'Technics and Civilization' by Lewis Mumford (1934)

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: se
e 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.

see p. 23

5. From Fable to Fact

6. The Obstacle of Animism

7. The Road Through Magic

8. Social Regimentation

9. The Mechanical Universe

10. The Duty to Invent

11. Practical Anticipations

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.


Chapter III. The Eotechnic Phase

2. The Technological Complex

3. New Sources of Power

4. Trunk, Plank, and Spar

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.

Cont. p. 126

6. Glass and the Ego

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.

Cont. 292


12: Towards a Dynamic Equilibrium