Mumford's first book, The Story of Utopias , introduces reliance on history to understand the present as well as to plan for the future. His books on architectural history and his works in urban studies established Mumford's reputation as the leading American critic of architecture and city planning.
Each book views and analyzes the city, or built environment, in the context of form, function, and purpose within the larger culture. Mumford's books are focused on technology's role in civilization, especially "the machine" and "megatechnics. Mumford's most profound and important analysis of technology and the work that most directly influenced interdisciplinary technology-society studies is the two-volume The Myth of the Machine:Volume 1, Technics and Human Development , and Volume 2, The Pentagon of Power It was written following World War II during which Mumford lost his son after the deployment of atomic weapons by Russia and the United States, and during the arms race.
This major work reflects a noticeable reinterpretation of the role of technology and a deep pessimism regarding "megatechnics," a metaphor Mumford uses for intrusive, all-encompassing systems of control and oppressive order. How To Swap Books? Lewis Mumford October 19, — January 26, was an American historian and philosopher of technology and science.
Particularly noted for his study of cities and urban architecture, he had a tremendously broad career as a writer that also included a period as an influential literary critic.
Mumford was influenced by the work of Scottish theorist Sir Patrick Geddes. Bacon, and Vannevar Bush. Kites rise against, not with, the wind. Pedestrians rely on food for fuel and need no special parking facilities. And, of course, sometimes the government confirms their opinion.
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When fullness of life has been achieved, shortness of days is nothing. That is perhaps why the young have usually so little fear of death; they live by intensities that the elderly have forgotten. In he joined the navy to serve in World War I and was assigned as a radio electrician. He was discharged in and became associate editor of The Dial , an influential modernist literary journal.
He later worked for The New Yorker where he wrote architectural criticism and commentary on urban issues. Mumford's earliest books in the field of literary criticism have had a lasting impact on contemporary American literary criticism. The Golden Day contributed to a resurgence in scholarly research on the work of 's American transcendentalist authors and Herman Melville: A study of His Life and Vision effectively launched a revival in the study of the work of Herman Melville. Soon after, with the book The Brown Decades , he began to establish himself as an authority in US architecture and urban life, which he interpreted in a social context.
In his early writings on urban life, Mumford was optimistic about human abilities and wrote that the human race would use electricity and mass communication to build a better world for all humankind. He would later take a more pessimistic stance.
The Good Life or “the Goods Life” – The Thought of Lewis Mumford
His early architectural criticism also helped to bring wider public recognition to the work of Henry Hobson Richardson, Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright. Mumford received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in In , he was awarded the Prix mondial Cino Del Duca. In , he was awarded the National Medal of Arts.
He served as the architectural critic for The New Yorker magazine for over 30 years.
Lewis Mumford Books | List of books by author Lewis Mumford
Nine years later it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. He was convinced that the sharing of information and ideas amongst participants of primitive societies was completely natural to early humanity, and had obviously been the foundation of society as it became more sophisticated and complex. Mumford's choice of the word "technics" throughout his work was deliberate. Our century has had no other figure like Lewis Mumford: essayist, historian of culture and technology, literary critic and surely the greatest architecture critic of our age.
His life was committed to the idea that scholarship is not a mere assemblage of facts but a guidepost for civilization. To Lewis Mumford, writing was a means of setting out a moral compass: he had no hesitation about playing a role that was part preacher. He wrote history not to entertain us but to tell us how to live, and nearly everything he produced had a touch of the sermon about it.
Perhaps that is why his short critical essays please more than his book-length works, for his temperament was really less that of the historian than that of the critic, searching always for the points at which scholarly insights intersected with contemporary life. He could be annoyingly moralistic at times, and pompous and self-obsessed. He was not a man given to much irony in his view of the world. But now that he is gone, it is the other side of his character that seems strongest in memory. He was a gentle man, and even at the end of his life, as his memory failed and his ability to carry on a conversation faded to near nothingness, he possessed a quiet, firm dignity.
With Sophia, his wife of 68 years, he set out to live a life that would be true to his principles - moving in stages away from the frantic bazaar of urban pressures toward a life of private writing and thinking. Right after their marriage in the Mumfords were part of the literary community centered in Greenwich Village, and then from to they put Mumford's views about architecture and community into practice by living in Sunnyside, Queens, in the celebrated Sunnyside Gardens housing complex with communal gardens designed by Clarence Stein and Henry Wright.
After they withdrew further, to a farmhouse outside the Dutchess County town of Amenia, N. In the simple, white-clapboard house, its rooms lined with books, the Mumfords lived a quiet and private life that could not have been more distinct, in its external qualities at least, from the media-obsessed culture of this era. Not that he was a recluse: he believed profoundly in the idea of the public man, and he took active, and in many cases heroic, public stands on critical issues from the urban-renewal plans of Robert Moses in New York to the war in Vietnam.
He was an early and passionate opponent of both. But his public role was not the 15 minutes of celebrity we are accustomed to today, but something with much more staying power: he spent his life trying to foster a public dialogue focused on issues, not on personalities. It tells us much that he would have appeared on the cover of Time magazine back in , but that a later generation of editors at Time Inc. Mumford was often criticized for his move to the country; how could someone whose business was thinking about cities refuse to live in one?
In the beginning, the withdrawal was for the best of reasons - to have time to write, away from the intense social and professional obligations the city thrusts on any well-known writer - and Mumford spent several days a week in New York anyway, researching and writing ''The Sky Line,'' his architecture column for The New Yorker. Years later, though, his separation from the city became more marked; he came to detest New York, visiting it less and less, and sending Jeremiah-like pronouncements about its doom down from Amenia.