Summary of the Whale and the Reactor by Langdon Winner Essay

3316 Words May 31st, 2002 14 Pages
Summary of The Whale and the Reactor by Langdon Winner (pp. ix-39, 99-200).
Winner states implicitly that he wishes to add his book to a surprisingly short list of works that can be characterized as "philosophy of technology" (which includes Marx and Heidegger). His book will deal primarily with the political and social aspects of this philosophy, pertinent since as he notes the world is changing because of tech., no longer comprised of national entities--a global economy, etc. In this context he will also look at language and determine how adequate it is presently for handling the state of the art high tech world. His ultimate and ever present question being asked throughout his book is, "How can we limit modern technology to match our
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Workers here have been displaced, which means that social relationships have been altered, especially because the machinery requires highly concentrated growing areas; thus the landscape is altered and with it social and political entities. Of course, increased profits in the hands of a few means that these few are able to wield unusual political influence.
W sums this up when he writes: "The issues that divide or unite people in society are settled not only in the institutions and practices of politics proper, but also, and less obviously, in tangible arrangements of steel and concrete, wires and transistors, nuts and bolts" (29). Thus it is perhaps important to device flexible technologies that will not choose for us unalterably a form of life.
Here then W reviews the history of thinking about this societal dynamic, citing Engels, Plato, Marx, Chandler, in that order, especially pointing out how specialized knowledge of a technological nature tends to be kept in the hands of a few, hence creating hierarchically structured societies, and that "characteristic of societies based on large, complex technological systems [is the fact] that moral reasons other than those of practical necessity appeal increasingly obsolete,

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