In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

200 Canadian Review of American Studies Revue canadienne d'etudes americaines Howard P. Segal, Future Imperfect: The Mixed Blessings of Technology in America. Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 1994. Pp. xviii + 235 + endnotes + illustrations. Studies of the history of technology tend to fall into two areas. One approach focuses on exploring the dynamics of invention, innovation and diffusion of specific technologies or more broadly on the evolution of technology and its economic and social impact. A complementary approach examines the ways in which technological development affects cultural attitudes and ideas. Howard Segal's writings primarily fall within this second category, although he is the co-author with Alan Marcus of an interesting survey, Technology in America: A Brief History (San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1989), in which Segal provides the cultural dimension. His earlier work, Technological Utopianism in American Culture (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985) traced the ideas of a range of figures including Edward Bellamy, Arthur Morgan and others who embraced the technological developments of their eras as solutions for contemporary problems. In certain respects, Future Imperfect represents an extension of that earlier study as it includes essays on more recent technophiles such as Alvin Toffler and also examines the ideas of observers such as Lewis Mumford who adopted a more skeptical attitude toward the promise of new technologies as well as outright 11 dystopians 11 such as Kurt Vonnegut. But Segal probes beyond the thoughts of particular individuals, seeking to present an examination of the ways in which Americans generally have fit technology into their general cultural values and aspirations. In order to comprehend this more amorphous phenomenom, Segal adopts a variety of perspectives, ranging from a broad essay on the impact of the automobile on American culture to some fairly intensive analyses of the ways in which museums have sought to present displays on the history of machine tools or computers that provide more than simply celebrations of industrial progress. Segal himself adopts a fairly critical attitude toward the "Whig history of technology 11 and the enthusiasms of technophiles such as Bellamy and Toffler . He acknowledges, however, that Americans in general have been more inclined to embrace technology, although he argues that it is not the technology itself that is welcomed so much as the presumed benefits that come with it-the "enjoyment of great open spaces" that Henry Ford promised to drivers of his Model T, or the prosperity and increased leisure time that would proceed from each new industrial advance from the water wheel to Book Reviews 201 the personal computer. At the same time, Americans tend to be myopic about the social costs of technological change and the problems that result from the unanticipated consequences of the introduction of new technologies . While at one point Segal indicates that Americans may have reached a cultural utechnological plateau," balancing enthusiasm for technological change with a recognition of its costs, his final essay on Toffler, the Epcot Center and other contemporary examples of "technological optimism" is more pessimistic about the prospects that Americans can maintain this balanced perspective. Segal's work contains some valuable insights on the cultural incidence of technology in America and has some interesting analyses of the writings of assorted technological utopians and dystopians, but the structure of the book is not entirely satisfactory. Rather than producing an integrated history of America's ambivalent relationship with technology, Segal has produced a series of essays on the subject, some of which are quite good and some of which (including a discussion of de Tocqueville and "modernization theory") do not seem to be clearly connected to the main theme of his work. At the same time, this is a stimulating collection that confirms Segal's position as a historian (and critic) of the role of technology in American culture. Graham D. Taylor Dalhousie University Ron Robin. The Barbed-Wire College: Reeducating German POWs in the United States during World War II. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995. Pp. xi + 217 and illustrations. This study, contrary to what a casual glance at its title would suggest, is not especially concerned with the experience of those German prisoners of war (POWs) incarcerated in the United States during...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1710-114X
Print ISSN
0007-7720
Pages
pp. 200-201
Launched on MUSE
2019-01-02
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.