“Modern people…find themselves searching for new value commitment, for new religious synthesis and ultimately for a new identity.”

(p. 11, Harvard University –IBM Report, 1972)


Mechanical Metaphors about social change

"Mechanization takes command." S. Gideon




Does technology determine social conditions?

Or does society chose techniques to master new technology?



Newcomen engine from the early 18th century.



Machine, machinery: “a system of usually rigid bodies, formed & connected to alter, transmit, and direct applied forces in a predetermined manner to accomplish a specific objective such as the demonstration of useful work.”


 those devices having a source of motive power to do work.


“limits to development resulting from reliance on land based resources were slowly removed.”

 (Pacey, 109)


Thoreau:  “We do not ride upon the railroad, it rides upon us.”

(Marx, 249)


Thomas Carlyle: ‘ the mind will become subject to the laws of matter; that physical science will be built up on the ruins of our spiritual nature; that in our rage for machinery, we will ourselves become machines.” 

(Marx, 183)


“science will be master of man. The engines he will have invented will be beyond his strength to control.” 

(Adams, in Marx, 350).


“Development is primarily a matter of adapting and extending an invention so that it can be integrated into both a technological system and a business and cultural system.”

(Hindle, 74)


“the image of the machine connotes a loss of inner freedom even as it provides outward power.… free in hand and foot. we are shackled in heart and soul…”  (Marx 173)


The “cutting of an umbilical chord”

(Marx 346)


“the original unity … the all sufficing beauty & abundance of the creation.”


Ways out of the mechanized maze of delusion


“Every technological advance has come at a price -- but the full price is seldom known until long after the achievement… The technology of industrialization has moved us into an increasingly complex world…. Humankind has reached a point where it must work consistently to exercise its new power over technology and social organization.” 

(Hindle, p. 279)


“The complement to prudent technology is the ecological approach to science.”

“It is the ecological wisdom of cooperating with  nature rather than trying to master her.” 

(Goodman in Technology, pp. 247-248)


“the laboring man has not the leisure for a true integrity… he cannot afford to sustain the manliest relations to men;  he has no time to be anything but a machine.”

(Thoreau in Leo Marx, p. 248)


“Even if this were dismissed as a long-term view there is the immediate question of whether ‘ modernization,’ as currently practiced without regard to religious and spiritual values, is actually producing agreeable results.”


“For it is not a question of choosing between ‘modern growth’ and ‘traditional stagnation.’ It is a question of finding the right path of development, the ‘Middle Way’ between materialist heedlessness and traditionalist immobility, in short, of finding ‘Right Livelihood’.”

 (Schumacher in Tichi, p. 238)


These authorities ask: Who or what are in charge here?


“You may think all is nonsense, but I tell you these are great times.  Man has mounted science and is now run away with. I firmly believe that before many centuries more, science will be master of man. The engines he will have invented will be beyond his strength to control. Some day science may have the existence of mankind in its power, and the human race commit suicide by blowing up the world.”

[letter between two brothers; Charles and Brookes Adams,

exchanged in 1862.]


“Science has long been chief orthodoxy of modern times and has certainly been badly corrupted.”                   

(Marx, p. 254).


Automated weaving machinery.


“Ours is an intricately organized, urban, industrial, nuclear armed society.”


“rural myth & the technological fact.” (354)


“the spontaneous fruit of the edenic tree” (7)


“he is unaware of the artificial, almost incredible, character of civilization.”


“the scenery of America is peculiarly hospitable to pastoral illusions.”  (352)



The engine emerged in the late 19th Century


“The engine was being presented as the most telling ‘sign’ of modern life.”


“It was” a new kind of “controlling symbol for a new kind of culture.”

Pacey, p. 167, quotes Leo Marx, (1964), p. 170.




Harvard University Program on Technology and Society: A Final Review, (1972)

Leo Marx, The Machine in the Garden, (1964)

Cecilia Tichi, Shifting Gears, (1987)

Arnold Pacey, Technology in World Civilization, (1990)



Tools of Toil: what to read.
Tools are historical building blocks of technology.