Whale and the Reactor A Search for Limits in an Age of High Technology

ISBN-10: 0226902110

ISBN-13: 9780226902111

Edition: 1997

Authors: Langdon Winner

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"The questions he poses about the relationship between technical change and political power are pressing ones that can no longer be ignored, and identifying them is perhaps the most a nascent 'philosophy of technology' can expect to achieve at the present time."--David Dickson, New York Times Book Review "The Whale and the Reactor is the philosopher's equivalent of superb public history. In its pages an analytically trained mind confronts some of the most pressing political issues of our day."--Ruth Schwartz Cowan, Isis
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Book details

List price: $26.00
Copyright year: 1997
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Publication date: 1/15/1988
Binding: Paperback
Pages: 214
Size: 6.00" wide x 9.25" long x 0.75" tall
Weight: 0.682
Language: English

Langdon Winner spent his youth in the then agricultural San Luis Obispo on the California coast. His article "The Whale and the Reactor" relates a childhood experience of technological "progress" in the 1950s and early 1960s and the coming "freeways, supermarkets, jet airplanes, television, guided missiles . . . computers, prefabricated houses . . . plastics."Also formative in the development of his interest in the controlling nature of technology were experiences as an undergraduate summer intern systems analyst at the Pentagon and as an observer of the student rebellions at the University of California at Berkeley during the mid-1960s, where he received his Ph.D. in political science. Winner's first book, Autonomous Technology (1977), considers the thesis that we do not control or form technologies but that technologies shape cultural and social activities. All spheres of human activity, from workplace and politics to personal relations, have been restructured to accommodate technical innovations and the myth of "progress." Many of Winner's articles, published during the 1980s and collected in The Whale and the Reactor (1988), expand on this thesis in relation to specific technologies. "Do Artifacts Have Politics?" argues that certain technologies have inherent political traits, which are generally authoritative and centralized rather than democratic and individualistic. "Mythinformation" looks at the computer revolution and the politics that sold it to the world as a "democratic" force."On Not Hitting the Tar-Baby" evaluates the practice of risk assessment and finds that it is designed to support new technologies, to complicate risk indicators, and to sustain the industrial status quo. Currently, Winner is professor of political science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He also writes a regular column on "The Culture of Technology" for Technology Review.

A Philosophy of Technology
Technologies as Forms of Life
Do Artifacts Have Politics?
Techne and Politeia
Technology: Reform and Revolution
Building the Better Mousetrap
Decentralization Clarified
Excess and Limit
The State of Nature Revisited
On Not Hitting the Tar-Baby
Brandy, Cigars and Human Values
The Whale and the Reactor
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