Do Machines Make History? – Notes on the reading

Technology – “a strong ‘mediating factor’ rather than as the determining influence on history” (p. 53)

  • The view: “there  exists a determinate sequence of productive technology for those societies that are interested in originating and applying such a technology” (p. 56).

Evidence (1) The simultaneity of invention
(2) The absence of technological leaps
(3) The predictability of technology

  • The 2nd proposition: “a given technology imposes certain social and political characteristics upon the society in which it is found” (p. 59).

Modes of influence (1) The composition of the labor force
(2) The hierarchical organization of work

  • A few things to consider for the views and propositions suggested above…

(1) Technological progress is itself a social activity
(2) The course of technological advance is responsive to social direction (the direction of technological advance is partially the result of social policy)
(3) Technological change must be compatible with existing social conditions

  • Q. What is the mediating role played by technology within modern Western society?

(1) The rise of capitalism provided a major stimulus for the development of a technology of production
(2) The expansion of technology within the market system took on  a new “automatic” aspect
(3) The rise of science gave a new impetus to technology


About marialarahwang

Doctoral student at Teachers College, Columbia University.

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