chapter
6 Pages

General Introduction: Questioning Knowledge and Judgment in Architecture

In these passages from 1934, Mumford makes the hopeful forecast that future generations, such as our own, will exercise the “knowledge and judgment” required to select and govern technologies through a process that “serves directly as an instrument of human purpose.” His reasoning is that, once we figure out which new technologies are “inappropriate,” “redundant,” or “inefficient,” we will be able to “contract the machine” in two ways: First, to contract or reduce the scope of technology to the areas of use where it is most helpful to us, where it is most life enhancing. But he also means, we surmise, that we might also make a contract with technology and thus regulate what isn’t appropriate, what isn’t life enhancing. In a word, he argued that we have the social capacity to code the machine and, indirectly, our future. Yet he also recognizes that such a “new social and political order” must avoid the “narrow forms of rationalism” and technological hubris employed by the extremes of both the Right and Left that dominated his time.2