Lewis Mumford wrote technics and Civilization in 1934. To many, that right there can be a great discredit to the book as it may seem out of date and irrelevant to today’s way of living when in reality the book is as relevant today as it was when Mumford first published it. In the book, Mumford not only chronicles the history of technology but he also analyzes it. He focuses on three main areas of human history: the Eotechnic era (~1000-~1750), the Paleotechnic era (~1750-19thcentury), and the Neotechnic era (19thcentury to modern day). His argument is that society as a whole is one big machine and everyone is a part of the machine. Is the machine a good thing or not is left for the reader to decide, but Mumford seems to think the simpler times were more ideal.
The machine started as something that greatly pushed man to his limits. It was what drove advancement forward. It pushed education and innovation to where it had never been before until it grew to a level where man could not control it anymore. In a way, the machine enslaved people. Technology began to control every part of man’s life and people became nothing more than interchangeable parts to this enormous system. The puppeteer became the puppet where a person's every day was ruled by his own creation whether that would be a clock, a factory, computer, or any type of communication device to the point where his every day movement depended on the machine and every action came as a result of the machine, but not the other way around.
The machine was weak in the Eotechnic era. There were no factories, no computers, no phones, and most importantly, time had no role in people’s everyday life. Life was very simple and singular. Your crop output did not depend on anyone else. You got up every morning with the sunrise and worked until sunset. Time was just a relative thing it was not constrictive. All the tools were simple. All they required was human or animal muscle for operation. The efficiency is something considered poor today. The input was great because of all the work required from a person for each tool, but the output was very little. Farmers only produced enough crops for their families with very little left over for profit.
The Eotechnic era was the era when people relied heavily on wind, water, and sun. The wind was what got the boats sailing and without it, movement was merely impossible. Communities grew where there was water because it is the main resource needed for living things whether that is crops, people or animals. All major trade was also done through water. The sun just like water is an essential to life, as it is essential for growing crops. It was the only relative measure of time and the only source of light. When the sun was not up, the darkness brought out predators. In a way, the sun was a symbol of life. In the Eotechnic era, people did not rely on the machine as much as they did on nature.
Then came the Paleotechnic era and with it came the rise of capitalism. People began to move to the cities due to promise of better opportunities and more money. The machine was starting to grow. As people moved to the city, mass production became a necessity, and was easier to accomplish. Cities were once places for trade and education, but were now turning into congested living sectors with lots of pollution. With an increasing number of factories, skilled workers became outdated. Once upon a time, there were guilds that would consist of people with certain skills. Their output was very low, but each product was unique in its own way. Factories replaced this with assembly lines, which eliminated the need for skilled workers. When you worked in the factory, you only did one action to the same piece repeatedly. People became an interchangeable part of the machine. There was no skill required to work in those factories so workers held no value whatsoever.
In capitalism, time equals money and because money was what…