Technological Utopianism in American Culture: Twentieth Anniversary Edition

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9780815630616: Technological Utopianism in American Culture: Twentieth Anniversary Edition
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In his new preface and epilogue to the book's 20th anniversary edition, Segal (history, U. of Maine) remarks that the topic of technological utopianism is even more timely today than it was in 1985. He discusses 25 US utopians of the late 19th and early 20th centuries who regarded technology as a panacea, most writing after Ralph Bellamy's Looking Backward (1888). The original edition was published by the U. of Chicago Press. Annotation 2006 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

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About the Author:

Howard P. Segal is Bird Professor of History at the University of Maine. He is also director of its technology and society project. His books include Future Imperfect: The Mixed Blessings of Technology in America, Technology in America: A Brief History (with Alan Marcus), and Recasting the Machine Age: Henry Ford's Village Industries.

Review:

[Segal's] final chapter . . . on the uses of utopianism today takes him into terrain where platitude usually reigns; but here, in fact, [Segal's writing is] at its most impressive, even as he becomes something of an advocate. He provides a rationale for utopian thinking that is at once intelligent and eloquent, as good as any I have encountered and much better than most-also, far more sophisticated and convincing than anything found in the writings of the technological utopians themselves. . . . All should read and profit from his peroration. (Canadian Review of American Studies)

[Segal] has succeeded better than any other scholar in his attempt to define how a specific type of American utopian writing fits into and reflects important historical contexts and trends. (American Literary Realism)

As Segal concludes, our society has constructed the externals of technological utopias here and there, but it has not encouraged the utopian values of selflessness and social cohesion. Still, technological utopianism remains a significant exercise in social thought. For all the limits of their answers, these visionaries raised a basic question we still face: how to relate technological progress to social progress (Technology Review)

Technological Utopianism in American Culture is an important contribution to the histories of technical and utopian thought and to the intellectual history of modern organizational society. Appropriately skeptical of its subjects and their ideas, it also furthers the difficult task of demystifying such loaded terms as 'progress' and 'technology. (Business History Review)

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