Forces of Production; A Social History of Industrial Automation
This is not a book about American technology but about American society. The focus here is upon things but the real concern is with people, with the social relations which bind and divide them, with the shared dreams and delusions which inspire and blind them. For this is the substrate from which all of our technology emerges, the power and promise which give it shape and meaning. For some reason, this seemingly self-evident truth has been lost to modem Americans, who have come to believe instead that their technology shapes them rather than the other way around. Our culture objectifies technology and sets it apart and above human affairs. Here technology has come to be viewed as an autonomous process, having a life of its own which proceeds automatically, and almost naturally, along a singular path. Supposedly self-defining and independent of social power and purpose, technology appears to be an external force impinging upon society, as it were, from outside, determining events to which people must forever adjust.
In a society such as ours, which long ago abandoned social purpose to the automatic mechanism of the market, and attributed to things a supremacy over people (“things are in the saddle, and ride mankind,” wrote Emerson), technology has readily assumed its fantastic appearance as the subject of the story. And, as such, it has served at once as convenient scapegoat and universal panacea-a deterministic device of our own making with which to disarm critics, divert attention, depoliticize debate, and dismiss discussion of the fundamental antagonisms and inequities that continue to haunt America.