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The Walking Tractor: Trojan Horse in the Cheju Island Landscape David J. Nemeth Muss die Maschine sofort haben der Stier is wütend geworden. —A Swiss farmer's testimonial (e. 1930) 1. Introduction Since the early twentieth century, the economic plans of developing countries have emphasized modernization and technological change in the rural sector. The diffusion of modern farm technology from Europe and the United States into Asia increased rapidly after the Second World War, and now the most rural, isolated agricultural lands throughout Asia are being transformed in the wake of this diffusion wave. Tractor technology has played a major role in this transformation process.1 Today Mattingly (1987) writes in retrospect of far-reaching economic impacts during the evolution of tractor power and devolution of horsepower on midwestern American farms, a theme introduced earlier, for the entire United States by Eisenhower (1932:411-441). An even broader perspective on this theme is provided by Fussell (1965:226), who writes, "the most spectacular and probably most wellknown change in farming methods made during the past half-century is the substitution of mechanical traction for animal draught over most of the civilized world." This evolving substitution of machine power for biological power in agricultural production is now almost a closed book in much of the advanced industrialized countries (AICs) or "developed" world. However, it is still an ongoing evolutionary process in many newly industrialized countries (NICs), including South Korea, and in the least industrialized countries (LDCs), the "underdeveloped" or Third World. This particular rural technical transformation—the substitution of mechanical for biological power plants on the farm—can be discussed as a deliberate transformation process in the LDCs, one motivated by a powerful growth ideology emanating from the AICs. In this case the tractor, for example, is much more than a modern technical device that plows and cultivates and thereby improves production efficiencies on the THE WALKING TRACTOR15 farm, it is also a powerful ideological weapon that systematically transforms rural agricultural landscapes by waging successful wars against traditionalism. My research focuses attention on the landscape transformation process of modernization, or growth ideology, in rural South Korea; here from the perspective of a cultural geographer. I will attempt to provide a reasonable and meaningful synthesis of three distinct conceptual themes, and offer an illustrative case study of rural landscape transformation from Cheju Island. The concepts are 1) stages of economic growth (Rostow 1960); 2) technologies as political artifacts (Winner 1980); and 3) cultural landscape as the architecture of ideology (Nemeth 1987). I will begin with a brief discussion of growth ideology. 2. Growth Ideology Powerful forces of change generated by growth ideology have been sweeping out of the West and over rural South Korea for decades, bringing far-reaching and irreversible impacts and meanwhile converting South Korea from an LDC to an NIC. At the heart of growth ideology is the seed of technological rationalism that has spread abroad from early eighteenth-century Europe, along with the Industrial Revolution. Markovic (1979:49) explains that technological rationalism is "characterized by a continuing expansion of material production and an accelerated increase of efficiency and output." Growth ideology subsumes many alternative ideas about how to increase efficiency and output; for example, capitalism and communism: If there is one point on which even the most militant Soviet ideologists have to fully agree with their American opponents, it is that technology or productive forces ought to grow as quickly as possible and that the maximum increase of material output is a highly desirable goal (Brandt 1979:44). Not surprisingly, such a powerful and popular ideology is also value laden, and "interpreted in a way that very often serves the purpose of a certain ideological infrastructure and invariably reflects deeper cognitive or moral value assumptions" (Markovic 1979:50). For example , industrial economic "growth" conveniently becomes glossed as "progress," and something "good." This pro-growth bias, in turn, conveniently allows for the castigation of competing ideologies. For example , "no growth" or "slow growth" ideologies are perceived as "bad." As it happens, the prevailing ideology in South Korea from the fourteenth century to the mid-twentieth century was the "slow growth" ideology of Chu Hsi Neo-Confucianism, whose watchword...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-1529
Print ISSN
0145-840X
Pages
pp. 14-38
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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