How work affects culture

pnbrown

As a follow up to the general scttered discussion we've been having on other threads, regarding technology and the european settlement of north america.

Mozart, I found Mumford's distinction between a tool and a machine illuminating: a 'tool' lends itself to manipulation, and a 'machine' lends itself to automatic action.

Now, some argument could occur about what exactly 'manipulation' could be, but I take it as 'directly used in the human hand'. IOW, constantly supervised by one's attention and coordination. Human skill. Machines, on the other hand, though often remarkable examples of human ingenuity, are characterized by not requiring such a high degree of skill to operate (as well as having hugely greater output, of course, in the correct but much more demanding conditions).

Swanz implied that to take away our machines would be to olbiterate human civilization ('swing from branches'). Not so. If we gave up tools also, I'd agree. Tools are much, much closer to our humanity than are machines. With even simple tools our civilization would be still recognizable. Machines define the other end: excess, maximum populations and overall control of environments.

I agree with Mumford's reviewer that a future without machines is a possibility, perhaps even a likelihood.

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swanz(z5NH)

Yeah, I was just joking about machines. I consider some of the greatest human
genius and beauty to have been expressed pre-industrial revolution, pre-machine.
Leonardo, Michael Angelo, etc.etc. I also think it's inherent in our nature
to want to express ourselves with our hands as well as head. That's why
there's a resurgence of handcrafting. I'm trying to get into woodworking
and have bought several machines but get much more satisfaction from
my hand tools. Because of the infinitely complex nature of humanity, a manmade
machine will never be able to compete in certain arenas. Creativity is one
of the greatest gifts bestowed upon us by the creator. The human skills I'm
personally most envious of involve hand tool use, painting, carving,
etc.etc.

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inkognito

I am not sure Lewis Mumford would agree with your definition of 'tool' as "directly used in the human hand". Take this quote for instance "It has not been for nothing that the word has remained man's principal toy and tool: without the meanings and values it sustains, all man's other tools would be worthless." I think he might be using the words you suggest differently.

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pnbrown

Swanz, I'm not surprised to learn you are a beginning woodworker because I know you've read James Krenov. Want some advice from a professional woodworker? Do not have your shop in a basement, at all cost. The ideal is a simple one-story building - concrete slab, roof with wood storage on the ties, and sliding doors for walls. Do not store anything on the floor, let all tools be stored in cabs with doors or hanging up - no open shelves. When working, open opposing doors for a cross-draft and most of the dust will blow out. No junk on the floor makes sweeping up easy, which means it might actually happen. Forget about dust-collection systems.

Words as tools, aye? That is quite a broad definition. Not sure if one could have a meaningful discussion about technology if a word can be a tool , and vica-versa.

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Mozart2(Zone 5 Michigan)

pnbrown

Ah yes, the "wonders", "joys" and "benefits" of the culture of work in the machine age.



Be well.

Bill

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swanz(z5NH)

Thanks for the tips Pat. Unfortunely another building on my premises is not
feasible at the moment.Will have to make do with a dreaded basement shop. But
just a weekend hobby, nothing that'll kick too much dust. I gotta 1st finish
2 bedrooms upstairs which I've been working on. You've seen my Krenov quote,
then you must be that Pat.

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inkognito

Wow! I stumbled into that one guys. Tools it is.

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Mozart2(Zone 5 Michigan)

If you're serious about exploring how work affects culture and vice versa (of course), I would suggest reading the following books for a start and I would suggest that you read them in the order given as they will lay some foundations - in addition to the previously recommended book by Lewis Mumford.

1.

Erich Fromm's Marx's Concept of Man: The Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844.

2.

Harry Braverman: Labor and Monopoly Capital: The Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century.

3.

Howard Zinn: Three Strikes: Miners, Musicians, Salesgirls, and the Fighting Spirit of Labor's Last Century.

4.

There was an excellent book by Andre Gortz - but I am unable to find any references to it; I think I have the correct name and do have the book buried somewhere in my own personal library. If I find it, I'll post it. Excellent read - as usual.

In the meantime, you might explore the web site of:

The Work Less Party (Canada)

Be well.

Bill

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