it could keep in steady focus events which could not otherwise be held in consciousness with the same intensity and fixity. Heretofore records had been confined to snatches of time, or, when they sought to move with time itself, they were reduced to abstractions. Now they could become continuous images of the events they represented. So the flow of time ceased to be representable by the successive mechanical ticks of the clock: its equivalent-- and Bergson was quick to seize this image-- was the motion picture reel [i.e., see Bergons on the 'cinamatographical mechanism of thought'].
Whereas in the eotechnic phase one conversed with the mirror and produced the biographical portrait and the introspective biography, in the neotechnic phase one poses for the camera, or still more, one acts for the motion picture. [...] Alone, he still thinks of himself as a public character, being watched... . This constant sense of public world would seem in part, at least, to be the result of the camera and the camera-eye that developed with it. [...] The change is significant : not self-examination but self-exposure: not tortured confession but easy open condor... .
It is no longer necessary to keep vast middens of material in order to have contact, in the mind, with the forms and expressions of the past. These mechanical devices are thus an excellent ally to that other new piece of social apparatus which became common in the nineteenth century: the public museum. They gave modern civilization a direct sense of the past and a more accurate perception of its memorials than any other civilization had, in all probability, had. Not alone did they make the past more immediate: they made the present more historic by narrowing the lapse of time between the actual events themselves and their concrete record. For the first time one might come face to face with the speaking likenesses of dead people and recall in their immediacy forgotten scenes and actions. Faust bartered his soul with Mephistopheles to see Helen of Troy: on much easier terms it will be possible for our descendants to view the Helens of the twentieth century. Thus a new form of immortality was effected; and a late Victorian writer, Samuel Butler, might well speculate upon how completely a man was dead when his words, his image, and his voice were still capable of being resurrected and could have a direct effect upon the spectator and listener.
At first these new recording and reproducing devices have confused the mind and defied selective use: no one can pretend that we have yet employed them, in any sufficient degree, with wisdom or even with ordered efficiency. But they suggest a new relationship between deed and record, between the movement of life and its collective enregistration... .
9. Light and Life
The glass technics, which had reached its first summit of mechanical perfection in the Venetian mirror, now repeats its triumphs in a hundred different departments: quartz alone is its rival.
Clerk-Maxwell's unification of electricity and light is perhaps the outstanding symbol of this new phase.
Now color, hitherto relegated to an unimportant place as a secondary characteristic of matter [secondary quality], becomes an important factor in chemical analysis, with the discovery that each element has its characteristic spectrum.
The imperceptible, the ultra-violet and the infra-red... , became commonplace elements in the new physical world at the moment that the dark forces of the unconscious were added to the purely external and rationalized psychology of the human world. Even the unseen was, so to say, illuminated... .
13. The Present Pseudomorph
There is... [a] difficulty in dealing with this phase: namely, we are still in the midst of the transition. [...] The fact is that in the great industrial areas of Western Europe and America and in the exploitable territories that are under the control of these centers, the paleotechnic phase is still intact and all its essential characteristics are uppermost... . In this persistence of paleotechnic practices the original anti-vital bias of the machine is evidence... . [...] What is responsible for this miscarriage of the machine?
The answer involves something more complex than a cultural lag or retardation. It is best explained, I think, by a concept put forward by Oswald Spengler in the second volume of the Decline of the West: the concept of the cultural pseudomorph. Spengler points to the common fact in geology that a rock may retain its structure after certain elements have been leached out of it and been replaced by an entirely different kind of material. Since the apparent structure of the old rock remains, the new product is termed a pseudomorph. A similar metamorphosis is possible in culture: new forces, activities, institutions, instead of crystallizing independently into their own appropriate forms, may creep into the structure of an existing civilization. This perhaps is the essential fact of our present situation. As a civilization, we have not yet entered the neotechnic phase; and should a future historian use the present terminology, he would undoubtedly have to characterize the current transition as a mesotechnic period: we are still living, in Matthew Arnold's words, between two worlds, one death, the other powerless to be born.
We have merely used our new machines and energies to further processes which were begun under the auspices of capitalist and military enterprise: we have not yet utilized them to conquer these forms of enterprise and subdue them to more vital and humane purposes.
The neotechnic refinement of the machine, without a coordinated development of higher social purposes, has only magnified the possibilities of depravity and barbarism.
['The present pseudomorph is'] has only a fraction of the efficiency that the neotechnic civilization as a whole may possess, provided it finally produces its own institutional forms and controls and directions and patterns. [...] Paleotechnic purposes with neotechnic means: that is the most obvious characteristic of the present order.
Chapter VI. Compensations and Reversions
1. Summary of Social Reactions
Each of the three phases of machine civilization has left its deposits in society. [...] It is the sum total of these phases, confused, jumbled, contradictory, cancelling out as well as adding to their forces that constitutes our present mechanical civilization.
Despite the long period of cultural preparation, the machine encountered inertia and resistance: in general, the Catholic countries were slower to accept it than were the Protestant countries... . Modes of life essentially hostile to the machine have remained in existence... . [...] Many social adjustments have resulted from the machine which were far from the minds of the original philosophers of industrialism.
Any just appreciation of the machine's contribution to civilization must reckon with these resistances and compensations.
2. The Mechanical Routine
The first characteristic of modern machine civilization is its temporal regularity. From the moment of waking, the rhythm of the day is punctuated by the clock. Irrespective of strain or fatigue, despite reluctance and apathy... . [...] ...the time-clock enters... to regulate the entrance and exit of the worker, while an irregular worker-- tempted by the trout in spring streams or ducks on salt meadows-- finds that these impulses are as unfavorably treated as habitual drunkeness.
...the existence of a machine civilization, completely timed and scheduled and regulated, does not necessarily guarantee maximum efficiency in any sense. [...] ...to make [such regularity] arbitrarily rule over human functions is to reduce existence itself to mere time-serving and to spread the shades of the prison-house over too large an area of human conduct. The regularity that produces apathy and atrophy-- that acedia which was the bane of monastic existence, as it is likewise of the army [Editors note: see Jung on acedia]-- is as wasteful as the irregularity that produces disorder and confusion.
...a population trained to keep to a mechanical time routine at whatever sacrifice to health, convenience, and organic felicity may well suffer from the strain of that discipline and find life impossible without the most strenuous compensations.
In The Instinct of Workmanship Veblen has indeed wondered whether the typewriter, the telephone, and the automobile, though creditable technological achievements "have not wasted more effort and substance than they have saved," whether they are to be credited with an appreciable economic loss, because they have increased the pace and the volume of correspondence and communication and travel out of all proportion to the real need. And Mr. Bertrand Russell has noted that each improvement in locomotion has increased the area over which people are compelled to move... .
One further effect of our closer time co-ordination and our instantaneous communication must be noted here: broken time and broken attention. The difficulties of transport and communication before 1850 automatically acted as a selective screen, which permitted no more stimuli to reach a person than he could handle: a certain urgency was necessary before one received a call from a long distance or was compelled to make a journey oneself: this condition of slow physical locomotion kept intercourse down to a human scale, and under definite control. Nowadays this screen has vanished: the remote is as close as the near: the ephemeral is as emphatic as the durable. While the tempo of the day has been quickened by instantaneous communication the rhythm of the day has been broken: the radio, the telephone, the daily newspaper clamor for attention, and amid the host of stimuli to which people are subjected, it becomes more and more difficult to absorb and cope with anyone part of the environment, to say nothing of dealing with it as a whole. The common man is as subject to these interruptions as the scholar or the man of affairs... . [...] With the successive demands of the outside world so frequent and so imperative, without any respect to their real importance, the inner world becomes progressively meager and formless: instead of active selection there is passive absorption ending in the state happily described by Victor Branford as "addled subjectivity."
[Editors note: Mumford on 'addled subjectivity':
"...an objective order that attempts to exclude subjective elements as unreal or irrelevant inevitably ends, as ours has in fact done, by leaving the field open to an addled subjectivity..."
Also, from Branfords Living Religions, a Plea for the Larger Modernism:
"The creative powers of the subjective life grow stale and sterile. This mental malady of over-abstraction from the world we may call Addled Subjectivity. It is a kind of moral leprosy, to which poet, artist, priest, prophet, philosopher, and sage are all exceedingly prone"]
3: Purposeless Materialism: Superfluous Power
We have with considerable cleverness devised mechanical apparatus to counteract the effect of lengthening time and space distances, to increase the amount of power available for performing unnecessary work, and to increase the waste of time attendant upon irrelevant and superficial intercourse. But our success in doing these things has blinded us to the fact that such devices are not by themselves marks of efficiency or of intelligent social effort. Canning and refrigeration as a means of distributing a limited food supply over the year, or of making it available in areas distant from the place originally grown, represent a real gain. The use of canned goods, on the other hand, in country districts when fresh fruits and vegetables are available comes to a vital and social loss. The very fact that mechanization lends itself to large-scale industrial and financial organization, and marches in step with the whole distributing mechanism of capitalist society frequently gives an advantage to such indirect and ultimately more inefficient methods.
...while the uniformity of performance in human beings, pushed beyond a certain point, deadens initiative and lowers the whole tone of the organism, uniformity of performance in machines and standardization of the product works in the opposite direction.
4: Co-operation versus Slavery
The regularization of time, the increase in mechanical power, the multiplication of goods, the contraction of time and space, the standardization of performance and product, the transfer of skill to automata, and the increase of collective interdependence-- these... are the chief characteristics of our machine civilization. They are the basis of the particular forms of life and modes of expression that distinguish Western Civilization... from the various earlier civilizations that preceded it.
5: Direct Attack on the Machine
The conquest of Western Civilization by the machine was not accomplished without stubborn resistance on the part of institutions and habits and impulses which did not lend themselves to mechanical organization. From the very beginning the machine provoked compensatory or hostile reactions. In the world of ideas, romanticism and utilitarianism go side by side.... . The direct reaction of the machine was to make people materialistic and rational: its indirect action was often to make them hyper-emotional and irrational. The tendency to ignore the second set of reactions because they did not logically coincide with the claims of the machine has unfortunately been common in many critics of the new industrial order: even Veblen was not free from it.
Seeking only the persistence of old ways, the enemies of the machine were fighting a rear-guard retreat, and they were on the side of the dead even when they espoused the organic against the mechanical.
6: Romantic and Utilitarian
The broadest general split in ideas occasioned by the machine was that between the Romantic and the Utilitarian. Carried along by the industrial and commercial ideals of his age, the utilitarian was at one with its purposes.
What most obviously prevented a clean victory of capitalistic and mechanical ideals was the tissue of ancient institutions and habits of thought: friendly affection and comradeship might be as powerful a motive in life as profit making: or that present animal health might be more precious than future material acquisitions-- in short, that the whole man might be worth preserving at the expense of the utmost success and power of the Economic Man. Indeed, some of the sharpest criticism of the new mechanical creed came from the tory aristocrats in England, France, and in the Southern States of the United States.
Romanticism in all its manifestations... was an attempt to restore the essential activities of human life to a central place in the new scheme, instead of accepting the machine as a center, and holding all its values to be final and absolute.
Vital organs of life, which have been amputated through historic accident, must be restored at least in fantasy, as preliminary to their actual rebuilding a fact: a psychosis is sometimes the only possible alternative to complete disruption and death. [...] The romantic movement was retrospective, walled-in, sentimental: in a word, regressive. ...it was a movement of escape.
The romantic reaction took many forms:.... the cult of history and nationalism, the cult of nature, and the cult of the primitive.
7: The Cult of the Past
The cult of the past did not immediately develop in response to the machine; it was, in Italy, an attempt to resume the ideas and forms of classical civilization.... .
By the eigteenth century the Renascence culture itself was sterilized, pedanticized, formalized... .
Thanks to the dominance of the machine... a layer of this civilization began to spread like a film of oil over the planet at large: machine textiles supplanated hand-woven ones,... and even in distant Polynesia bodies of the natives, while syphilis and rum, introduced at the same time as the Bible, added a special physical horror to their degradation. Wherever this film of oil spread, the living fish were poisoned and their bloated bodies rose to the surface of the water, adding their own decay to the stench of the oil itself. The new mechanical civilization respected neither place nor past. In the reaction that it provoked place and past were the two aspects of existence that were over-stressed.
This reaction appeared definitely in the eighteenth century, just at the moment that the paleotechnic revolution was getting under way. It began as an attempt to take up the old threads of life at the point where the Renascence had dropped them: it was thus a return to the Middle Ages and a re-reading of their significance... . ...poets and architects and critics disclosed once more the wealth and interest of the old local life in Europe: they showed how much engineering had lost by deserting gothic forms for the simpler post and lintel construction of classical architecture, and how much literature had forfeited by its extravagant interest in classical forms and its snobbish parade of classical allusions, while the most poignant emotions were embodied in the local ballads that still lingered on in the countryside.
By this "gothic" revival a slight check was placed upon the centralizing, exploitative, and de-regionalizing process of the machine civilization. Local folk lore and local fairy tales were collected by scholars like the Brothers Grim...; local monuments of archaeology were preserved.... . Local legends were collected... . Most potent of all, local languages and dialects were pounced upon, in the very act of dying, and restored to life by turning them to literary uses.
The revival of place interests and language interests, focused in the new appreciation of regional history, is one of the definite characteristics of nineteenth century culture. Because it was in direct conflict with the cosmopolitan free-trade imperialism of the leading economic thought of the period... this new regionalism was never carefully appraised or sufficiently appreciated in the early days of its existence.
The besetting weakness of regionalism lies in the fact that it is in part a blind reaction against outward circumstances and disruptions, an attempt to find refuge with an old shell against the turbulent invasions of the outside world, armed with its new engines: in short, an aversion from what is, rather than an impulse toward what may be. For the merely sentimental regionalist, the past was an absolute. His impulse was to fix some definite moment in the past, and to keep on living it over and over again... . [...] ...to keep these "original" customs and habits and interests fixed forever in the same mould: a neurotic retreat. In that sense regionalism, it seems plain, was anti-historical and anti-organic: for it denied both the fact of change and the possibility that anything of value could come out of it.
While it would be dishonest to gloss over this weakness, one must understand it in terms of the circumstances that conspired to produce it. It was a flat reaction against the equally exaggerated neglect of the traditions and historic monuments of a community's life, fostered by the abstractly progressive minds of the nineteenth century. For the new industrialist, "history was bunk." Is it any wonder that the new regionalist overcompensated for that contempt and ignorance by holding that even the dustiest relics of the past were sacred? [...] Vis-a-vis the machine, the regionalist was in the position of a swimmer facing a strong incoming tide: if he attempts to stand up against the high waves he is knocked down: if he seeks safety by retreating unaided to the shore, he is caught in the undertow of the receding wave and can neither reach land nor keep his footing: his welfare depends upon his confidence in meeting the wave and plunging along with it at the moment it is about to break, thus utilizing the energy of the very force he is attempting to escape.
There is no reason to think that any single national language can now dominate the world, as the French and English people have by turns dreamed: for unless an international language can be made relatively fixed and lifeless, it will go through a babel-like differentiation in precisely the same fashion as Latin did. It is much more likely that bi-lingualism will become universal-- that is, an arranged and purely artificial world-language for pragmatic and scientific uses, and a cultural language for local communication.
Against the dream of universal and complete standardization, the dream of the universal cockney, and of one long street, called the Tottenham Court Road or Broadway threading over the globe, and of one language spoken everywhere and on all occasions-- against this now archaic dream one must place the fact of cultural re-individuation.
8. The Return to Nature
The historical revival of regionalism was re-enforced by another movement: the Return to Nature.
The cultivation of nature for its own sake, and the pursuit of rural modes of living and the appreciation of the rural environment became in the eighteenth century one of the chief means of escaping the counting house and the machine. So long as the country was uppermost, the cult of nature could have no meaning... . It was only when the townsman found himself closed in by his methodical urban routine and deprived in his new urban environment of the sight of sky and grass and trees, that the value of the country manifested itself clearly to him.
...at the very moment life was becoming more constricted and routinized, a great safety valve for the aboriginal human impulses had been found-- the raw, unexplored, and relatively uncultivated regions of America and Africa, and eve the less formidable islands of the South Seas: above all, the most steadfast of primitive environments, the ocean, had been thrown open to the discontented and the adventurous. Failing to accept the destiny that the inventors and the industrialists were creating, failing to welcome the comforts and the conveniences of civilized existence and accept the high value placed upon them by the reigning bourgeoisie, those who possessed hardier virtues and a quicker sense of values could escape from the machine. In the forests and grasslands of the new worlds they could wring a living from the soil, and on the sea they could face the elemental forces of wind and water. Here, likewise, those too weak to face the machine could find temporary refuge.
This solution was perhaps almost a too perfect one: for the new settlers and pioneers not merely satisfied their own spiritual needs by colonizing the less inhabited areas of the globe, but in the act of so doing they provided raw materials for the new industries, they likewise afforded a market for their manufactured goods, and they paved the way for the eventual introduction of the machine.
Not until the new lands were completely occupied and exploited did the machine come in, to claim its special form of dominion over those who had shown neither courage nor luck nor cunning in exploiting Nature. For millions of men and women, the new lands staved off the moment of submission. By accepting the shackles of nature they could evade for a brief while the complicated interdependence of the machine civilization.
Within a short century this savage idyll practically came to an end. The industrial pioneer caught up with the land pioneer and the latter could only rehearse in play what his forefathers had done out of sheer necessity. [...] Millions of people chose a lifetime of danger, heroic toil, deprivation and hardships, battling with the forces of Nature, rather than accept life on the terms that it was offered alike to the victorious and the vanguished in the new hives of industry. The movement was in part the reverse of that great organizing effort of the eleventh and twelfth centuries which cleared the forests and marches and erected cities from one end of Europe to the other: it was rather a tendency to disperse, to escape from a close, systematic, cultivated life into an open and relatively barbarous existence.
The most simple human reaction that fear of the machine could provoke-- running away from it-- had ceased to be possible without undermining the basis of livelihood.
Yet the lure of more primitive conditions of life, as an alternative to the machine, remains.
9. Organic and Mechanical Polarities
During the century and a half that followed Rousseau the cult of the primitive took many forms.
The erotic dances of the Polynesians, the erotic music of the African negro tribes, these captured the imagination and presided over the recreation of the mechanically disciplined urban masses of Western Civilization, reaching their swiftest development in the United States, the country that had most insistently fostered mechanical gadgets and mechanical routines. [...] The reaction grew in proportion to the external restraint imposed by the day's grind... .
The distinction between sexual expression as one of the modes of life and sex as a compensating element in a monotonous and restricted existence must not be lost, even though it be difficult to define. [...] ...in its extreme forms, the compensatory element could easily be detected: for it was marked by an abstractness and a remoteness, derived from the very environment that the populace was desperately trying to escape. The weakness of these... compensations disclosed itself in the usually synthetic obscenities of the popular joke, the remote glamor of the embraces of moving picture stars, the volumptuous contortions of dancers on the stage.... , snatched hastily and furtively at the end of an automobile ride or a fatiguing day in the office or the factory. Those who escaped the anxiety and frustration of such embraces did so only by deadening their higher nerve-centers by means of alcohol or by the chemistry of some form of psychal anesthesia which took the outward form of coarseness and debasement.
In brief, most of the sexual compensations were little above the level of abject fantasy... . It was a miner's son, D. H. Lawrence, who distinguished most sharply between the degradation of sex which occurs when it is merely a means of getting away from the sordid environment and oppressive dullness of a low-grade industrial town, and the exhilaration that arises when sex is genuinely respected and celebrated in its own right.
The weakness of the sexual relapse into the primitive was not indeed unlike that which overtook the more general cultivation of the body through sport. The impulse that excited it was genuine and justified; but the form it took did not lead to a transformation of the original condition: rather, it became the mechanism by means of which the original condition was remedied sufficiently to continue in existence. Sex had a larger part of life to claim than it filched for itself in the instinctive reaction against the machine.
As the machine tended toward the pole of regularity and complete automatism, it became severed, finally, from the umbilical cord that bound it to the bodies of men and women: it became an absolute. That was the danger Samuel Butler jestingly prophesied in Erewhon, the danger that the human being might become a means whereby the machine perpetuated itself and extended its dominion. The recoil from the absolute of mechanism was into an equally sterile absolute of the organic: the raw primitive. The organic processes, reduced to shadows by the machine, made a violent effort to retrieve their position. The machine, which acerbically denied the flesh, was offset by the flesh, which denied the rational, the intelligent, the orderly processes of behavior that have entered into all man's cultural developments-- even those developments that most closely derive from the organic.
The effect of this return to the absolute primitive, like so many other neurotic adaptations that temporarily bridge the chasm, develops stresses of its own which tend to push the two sides of existence still further apart.
Toward the end of his life Herbert Spencer viewed with proper alarm the regression into imperialism, militarism, servility that he saw all around him at the beginning of the present century; and in truth he had every reason for his forebodings. But the point is that these forces were not merely archaic survivals that had failed to be extirpated by the machine: they were rather underlying human elements awakened into stertorous activity by the very victory of the machine as an absolute and non-conditioned force in human life. The machine, by failing as yet... to allow sufficient play in social existence to the organic, has opened the way for its return in the narrow and inimical form of the primitive. [...] The retreat into the primitive is, in sum, a maudlin effort to avoid the more basic and infinitely more difficult transformation which our thinkers and leaders and doers have lacked the candor to face, the intelligence to contrive, and the will to effect-- the transition from... the machine to a life-centered economy.
10. Sport and the "Bitch-Goddess"
The romantic movements were important as a corrective to the machine because they called attention to essential elements in life that were left out of the mechanical world-picture... . But there is within modern civilization a whole series of compensatory functions that... only serve to stabilize the existing state-- and finally they themselves become part of the very regimentation they exist to combat. The chief of these institutions is perhaps mass-sport. [...] Mass-sport is primarily a spectacle.
...sport in the sense of a mass-spectacle, with death to add to the underlying excitement, comes into existence when a population has been drilled and regimented and depressed to such an extent that it needs at least a vicarious participation in difficult feats or skill or heroism in order to sustain its waning life-sense. The demand for circuses, and when the milder spectacles are still insufficiently life-arousing, the demand for sadistic exploits and finally for blood is characteristic of civilizations that are losing their grip: Rome under the Caesars... Germany under the Nazis. These forms of surrogate manliness and bravado are the surest signs of a collective impotence and a pervasive death with. The dangerous symptoms of that ultimate decay one finds everywhere today in machine civilization under the guise of mass-sport.
The invention of new forms of sport and the conversion of play into sport were two of the distinctive marks of the last century: baseball is an example of the first, and the transformation of tennis and golf into tournament spectacles, within our own day, is an example of the second. [...] ...participation need go no further than the newspaper and the betting booth, provided that the element of chance be there. Since the principal aim of our mechanical routine in industry is to reduce the domain of chance, it is in the glorification of chance and the unexpected, which sport provides, that the element extruded by the machine returns, with an accumulated emotional charge, to life in general.
Sport presents three main elements: the spectacle, the competition, and the personalities of the gladiators. [...] The race is run or the game is played within a frame of spectators... : the movements of this mass, their cries, their songs, their cheers, are a constant accompaniment of the spectacle: they play, in effect, the part of the Greek chorus in the new machine-drama... . Through his place in the chorus, the spectator finds his special release: usually cut off from close physical associations by his impersonal routine, he is now at one with a primitive undifferentiated group. [...] Moreover, the spectacle itself is one of the richest satisfactions for the esthetic sense that the machine civilization offers... . This point has been stressed in bull-fighting; but of course it applies to every form of sport.
Finally, in addition to the spectacle and the competition, there comes onto the stage, further to differentiate sport from play, the new type of popular hero, the professional player or sportsman. [....] The sports hero represents the masculine virtues, the Mars complex, as the popular motion picture actress or the bathing beauty contestant represents Venus. [...] The hero is handsomely paid for his efforts, as well as being rewarded by praise and publicity... . The few heroes who resist this vulgarization-- notably Lindbergh-- fall into popular or at least into journalistic disfavor, for they are only playing the less important part of the game.
Thus sport, which began originally, perhaps, as a spontaneous reaction against the machine, has become one of the mass-duties of the machine age. It is a part of that universal regimentation of life... from which its excitement provides a temporary and only a superficial release. Sport has turned out, in short, to be one of the least effective reactions against the machine. There is only one other reaction less effective in its final results: the most ambitious as well as the most disastrous. I mean war.
11. The Cult of Death
...there is some reason to think that our original collecting and food-gathering ancestors... were more peaceful in habit than their more civilized descendants.
...while warfare is one of the principal sources of mechanism, and its drill and regimentation are the very pattern of old-style industrial effort, it provides, far more than the sport-field, the necessary compensations to this routine [editors note: recall, for example, the commonplace complaint of soldiers returning to work in factories and warehouses after the first and second world, so often encountered in their autobiographical accounts, that they missed the excitement of war, the comradery and heroic sacrifice, and the relief it provided them from the tedium of their workaday lives].
Thus war breaks the tedium of a mechanized society and relieves it from the pettiness and prudence of its daily efforts, by concentrating to their last degree both the mechanization.... and the countering vigor of desperate vital outbursts... . In modern war, the raw primitive and the clockwork mechanical are one.
In view of its end products... war is the most disastrous outlet for the repressed impulses of society that has been devised.
Savagery, which we have associated with the not-yet-civilized, is equally a reversionary mode that arises with the mechanically over-civilized. [...] War, like a neurosis, is the destructive solution of an unbearable tension and conflict between organic impulses and the code and circumstances that keep one from satisfying them. [...] If our life were an organic whole this split and this perversion would not be possible... and the primitive impulses, which we have diverted or repressed by excessive preoccupation with mechanical devices, would have natural outlets in their appropriate cultural forms. Until we begin to achieve this culture, however, war will probably remain the constant shadow of the machine... . A society that has lost its life values will tend to make a religion of death and build up a cult around its worship-- a religion not less grateful because it satisfies the mounting number of paranoics and sadists such a disrupted society necessarily produces.
12. The Minor Shock Absorbers
In addition to... the many-sided attempts to combat the machine... there were still other reactions that served, as it were, as cushions and shock-absorbers. So far from stopping the machine or undermining the purely mechanical program, they perhaps decreased the tensions that the machine produced. Thus the tendency to destroy the memorials of older cultures... was met in part among the very classes that were most active in this attack, by the cult of antiquarianism.
When handicraft articles could not be filched from the decayed buildings of the past, they were copied with vast effort by belated handworkers: when the demand for such copies filtered down through the middle classes, they were then reproduced by means of power machinery in a fashion capable of deceiving only the blind and ignorant: a double prevarication.
Each... individual produced his own special antiquarian environment: a private world.
This private world, as lived in Suburbia or in the more palatial country houses, is not to be differentiated by any objective standard from the world in which the lunatic attempts to live out the drama in which he appears to himself to be Lorenzo the Magnificent or Louis XIV. In each case the difficulty of maintaining an equilibrium in relation to a difficult or hostile external world is solved by withdrawal, permanent or temporary, into a private retreat... .
The other side of this conservatism of taste... was the tendency to take refuge in change for its own sake... . ...the answer to excessive regimentation came in through an equally heightened and over-stimulated demand for novelties [Editors note: see for exemplary instance Baudalaire on the New and Walter Benjamin on the same]. In the long run, unceasing change is as monotonous as unceasing sameness... . [...] The itch for change: the itch for movement: the itch for novelty infected the entire system of production and consumption... .
Where the physical means of withdrawal were inadequate, pure fantasy flourished without any other external means than the word or the picture. [...] With the spread of literacy, literature... formed a semi-public world into which the unsatisfied individual might withdraw, to live a life of adventure following the travellers and explorers in their memoirs, to live a life of dangerous action and keen observation by participating in the crimes and investigations of a Dupin or a Sherlock Holmes, or to live a life of romantic fulfillment in the love stories and erotic romances that became everyone's property from the eighteenth century onward. Most of these varieties of day-dream and private fantasy had of course existed in the past: now they became part of a gigantic collective apparatus of escape. So important was the function of popular literature as escape that many modern psychologists have treated literature as a whole as a mere vehicle of withdrawal from the harsh realities of existence: forgetful of the fact that literature of the first order, so far from being a mere pleasure-device, is a supreme attempt to face and encompass reality... .
During the nineteenth century vulgar literature to a large extent replaced the mythological constructions of religion... . This withdrawal into fantasy was immensely re-enforced from 1910 on, by the motion-picture... . Public day-dreams of wealth, magnificence, adventure, irregularity and spontaneous action-- identification with the criminal defying the forces of order-- identification with the courtesan practicing openly the allurements of sex-- these scarcely adolescent fantasies, created and projected with the aid of the machine, made the machine-ritual tolerable to the vast urban or urbanized populations of the world.
...surrogate lovers, surrogate heroes and heroines, surrogate wealth filled their debilitated and impoverished lives and carried the perfume of unreality into their dwellings. [...] ...afraid to be alone with their own thoughts, afraid to confront the blankness and inertia of their own minds, they turn on the radio and eat and talk and sleep to the accompaniment of a continuous stimulus from the outside world... . [...] Using the machine alone to escape from the machine, our mechanized populations have jumped from a hot frying pan into a hotter fire. [...] In the act of relieving psychological strain these various devices only increase the final tension and support more disastrous forms of release. ...when the surrogate excitements of the film and the radio begin to pall, a taste or real blood becomes necessary.
13. Resistance and Adjustment
In all these efforts to attack, to resist, or to retreat from the machine the observer may be tempted to see nothing more than the phenomenon that Professor W. F. Ogburn has described as the "cultural lag."
This seems to me an essentially superficial interpretation. For one thing, change in a direction opposite to the machine may be as important in ensuring adjustment as change in the same direction, when it happens that the machine is taking a course that would, unless compensated, lead to human deterioration and collapse.
...the most objective advocates of the machine must recognize the underlying human validity of the Romantic protest against the machine.
CHAPTER VII. ASSIMILATION OF THE MACHINE
2. The Neutrality of Order
Before the machine pervaded life, order was the boast of the gods and absolute monarchs. [...] On the human level, their order was represented by slavery: complete determination from above: complete subservience without question or understanding below.
With the development of the sciences and with the articulation of the machine in practical life, the realm of order was transferred from the absolute rulers, exercizing a personal control, to the universe of impersonal nature and to... the machine.
By deliberately cutting off certain phases of man's personality, the warm life of private sensation and private feelings and private perceptions, the sciences assisted in building up a more public world which gained in accessibility what it lost in depth.
Man may arbitrarily define nature as that part of his experience which is neutral to his desires and interests: but he with his desires and interests... has been formed by nature and inescapably is part of the system of nature.
[Science] contributed, through its effects upon invention and mechanization, a new type of order to the environment: an order in which power, economy, objectivity, the collective will play a more decisive part than they had played before even in such absolute forms of dominion as in the royal priesthood-- and engineers-- of Egypt or Babylon. the sensitive apprehension of this new environment, its translation into terms which involve human affections and feelings, and that bring into play once more the full personality, became part of the mission of the artist... . […] They were conscious of the fact that new institutions were changing the dimensions and to some extent therefore the very qualities of experience... .
CHAPTER VIII. ORIENTATION
12: Towards a Dynamic Equilibrium
Today, the notion of progress in a single line without goal or limit seems perhaps the most parochial notion of a very parochial century. Limits in thought and action, norms of growth and development, are now as present in our consciousness as they were absent to the contemporaries of Herbert Spencer. […] Dynamic equilibrium, not indefinite progress, is the mark of the opening age: balance, nor rapid one-sided advance: conservation, not reckless pillage. […] What are the implications of this approaching equilibrium?
First: equilibrium in the environment. this means first the restoration of the balance between man and nature.
This state of balance and equilibrium... will work... change within the domain of the machine itself: a change of tempo. The temporary fact of increasing acceleration, which seemed so notable to Henry Adams when he surveyed the progress from twelfth century unity to twentieth century multiplicity, the fact which was later accompanied by a belief in change and speed for their own sake-- will no longer characterize our society. […] …as larger portions of our days go to leisure and smaller portions to work, as our thinking becomes synthetic and related, instead of abstract and pragmatic, as we turn to the cultivation of the whole personality instead of centering upon the power elements alone-- as all tehse things come about we may look forward to a slowing of the tempo throughout our lives, even as we may look forward to a lessening of the number of unnecessary external stimuli.
the problem of tempo: the problem of equilibrium: the problem of organic balance...-- these have now become the critical and all-important problems of modern civilization. To face these problems, to evolve appropriate social goals and to invent appropriate social and political instruments for an active attack upon them, and finally to carry them into action: here are new outlets for social intelligence, social energy, social good will.
13. Summary and Prospects
We have seen the machine arise out of the denial of the organic and the living, and we have in turn marked the reaction of the organic and the living upon the machine. This reaction has two forms. One of them, the use of mechanical means to return to the primitive... . the other involves the rebuilding of the individual personality... , and the re-orientation of all forms of thought and social activity toward life: this second reaction promises to transform the nature and function of our mechanical environment and to lay wider and firmer and safer foundations for human society at large. The issue is not decided: the results are not certain... .